Friday, 2 October 2009

Coffee Table with Curved Legs

I was pleased, not long ago, when I got a commission to build a coffee table which was based on a design sketch I'd got on my website. I always enjoy trying out a new design, and overcoming any challenges it might throw up.
The coffee table shown on the left, which is made out of European oak, is the table in question.
I had not built a coffee table with this type of curved legs before so, as I was machining up the timber, I began to think about how I might do the curves.

It was obvious that I would have to cut the curves freehand on the band saw, and it was equally obvious that I would have to make a template first to mark out so that the curves were all the same, but at this point in my thinking, I ran across a snag. The curves are on the two outside, adjacent faces of the coffee table leg. If I marked them both up with my template at the start, when I cut the first curve, it would cut off my marking up of the second curve so I would have no line to follow to cut the second curve. Furthermore, I wouldn't be able to mark it out again because the face I needed to mark it on, was now curved, and I wouldn't be able to hold the template flat against it to mark an accurate line. Finally, I couldn't turn it over and mark it on the flat side, because then, to follow that line, I'd have to try and cut it with the curved surface I'd already cut running over the base of the band saw table which just wouldn't work. Hmmm...!

Anyway, I came up with a possible solution, and when I tried it out, it worked a treat.
As I am presently working on another table based on this design, although this time with no drawers, and made from American cherry, I decided to post some images and explanations of how it was done on this blog.
The first job was to do the mortising, this needed to be done first because you need a flat face down on the bed of the mortiser (which you wouldn't have after cutting the curves).
As the top of the leg starts off straight, I used the fence, and set a stop on the band saw so that the cut would cease slightly before the curve started.

I cut all four legs up to the stop, then, moving the fence into the right position for the second cut, cut all four again in the same manner, but at right angles to my first cut. (see first picture left) I then removed the fence, and cut the curve on one face of each leg, but stopped short by about 3/4" from meeting the straight cut which would have cut them right through.

I then took each leg in turn, inserted card spacers the same width as my band saw cut, to prevent movement, and turning them on to the other face cut the curve at right angles to the first cut, but this time continuing on until I met the straight cut, so cutting the legs right through. (see second and third pictures left - you can't see the card in the third picture, but that's because it's been tucked right into the slots).
This then left me with only 3/4" of the first cut to complete. I simply drew a freehand pencil line over that 3/4" followed it on the band saw, to give me my four legs with adjoining curved faces. A bit of tidying up with a spokeshave and sander completed the job.
As a tip, don't immediately saw up the off cuts for waste, they come in very handy when you want to clamp the curved legs in the bench vice for sanding. Just make sure to put a thin bit of card between the off cut and the legs to prevent the rough cut edge making marks on the face you've already sanded.
The fourth picture shows the legs after sanding.

And yes, they are the same cherry legs: the yellow colour is only caused by taking the picture without the flashlight on my camera enabled: it comes from the workshop lights.
On the right, you can see how the finished table turned out.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Designing a Large Coffee Table with DVD Storage Drawers.

Having built in drawers underneath a large coffee table presents the particular design challenge of supporting the weight of the drawers and their contents.
This particular table is rather large: 1280mm x 980mm, to be exact, and is to have four drawers to run on proprietry steel runners with nylon wheels.

The top image on the left shows the basic framework of the table, before the drawer supports are fitted. The support for the drawer runners at either end are simple enough, as they can be attached to the end frames. For the central supports, I have made the top lengthwise rails 100mm deep as they will need to support a central frame, which will carry the steel runners in the centre. As this project proceeds, I'll add images showing how this objective is achieved.

The end support is now shown on the left. A spacer has been glued to the bottom rail of the endpanel, and the drawer runner support has been glued to the spacer, and the top fixed to the legs with angle brackets.

This central frame will transmit the weight of the drawers from the runners to the rails, and thence to the legs. Once again, it is fixed to the rails with metal angle brackets. The framework of the table is now extremely rigid and should carry the weight of the four drawers and their contents without any danger of sagging.

And this is how it turned out: the finished coffee table with the drawers fitted.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

The Coffee Table

With its placement in a central position in your main living space, the coffee table is arguably the single most important piece of furniture you will purchase.
The coffee table, from its probable inception as a 28" high, two tier table, designed by E.W. Godwin in Victorian times, has evolved over the years into the long low table that we recognize today.
Once constructed out of wood, coffee tables are to be found nowadays in a wide variety of forms and materials: from the natural beauty of various hardwoods, to the more modernest examples using stainless steel and polished glass for instance. Their function has
also expanded since those humble origins as a resting place for a cup of coffee. Today, a coffee table is just as likely to incorporate a magazine shelf, or drawers underneath the top, (perhaps for housing D.V.D.s, or the myriad remote controls which exist in a modern household): in effect, becoming a multi-storage unit as well as a table. Less conventionally, there are also examples of coffee tables being used to house anything from a fish tank, to a pin ball machine.
But whether your taste is for a sparse, minimalist, modern design, or a homely, more traditional style, chose your coffee table well: it occupies the pride of place in your household.