As a guy who doesn’t drink a whole lot of coffee, I’ve built a surprisingly large number of coffee tables. But, I suppose the same could be said for “bookcases built” vs. “books read”. Furthermore, I’ve built at least 2 changing tables, but rarely wear a diaper. In any case, in this article I’m going to walk you through building my Mid-Century Modern Inspired Coffee Table.
I’ve used the same pair of saw horses for over 40 years. In that time, they’ve seen thousands of cross-cuts and rips, but they’ve also served as a makeshift workbench, a step ladder, scaffolding, a finishing platform and a lunchroom bench. They’ve seen new construction, home remodeling and lots of furniture projects. Every paint splatter conjures up memories of a project and every errant saw kerf reminds me not to work too fast or when I’m too tired.
Gift giving seasons tend to sneak up on me. Everyone in my family expects hand-made gifts at every opportunity. Now, it’s late Spring, and by some twist of fate I have a rather large number of high school and college-aged nieces, nephews and neighbors all graduating within a few weeks of each other. I need a bunch of nice gifts, and I need them now. My “go-to” gift for these situations – particularly when I need a bunch – is the Wall Street II pen kit (also called the “Sierra” depending on where you buy it). The Wall Street II is one of the easiest pens to turn. It only takes one half of a standard pen blank, and the finished pen writes nicely and has great balance. What’s more, with a wide variety of trim styles and finishes, unless you’re an experienced pen turner, you would never guess that they’re all the same inside.
Creating the graceful slopes of a spindle and thin-walls of a bowl are just two of the many tasks the Ultra-Shear Round Carbide Insert Turning Tools handles with ease.
Create smooth handles in even the toughest materials while using our 45° shear scraping with this round tool.
When building woodworking projects. problems can arise when component parts stray from the usual square and parallel cuts. When projects or parts of projects veer into the world of angles and curves a carefully drawn full-scale layout will help navigate the project to an easy, successful, conclusion.
Tools you need for making full-sized drawings include both small and large, reliable carpenters squares, a straight edge, an angle gauge, and various length woodworking rulers. For curved or round parts a compass and beam compass will be needed.
When making a full-scale layout the first and most important rule is generating a precise drawing that accurately represents the elements of the part or parts and their relationship to each other. That means angles, lengths, widths, finished heights, curves, etc., must be drawn precisely. That’s because you will rely on the drawing to determine information about a part that’s not known.
Here’s an easy example. Say you want to determine the length of table legs that are splayed 7°. You know the leg is 1¾” square, the finished table height is 30½” and the angle is 7°. To determine the leg length, draw a horizontal line representing a floor, draw a parallel line 30½” representing the finished table height, draw another parallel line 1” down from the top to indicate the thickness of the tabletop. Now you can find the accurate length of the leg. Reference the floor line (or the line of the underside of the top) then draw a precise, 7° angle line connecting the two. The top and bottom of the leg will automatically have the 7° angle. Now it’s easy to measure the leg length.
Likewise, you can use you’re layout to determine the length of the tables aprons and stretchers. To determine these dimensions, layout the planned setback of the legs from the table ends. Now add a line representing the width of the apron that extends just long enough to strike a 90° angle between bottom apron line and the intersection top of the leg and top of the apron where they meet at the tabletop bottom line. Now you can quickly calculate the apron length by adding the leg setback and leg thickness and multiplying that number by two. This accounts for both ends of the table. Next carefully measure the distance between the 90° line at the apron bottom and where meets the table legs and double it to account for both apron ends. Now some quick math will tell you actual length of the aprons.
The beauty of working with a full-scale layout goes beyond the ability to calculate part sizes. With the part drawn full-size, you can compare the actual part you make to the drawing. Just lay it on the drawing to check it. Further, you can position mating parts on your drawing to make sure the relationship conforms to the drawing.
When working with parts that are curved, full-scale layouts can be used to make a pattern from which actual parts will be shaped. Take, for example, a pair of Danish Modern folding chairs I recently made. The full-scale patterns were provided as part of a project article that appeared in Popular Woodworking Magazine. I took the layouts to an office supply store and had them enlarged to their exact full size. From these enlargements I was able to make an exact pattern of the parts outside shape. It could then be used to make the parts using my patterns along with straight router bit equipped with a top mounted bearing. All I had to do trace the pattern on my parts, rough cut the parts close to the pattern line then lightly nail the pattern to part for final shaping on the router table.
These full-scale drawings also provided precise locations for routing mortises while the parts were captured in a fixture based on patterns.
Full-scale layouts can resolve many problems building woodworking projects. They are a must when working with complex angles or curves. But often, even a quick layout will save you time and provide positive answers to relatively simple questions. One common example is placement of metal drawer slides inside a cabinet and on the drawer side. By simply drawing the cabinet interior height, you can place the cabinet member position then determine where the drawer side member goes and make sure of the entire drawer box is properly placed inside the cabinet.
About the Author: Steve Shanesy was editor and publisher of Popular Woodworking magazine for 19 years. Prior to that he spent 15 years working in and managing high-end furniture and cabinet shops in Los Angeles and Cincinnati.
Curiously enough here at Woodpeckers, we pride ourselves on the marketing we do for our tools, but every once in a while we miss, and the Ultra-Shear Square Insert Turning Tools are a good example.
These excellent woodturning tools have been on the market for over a year now, and we haven’t shown their full potential. The video below shows the versatility of our tools — the only ones on the market with the Ultra Shear capability. Jeff Farris, the developer of the Ultra-Shear line of woodturning tools, shows the Square tools ability to rough, make tenons for scroll chuck turning and turning the outside of the curve, even in very detailed work.
Follow These 9 Steps to Make Large Panels from Solid Lumber
Large wood panels used for tabletops, cabinet doors and tops, and countertops provide the perfect display for showing off the beauty hardwood lumber. Follow this guide to prepare stock for gluing up your lumber into magnificent, large panels.
Woodworking machine setup is often most easily accomplished using gauge blocks. These precision-machined blocks are perfect for your table saw, router table, drill press, band saw and other shop equipment. Using gauge blocks (sometimes called setup blocks) can eliminate the often tedious process of getting a saw blade or router bit set precisely. Hands down, they beat more traditional measuring devises like rulers and tape measures.
There are a number of reasons setup blocks are superior. Say you want to set the depth of cut on a plunge router. Some woodworkers will make an approximate setting then try to measure it by bridging over the router base to the tip of the bit using a combination square. Then a series of bit adjustments are made (awkwardly, I should add) until they are ready to make a test cut. Often, further adjustment is necessary.
Learn How to Make Perfect Curved or Square Shapes Using a Router
Pattern routing skills can substantially improve your woodworking in both creative and technical areas while improving the quality of your work. In this article you’ll learn how to choose router bits, make templates for both curved and square cornered shapes; and then how to make the cuts. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how easy pattern routing is once you understand the fundamentals.