How to Make a Table: Q&A Episode

We’ve had a few questions come in about table making and the details of this project that make it distinct from the other tables we’ve made. In this video, Paul discusses why he chose this as a suitable woodworking masterclasses project, as well as answering questions on adapting the scaling, and the joinery details that need to be taken into consideration in order to do so. We hope this will help equip you to make a table suited to your situation.

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We’ve had a few questions come in about table making and the details of this project that make it distinct from the other tables we’ve made. In this video, Paul discusses why he chose this as a suitable woodworking masterclasses project, as well as answering questions on adapting the scaling, and the joinery details that need to be taken into consideration in order to do so. We hope this will help equip you to make a table suited to your situation.

36 comments on “How to Make a Table: Q&A Episode

    • Tapered sliding dovetail can be seen in a shaker stool project. I’v tried it and it was ok. Paul however doesn’t really explain it so that you would easily transfer it to another project. For example how much taper is needed and so on, he just shows how to make ta taper template for particular project.

      I guess a q&a topic on sliding dovetails and tapered sliding dovetails would be nice.

    • If you go back about a year or so in the video library, to July 2015, there is a project called ‘Shaker Stool’ that used a version of a sliding half-dovetail to secure the top.
      It would be easy to adapt it to become a stopped sliding DT if you wish, but quite challenging in terms of skill needed.

    • Tage Frid described a simple shop-made saw for making sliding dovetails. It was published in one of the FineWoodworking (Taunton Press) books. I’ll see if I can post an image in the forums.

      Also, Japanese azebiki saws are handy for this purpose.

  1. Paul many many thanks for this.
    Similar questions about leg or apron sizing pop into my head all the time as I consider various projects.
    We all seek easy answers now and the fact is that mostly there aren’t any.
    But your thoughtful dissertations about the issues involved are extremely helpful. Experience is the best teacher and you distill your experience better than anyone else.
    Please keep these Q&As coming.

  2. Hi Paul, from Iowa in the US.

    I would also like to see a sliding dovetail video, I have toyed with the idea of using one in a project, but I don’t quite know where to start.

    I also want to thank you and your crew for producing such fine quality woodworking tutorials. While my skills in the craft are a work in progress, I am already teaching some of my grandchildren the lessons I have learned from you.

  3. Dowel joints were what I learned in my high school woodworking classes. And I suppose they still have their place as an entry-level technique for joinery. But nothing beats the satisfaction of making a sturdy dovetail or mortise-and-tenon joint.

    Great tip on orienting grain effectively for legs and why and when you might choose one approach over another.

    I really liked this video and hope Paul and team incorporate more Q&A sessions into the series as it’s an excellent forum for going deeper into issues we face while working through the projects.

    Thanks!

  4. Paul,
    My question is about face and edge marks. Is there a rule about where they go on a project? I see them on insides of drawers and outsides of legs. Do they tend to go on areas that will not be planed later or joinery sides? This has always puzzled me. Rail and stiles seem different to.
    Thanks,
    joe

  5. Thanks Paul for answering all those questions. You know in reference to the first table in your series projects there were tons of information in that video about different subjects . If it’s the project I remember you had purchased an old table , you dismantled it, showed us how that craftsman built that table, the tools he used even how he used his marking gage. In addition to that for me I have to watch your videos on a project atleast four times before I would even begin to build that project. And every time I watch it I pick up on something new that I didn’t see the first ,second or third time. So again for me because I am a slow learner I appreciate very much the repetition of projects.
    on the haunch tenon doesn’t that also add additional strength to the tenon as well. I think I read that in Earnest Joyce’s book The woodworking Enclopedia, Something like that can’t remember the name of the book it’s at the shop and I’m at home right now sorry. Lol
    Thanks again for this video
    Chris

  6. Paul,

    Great, Thanks! I, for one, appreciate your selection of projects that allow us to progress and repeat the skills needed to become proficient! Please continue doing what you are doing! Love this new question and answer format.

  7. This was really very informative and helpful. It gives one the same feel as the question time at the end of a lecture when the students gather around the teacher. I know the purpose was more practical than that but I enjoyed the experience just the same. That being said the content was very useful.

  8. I struggle to find the words to express proper appreciation for your decision and efforts to teach! Opportunities were limited in the rural area when and where I was a boy and young man. “Boy take the hand saw to Mr Wilson and ask him to sharpen and set the teeth.” But, “The Old Men” were eager to laugh and attempt to humiliate but would not teach for some reason. I did manage to “steal” the knowledge of sharpening. Recently became aware that a Japanese “apprentice” is expected to steal the knowledge and techniques from the master while never slacking off in his janitorial or other labors. Then when afforded a moment with all other tasks satisfied, he may practice on some scraps of material. Only then will the Master Craftsman offer fleeting correction and instruction of the science. I don’t know if that’s what they expected, but the Master Craftsmen of my youth by their actions preferred to take their knowledge to their grave. The options were work as a slave in the dam carpet mills or try an illusive “something else.” So I grabbed up that “Yoke” you referred to, heaved like hell and ran with it as fast and as far as I could and did so for near 40 years. Occasionally I could have the opportunity to pause and listen to the “lark,” but the pace I set was not that to be contented with middle of the pack in my endeavors. Just here recently I have concluded my “40 year long Indentured Servitude” and am still in the possession of usually enough faculties to physically and mentally pursue “The Freedom from a Yoke” that I understood perfectly though and Now have earned that Freedom and the means to support it to learn and explore as I alone determine! It really bothers me that many are so contestational and even belligerent with the electric machine argument. So I no longer care to read others comments. I have an immense appreciation for your efforts to teach these techniques and explain the tools and look forward to your offerings with great enthusiasm! Amongst his schooling and weekly situations and as his mother determines the effort is made to pass on to a 10 year old little boy who has no father in his life. He and I greatly appreciate the lesson on the foot stool and the most recent lesson on the small table! Thank you!

    • Rick Very true, heart felt words.
      When I started my apprenticeship in 1962 an “old boy” said to me with a wry smile…..”only 50 years to go boy” lots of water under the bridge since then??
      I have learned so much on the way from others. Just returned from our sons house after wallpapering…Very happy with end product and glad I can still do it
      Tomorrow we are driving to our daughters so I can hang my ledge and braced framed door….with its haunched tenon joints and blind tenon tgv.
      All hand tools and tuition from Paul.
      I have made a workshop for my two grandchildren 3 & 7 following PAULS BLOG, they love to ‘make something’ with grandad.

      • Inspiring all. Thank you so much for sharing. I think many of us appreciate what Paul is giving us. I too have missed much along the years. I think we also under estimate how much we are learning from Paul about design. It seems many today can not sketch or draw. I am fortunate enough to have learned mechanical drawing in school. It is a critical skill to adapting these projects to your own ends. I even have a Paul style sketch book now. I truly appreciate that with little money and much creativeness I can now make beautiful things from wood. I hope more people find and appreciate all the craftsman here who seek to pass this knowledge on to future generations. Thank you all. I’m glad to be a small part of this community.

  9. Paul – Great Q&A session and thank you for providing very helpful answers. I agree that the repetition is key to improvement. Great points made there.
    I would be interested in the project you mentioned about adding a drawer (with beaded edge) to tables. I could also use that project information to put a drawer on my workbench.

  10. In the spirit of restoring old tools, I would love to see a video on creating a handle for an axe with its elegant curves or hammer. Forming a hammer handle from a piece of firewood such as ash or elm would be amazing, taking grain orientation into account. Also most importantly it’d be great to see Paul’s take on hafting an axe or hammer, and what his take is on metal wedges, glueing the wedge in place, the misconcenption that the wedge should be a softer wood etc.
    Thanks for the amazing content and priceless information we’ve received already Paul and team!

  11. I like the Q&A’s you’ve been doing, Paul.

    A series going into one of the methods of adding a drawer to an occasional table would be a good addition to the library, I think. The rounded apron dining table sounds intriguing.

  12. Re: Proportions
    It would be helpful if you spent a moment talking about your rules of thumb for proportions. One of your older videos gave a great idea about full size drawings on a sheets of plywood (so you could better judge how the finished item would look). That was very helpful and prevents many errors.
    What was missing, perhaps, was a discussion of proportion. I have since read an American book regarding this, which gave some rules of thumb where general sizes were discussed as general divider ratios (3 by 2 by whatever units for example).
    I’d really like to hear your thoughts/ideas on designing, and what rules you have come up with or learned over the years in this regard about what proportions tend to look most appealing for various common items.
    It would be especially helpful if you could also cover stock thickness “rules of thumb ” for different size projects to avoid the overly spindly or overly blocky looks ( and what’s required for strength, without over building).
    I’m sure you have likely given lots of thought to this subject over your many years of experience, and it would be wonderful if you could share some of your ideas about this as you introduce new projects going forward, or even if you could post a few blogs on this topic from time to time.
    I realize you’re probably inundated with these requests, but I feel this is an area which has not really been covered yet. I’m fairly certain that old time craftsmen had to learn these proportions/ rules as a matter of course, but I don’t really know. Maybe other members could also chime in whether this is a worthy topic (or not) for discussion here?
    Thanks for everything, and I wanted the whole team there to know that I have been very satisfied with my membership here over the years. It has been an excellent investment!

    • While I am no expert and I surely don’t intend to answer for Paul, but would offer this; google “the golden ratio”. You’ll get a lot of information on design ratios. This may not be for structual design but more for aesthetics. I tend to make things to fit. For instance a box for a particular purpose. Mine usually look a little clunky. Using the “golden ratio” they tend to be more pleasing to the eye.

  13. Hi Paul and team, Lots of benefits in these Q&A sessions. I too would like to see the drawer in Table as new project or retrofit.
    We take your techniques and go into the workshop and ‘Practice’. Quite often we would build the table / bookcase to fit our space that it would live in. The measurements in the project are for that specific piece. As you stated bigger table bigger legs, but is there a rule of thumb (like 1/3 for M&T) for legs or the stretch of a shelf without center support.

  14. I enjoyed the Q&A session and hope that you will do this again. While you do a very good job of illustration in your videos there simply isn’t enough time to cover every aspect of a project. Giving your supporters the opportunity to ask questions makes the experiance a little more like a mentor/mentee relationship. I think it’s a wonderful idea. Thank you!

  15. Paul and company,

    Thank you so much for your efforts to provide the excellent content. The Q&A videos are, as you would say, “spot on”! I too would love to see the drawer/apron build; that would have so many applications.

    Again, thank you so much for passing your wisdom to the world. It is a far better place because of you and all your staff.

    Chris

  16. I made this table out of walnut. I really enjoyed the experience and it turned out fairly nice. The one thing I learned, in my none air-conditioned shop in the summer heat of Texas, is that droplets of sweat on the dark walnut are impossible to remove completely with scrapping and sanding. Any suggestions for how to handle this issue in the future?

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