Side Table Update

Since the last update on the side table I’m building, I’ve got to the position now where the frame is all glued up and I’m now well in to working on the quartered walnut-veneered top. While I’ve kept my progress posts updated regularly on a couple of UK woodworking forums, I do apologise for not keeping you guys better informed here, on my blog – it’s just that, I’ve learnt so much from the forums over the years that I feel like I almost ‘owe’ them something in return… Sorting through my images and typing all that text can take a good hour, after which, there aren’t always enough hours in the day to start blogging (it is World Cup season, after all!! 😀 …No, as an Englishman, I probably shouldn’t be smiling, at this point!).

The first dry-assembly.

I used that very first dry-assembly [above] to take a shoulder-length measurement for the slats, before I could start shaping those or marking out and cutting the tenons. To get an accurate measure of the length and also the correct angles for both top and bottom shoulders, I simply offered two narrow scraps of MDF in to position and temporarily held them together with double-sided tape. This can then be used to directly transfer the information over to the curved template I had already made, ready for shaping. I used the same trick on my chair several times and, likewise; it worked very well indeed.

Most of the waste on each slat was removed on the bandsaw, before shaping the convex curves on my disc sander and then cleaning up the concave faces on my bobbin sander.

While the disc sander is well-suited to shaping “outside” curves, my biggest grip with this type of machine is that they also leave scratches running perpendicular (at 90°) to the grain, and these scratches still require a bit of work to be removed afterwards before any component is ready for finishing. I don’t think there’s a better tool for doing “internal” curves than a bobbin sander. Of course, the bigger the sanding drum, the better! But, the abrasives that came with my machine [Jet JBOS-5] are quite fine. I’d like to invest in some of the course-grade abrasive sleeves, for faster material removal and increased turnaround/production times. Due to the oscillating action of the sanding drum, you don’t get any cross-grain scratches, though. With care (and your largest diameter bobbin), you could also clean up convex curves. I’ve done this on the odd occasion but, it does require great care and you must, at all costs, keep the work piece moving – otherwise, the abrasive can dig in, ruining any previous work on the disc sander!

It’s at times like this that I begin to ponder the benefits in owning a horizontal ‘linisher‘ or belt-sanding machine… Something like this. No scratches to worry about; you could sand the edge of a wide board or sheet with ease; tapered legs would be no challenge and it also looks as though the end of the sanding belt (which also oscillates, to reduce uneven wear on the belts) could be used on concave curves of a medium-to-large radius. But, of course; these machines command more space and come at a higher price than most 12in disc sanders [then again, mine’s a Hegner! :shock:]… Yes, I must get a bigger workshop!! I know I’ll benefit from having one of these and a drum sander, one day… 😉

Shaping, hand-cutting the tenons and sanding again on all-ten of those curved slats took me over two-hours! For a production run, I’m sure I could’ve built a proper double-station router table jig, which would’ve allowed me to shape each half of the curves on either side of the jig. An intelligent design may also allow me to cut the tenons on each end, as well. In this case, I chose the mark out an cut each one by hand, using the bandsaw wherever possible. Of course, the results of this are going to be variable and did leave me having to spend another while afterwards fettling the fit of each with a shoulder plane.

After a coat of oil I was ready to start assembling the frame in stages.

First, I glued the slats in to rails. The legs are only dry-fitted here, to make sure everything remains square and in its place:

After a few hours, I attached the legs (though, to be perfectly honest, I could’ve just glued the legs on as the slats went in, earlier):

I did leave a couple of clamps holding the tenon shoulders of the slats tight together, just in case the glue hadn’t fully cured (most adhesives claim that joints should not be ‘stressed’ for at least twenty-four hours).

Before I could finish assembling the frame, I had to joint this cross-stretcher between two others (one front and one back). A convenient, contrasting and attractive walnut wedge detail was added for effect, but it also meant I didn’t need any clamps, here: 😉

And finally, it all comes together, with a diagonal cramp to hold everything square:

Before that final stage of the frame assembly, I did realise that I’ve previously forgotten to router the grooves in to each of the four top rails. These grooves would receive wooden turn-buttons, which would be used to fix the top down tight while also allowing for seasonal movement (expansion and contraction – not that much is likely with a veneered top and MDF core, anyway!). My biscuit jointer came to the rescue – though, it’s not replacement for the good old router table!

See? There's always a way!

On Thursday evening, after an horrendous day at college, I managed to successfully glue both faces of veneer to the MDF for the top. The underside of each face was briefly sanded with my belt sander, first, to remove any discrepancies, before being placed inside the ‘cold press‘ I put together; using two sheets of 18mm MDF (waxed on one face) with tapered cauls and plenty of clamps to apply the pressure.

I took it our earlier this morning [well, it was closer to lunchtime, actually! :oops:] and it looked fine. I didn’t have a lot of faith in those Irwin quick-grips but, I seem to have gotten away with it, on this occasion. This is the second project within the last month where I’ve discovered a true need for more 6in G-cramps. These ones I’m using here are only cheap Silverline-branded offerings from Toolstation but, they seem reliable enough to me. At college, we have a number of Axminster-badged G-cramps and they seem to hold up very well to daily use by many students in both workshops. Those red (or now, sometimes black) speed or ‘solo’ clamps are also very effective. Being able to use them single-handedly provides a great advantage in many situations, which you don’t get with most G-cramps on the market.

Next, I need to look at cleaning up the veneers, trimming the top to size and adding the English ash lippings.

Thanks for reading.

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