Making the Parts
Shellac or poly, glossy or flat — which looks better? Tails or pins, mortises or tenons … which should you make first? Without taking time to solve all of woodworking’s raging controversies, I can tell you that I make my mortises first, and then fit the tenons to them. In this case, I used a benchtop mortiser to chop the apron mortises. I had to be careful not to cut too deep and chop through what would become the finished curved faces of the legs. For overall joint integrity, I cleaned up the bottom of the mortise with a 1/4″ chisel to take out the roughness the mortiser tends to leave behind.
To minimize the amount of sanding required on the legs and at the same time ensure uniformity, I template-routed them using a two-sided jig. I fastened the legs to the jig, using double-faced tape, and finished their shape on the router table using a pattern-cutting bit. The trick here is to rough-cut the legs to within 1/16″ of their finished dimension. This will give you less resistance, especially on the uphill climbs through the grain where the danger of kickback and chip-out are greatest. Use a 3hp router for best results. After shaping one curved side (raising the bit step-by-step to smooth the entire surface), flip the leg over and re-tape it to the other side of the jig to shape the other face of the leg. Another option would be to use a stationary bench sander to smooth them, but be careful not to change their shape in the process.
Next, I cut the side and end aprons to length and width, and set up a shop-made tenoning jig on the table saw. I finished the tenons with a crosscut controlled by my miter gauge and stand-off blocks on the fence.
It is a simple, two-step process, but I always check my setup on scrap lumber first. One little trick on the tenons was that I cut a tiny micro-shoulder on the top of the tenon. Before I completed the final fitting for the mortises, I took a detour to the drill press and bored 3/16″-diameter dowel holes into the top edge. These will help secure the woven lattice.
Note the mitered ends on the tenons: they just miss each other within the mortise. You can cut those with a backsaw. Another trick I used when fitting the tenons was to remove just a smidge of material from the face of the aprons using my jointer. It worked well (but don’t take off too much!).
Test clamp the end and side subassemblies together without glue, using scrap that was cut away from the legs as clamping cauls (perfectly shaped!) and, when they fit, go ahead and glue the base section together.