This project was a little different right from the beginning. First of all, editor Rob Johnstone brought me a 20-year-old plan to work from, as opposed to working out the design between us. Secondly, he showed me a pile of highly figured maple and said “pick out some good stuff.”
And that lumber was quite impressive. Whether you call it curly, flame or fiddleback maple, you have to call it beautiful. Blending that lumber with the Shaker aesthetic took this lovely little table design from practical to nearly perfect.
Once I got my cache of lumber over to the shop, I spent some time (as is my custom) deciding which board or parts of a board go where in the table. I used four wide planks of similar figure for the top and leaves. The rest became components for the glued-up legs and the remaining pieces. In the name of conservation and keeping with a Shaker tradition of simplicity, I chose some leftover plainsawn ash and cherry from a previous project for the drawer sides and back.
After coming up with a comprehensive cutting list, I started making my rough cuts before straightening, planing and gluing up all the necessary components. The luck I had in finding wide planks then presented a challenge: how would I keep those table leaves reasonably flat for the distant future? My solution was to try another old-school technique, dovetailed slot wedges (more on this modification later).
Prepping the Stock
After busting the clamps loose, I set the top aside and went to work on the legs, scraping glue before planing them straight and square. I then set up for mortising, using a 3-hp plunge router with a 3/8″ straight bit chucked in place. These are not deep mortises, so this method worked out nicely.
After routing the mortises, I chopped the tops and bottoms square with a sharp chisel. Some folks like to round the tenons to match the holes, but I find it to be much faster the other way around, as my 3/8″ mortising chisel has a “take no prisoners” approach to this task.
I then made a simple tapered leg template in 1/4″ MDF, using it to transfer marks to the wood for cutting on the band saw.
After I made the cuts on one face of each leg, I re-attached the scrap with carpet tape before turning the stock over to make the second cut, similar to an approach used on cabriole legs.
After cutting the tenon shoulders nice and square with the miter gauge on the table saw, I decided I could use my trusty little shoulder plane to clean things up during the final fit.