How to Make a Table: Episode 4

How to Make a Table 4

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Paul chops the turnbutton mortises on the inside of the aprons, then cuts the arches in the aprons. He uses a stop cut method, cuts the arch using a chisel and then employs a spokeshave and scraper to refine it. Then the leg taper can be established with a saw, working from alternate faces, or using stop cuts. It is then refined with the plane to an even taper.

21 Comments

  1. mxbroome1 on 1 September 2016 at 1:31 am

    Keep your eye on your line cause there’s no point putting it there if you are not working to it. Love it.

  2. stephenoff on 1 September 2016 at 1:37 am

    It looks like a good course for table build ( better ten previous) my question is can you do an alternative top that’s round cause I would like to make a round table that size or a follow on video for the alternative round top, or a suggestion of the old fashioned way you make a round top table?

    I will say thank you for your video insights into wood working with hand tools.

  3. knightlylad on 1 September 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Thank you very much for the lesson.

  4. mattchapman on 3 September 2016 at 4:12 pm

    I personally don’t mind (and welcome) a recap or refresher on previously demonstrated methods as i believe the repetition is entirely required, necessary and advantageous to progression at any level.
    Thanks Paul and team for your efforts, once again.

    That said…
    Can we hope to see an upcomming project with somefocus on veneering, inlaying or marquetry?
    Thanks again.

  5. Zdenko Tudor on 31 March 2018 at 10:52 am

    Does Paul ever comment why one apron gets one turn button and the other two turnbuttons? He says he will get back to it but i cant find the answer to this question.

    Another thing i am uncertain whether I have understood correctly is this: the turnbuttons are made to have a 1/32″ clearance from the wall of the mortice hole that is closest to the tabletop? Is this so? It seems to me like this would make the tabletop not seat properly. Thanks in advance.

    • Christopher Johnston on 9 June 2018 at 6:37 am

      Because the side with 2 buttons is across the grain with MORE movement than the sides with 1 button which is along the grain and LESS movement.

      • harry wheeler on 9 June 2018 at 10:05 am

        I don’t believe it has anything to do with movement or cupping. Paul was avoiding putting a screw in the joint line.

    • Philip Adams on 14 June 2018 at 4:43 pm

      Some great discussion here. Paul often does choose to avoid the joint line with the screws, but said that is not really necessary.

      When all else is equal, there is a tendency to use more turnbuttons across the grain to try and contain any cupping, but in this case the board may cup up or down in the middle, with each situation benefitting from opposite configurations of the turnbuttons. So no definitive answer really.

      • harry wheeler on 14 June 2018 at 7:48 pm

        Phil, that would make sense for this project. But for many items, the top isn’t square as was the case for this little table, and I can’t think of a situation where you would have the end grain on the long side of a top. The turnbuttons on the long grain side are going to resist the edges of the top cupping upward so the turnbuttons on the end grain side are resisting the top cupping up in the middle more so than cup in the other direction. My question is this. Assuming you have a rectangular top, what do you suggest as spacing between the turnbuttons? If the top is twice as long as it is wide, obviously you’ll want more turnbuttons on the long side than across the end grain side.

        Certainly, weight of the piece is a factor because you know the it will be lifted by the top at least at times and the turnbuttons have to be capable of supporting that weight. For something like a dresser, people will almost always lift from the short ends – not the front and back. So should spacing between turnbuttons across the end grain side be less than the spacing along the long grain edge just due to that? I know that’s one of those nebulous questions but I wonder what kind of spacing we’re talking about as a general recommendation/guideline. Maybe Paul covered that in one of the videos and I missed it. By the way, I know how strong glue joints are and it still makes me nervous to think about driving a screw into one of them. Thanks! I hope my rambling isn’t too confusing.

  6. Ed on 31 March 2018 at 4:51 pm

    @ZDENKOTUDOR If you look at Video #6, when Paul attaches the top, you can see the underside with the 6 turn buttons. If he used 8, it probably would have been crowded underneath and more than needed to just keep the top on since the base is so light. There’s something Paul doesn’t say in the video though. Which side gets two buttons and which gets one? He said he doesn’t like to drive the screw into the joint line, but there’s another factor, too. The turnbuttons allow the top to expand and contract, but it also tries to keep it from cupping. The cupping will happen crosswise to the grain. If you put the single turnbutton in the middle of the endgrain, then it won’t do much to guard against cupping, unless you get lucky and it tries to cup upwards in the middle. By putting two buttons in the endgrain side, he guards against both movements. So, I think that’s a good reason to orient that way.

    As for the 32nd, just keep in mind there are to important dimensions. The first is the thickness of the stub tenon on the button. As long as it is strong and fits into the mortise, it’s fine. You can see that Paul left lots of extra room. It isn’t even snug-it’s loose. The key dimension is having the bottom of the mortise at the same height as the surface of the stub tenon. In fact, you might even want to take a shaving or two off of the turn button base so that the button is just a hair shorter. In other words, when you put the button in the mortise, there may be just a hair gap of the turnbutton vs. the table top. That way, when you tighten the screw, the button actually puts a bit of pressure on the top. Hope that makes sense.

    • Ed on 31 March 2018 at 7:14 pm

      I may have gotten confused with end grain vs. long grain side, but think it through and you’ll be able to pick what you need. Just get a firm squeeze of the top to the apron and place the turn buttons in your best guess to counter cupping for your particular top. The mortises and stub tenons take care of expansion/contraction.

      • Zdenko Tudor on 1 April 2018 at 11:54 am

        Thanks for the reply! I definitely understand what you mean with two buttons on the end-grain side, as this is where it will tend to cup. I will certainly follow this principle at least until I learn something that may counter this. What got me confused was that I thought made the mortises first, and then later decided the table top orientation, in other words, I did not see Paul choose anything specific, but just screwed it on. Which made me question the reasoning behind the odd number of turnbuttons.

        About the 32nd: I thought Paul intentionally dimensioned it so that there was a hair-gap between the top of the mortise (looking from underneath the table) and the top of the stub tennon. That in some way he left a hair-gap for some kind of vertical movement… But yes I cannot understand how this can be possible, so I assume I have misinterpreted something and the hair-gap shoud be between the table and the turnbutton when the turnbutton is inserted into the mortise.

        • Ed on 1 April 2018 at 2:26 pm

          I think the 32nd is related to laying out the saw cut depths and is a trick meant to get the turn buttons to split properly into the saw kerfs rather than run out to the end. I don’t think it is related to any real dimensioning.

  7. Maurice Villari on 4 June 2018 at 6:38 am

    Lovely legs!!!

  8. 5ivestring on 6 July 2018 at 1:33 am

    I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make a templet for the curve on the aprons. I used a sheet of photo paper which was the perfect stiffness yet able to cut easy. Finding my point for the swing arm was easy too.

    But what really surprised me was how easy it was to cut out the waste wood with a chisel, then clean it up with the spoke shave. they turned out perfect. Didn’t take long at all.

  9. Jac Norton on 17 August 2018 at 11:21 am

    Great Video and insightful discussions, thanks all.

    Im making a larger version, 42″x 26″ (made specifically for my small apartment).

    I wonder if it would be acceptable to run a groove along the aprons with a plough plane instead of chopping mortices? Or perhaps a groove would sacrifice too much strength and risk splitting? might be marginally faster for a larger table though?

    Whats the norm here? Ive seen grooves under tables before but is that the easy way out?
    ‘not what you make, but how you make it!’

    cheers
    Jac

    • harry wheeler on 17 August 2018 at 5:10 pm

      I’m not sure there is a “norm” Jac. The turn button and mortise method is a very traditional method of attaching a table top but there are at least 15 other ways to do it. A groove will work and you see that all the time. It’s really much easier in a power tool shop just to cut a dado with the table saw than it is to have to deal with a mortise machine. I’m in the middle of a very similar sized coffee table to yours for my daughter and I just finished cutting ten mortises for the turn buttons a few minutes ago. Start to stop including layout took me about an hour.

      When it comes to things like this, I figure it’s my call so I pick the method that suits me. I’m sure I can take the router plane and cut four grooves in half the time, but I think the mortises look better and I enjoy cutting them. I don’t think you would sacrifice any appreciable amount of strength if you use the groove method and your material is a hardwood. And I wouldn’t look at cutting grooves as the easy way out either – it’s just a different method. I’m not sure I would want to cut a groove in softwood that near the edge for fear of splitting, but I’m using oak on this table and I wouldn’t give that issue a second thought. Now I only hope that someday, somebody crawls under this table so they can marvel at the masterful job I did on those mortises!!

      • Jac Norton on 21 August 2018 at 6:04 am

        Thanks Harry!

        Per chance my aprons are hardwood (everything else is pine). I think ill give the grooves a go.

        • btyreman on 21 August 2018 at 7:17 pm

          running a groove is not good practise, it will weaken the wood, you only have to chop 6 mortise holes, I’ve only ever seen a groove on low quality and poorly made or machined work, you want it to look hand made and make sure people know it was done by a craftsman, if the chisel is sharp you can cut a mortise in about 2 minutes, definitely shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes for all 6 holes, obviously it’s your choice.

          • harry wheeler on 21 August 2018 at 10:36 pm

            Six turn buttons would be pretty marginal on a table that size. I’m building a similar one right now and I’m using ten.



  10. michael kelton on 11 March 2021 at 2:33 pm

    Mr Sellers i am a 70 year old beginning wood worker i would not have attempted this without your guidance, i told my wife the other night that attempting this was scarier than USMC BOOTCAMP!! I have acquired most of my tools now, a lot of money on a marine corps disability. THANKYOU HERE I GO. VIETNAM 68, 69 AND 70, ON ONE TOUR I WAS STATIONED WITH MY FATHER AND MY FIRST COUSIN, DADDY WAS MY COMMANDING OFFECER AND DID NOT EVEN KNOW IT!

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