The side table


The plans suggest using bridle guides for the joinery, and I wanted to give it a try. Yup. Works great! Some offcut in the burn pile became the guides. I marked a mortise based on the width of a chisel – in this case, a 6mm wide one. I then made the cutout on each guide to match the mortise markings, taking the saw kerf into account where applicable.

One guide per cut is needed. They registers from the same face, making it a bit challenging to make the guides for the far end cut (as shown above) since you need to allocate for the saw kerf. But a bit of fettling with the router plane and some masking tape, and it worked like a charm. Just slap the guides in place and cut. Minimal fettling of each joint, and they are all interchangeable!

This makes cutting the bridle joints very easy, perfect for a small production run. Slap the guide on, make the cut and you can make identical bridle joints all day long. No need for machines!

Let me point out the fact that I use a 10 PPI panel saw (the Spear & Jackson 9500R), not a fine toothed tenon saw. Even with a rather coarse saw, the joints are pretty smooth. If I take my time, I guess I can produce a pretty decent surface finish in the cuts even with the 9500. I haven’t sharpened it yet (which now starts to be pretty evident while using it in oak, so that’s a task I need to get to soon), and the teeth are ground “universal” – the saw does both rip and cross cuts very well. Perhaps a dedicated rip saw would produce a finer result? I bought two 9500’s, so that’s something I’ll do. I have a Spear & Jackson 9550B tenon saw on order (from Amazon), so the next table will be made using that.

The bridle guides can be fitted with magnets to hold the saw plate tight against the guide. I found that using my fingers worked very well, although I would not do that for a production run without gloves (friction – gets hot – wear on the finger tip skin…). I’m an ant of the office species and I don’t have hands like a horse’s hoof. Don’t judge me.

I cut the halving joint angled at 12° to join the aprons.

After cutting the joinery, I first cut the legs to identical lengths, then shaped the taper. It starts 5mm below the joint, and the lowest part of the legs ends up being 2/3 the width of the upper end. The bottom of the legs are tapered at 12 degrees. There will be further refinement and detailing later on in the process.

I cut the bulk of the taper on the band saw, then used the No.7 to plane to the line. This could of course be done with a hand plane only – and a No.4 would work just as well. But since I have the 7…

If there is one thing I have learned the hard way, it’s not to get ahead of yourself. If the task isn’t needed now, postpone it. For instance, there were absolutely no reason why I would cut the aprons to final length. That’ll happen automagically when I flush up the joints. Likewise it makes no sense to make a round-over on the bottom of the legs until the legs are cut to their final length. However, I will need to do the final smoothing on the aprons before glueup since they are ever so slightly narrower than the legs. I won’t be able to access the areas around the joints after the glue-up with a plane, only a card scraper and sand paper.

Time for a test!

And yes, in the first image two of the legs are of different lengths. That might be why the bunnies are having a laugh… And that image proves that you should cut your parts long. Whoopsies will be made, and I cut a tenon where a mortise was needed. Oh, well. It worked out as the legs was WAY too long.

I have to give credit to the bridle guides yet again. They work incredibly well – all the legs are interchangeable.

The bridle guides and the 12° guide.

Glueup and further refinement

Time for glue! I used Titebond original. I mixed some glue with saw dust for some minor gaps. A good woodworker knows how to hide errors…

An hour later I cut the exess material with an eastern pull saw placed on a thick plane shaving to offset it from the surface of the legs, then the trusty No.4 smoother made quick work of the cleanup.

…and of course nicked a tiiiny splinter off of one corner…

Straight off the panel saw. This is impressive! Bridle joint is hard to cut right, I’ve heard. But with the guides, it was easy! With a finer saw, the quality of the joints would be even better. Certainly a system I’ll use in the future, as the guides were quick work to make.

The table top got a more thorough smoothing with the smoother plane and the cabinet scraper

I then marked the edges and the width of the top using a combination square and a steel ruler. Time for end grain planing! Thank goodness I have a good sharpening station!

No bevel up plane needed here…

… although I hear BU planes are great for end grain. I’d love to try one. Veritas? Lie-Nielsen? Do ya hear me? Anyway, the No.4 got a quick hone on the strop and cut the end grain with ease. Or rather, relative ease. End grain is never an easy task comparably.

After I planed the edges to the lines, I checked the diagonals:

Spot on! Dead square and exactness within a fraction of a millimetre. Note: I measured from the 20 cm mark; it is easier than measuring from the edge of the ruler. The correct diagonal is therefore 66.3 centimetres. Not that it matters. I am not too concerned about what those numbers are, as long as they are the same. This is one of the perks when working with hand tools – you have freedom in your measurements, unless you are making a piece to fit an exact space.

And that concluded the making of the parts. This design allows for flat packing the table. A small production run could be interesting! We’ll see when the stack of oak is sufficiently dried. The legs will be fastened with bolts and tapped metal inserts. There will be standoffs between the table top and the aprons to make the top float above the undercarriage.

A quick test on the bench to get an idea of how it will look:

Very nice surface finish on the table top! This is untreated wood.

The table top is 19 mm (3/4”) in thickness, and it looks a bit heavy. That is easily remedied with a chamfer.

I marked the diagonals and a line 10mm from the legs. The marking gauge created a line at 10mm thickness (the top is 19mm total). I then planed to the lines. I first planed a chamfer on each exit side to prevent tearout, then planed end grain and lastly the sides.

One of the sides has some incredibly hard grain – even with a freshly sharpened plane, I struggled to get any shavings. But I got there in the end.

The chamfer made all the difference to the appearance. See for your self:

Time for an inspection by the missus.

I got the thumbs up!

6 thoughts on “The side table

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