Sellers Home Coffee Table: Episode 1

Coffee Table EP1 KF

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For this coffee table, Paul chose to work from roughsawn cherry. That being so, he begins by truing and squaring the sections using the bench planes and the bandsaw. You can, of course, use handsaws if you prefer that to bandsawing. With the stock for the legs and rails trued and ready, Paul walks you through the stages of layout for all of the mortise holes. The hand methods and techniques are those that Paul has taught to students for almost 30 years and he has used them throughout his own life as a designer and maker for over five decades. We hope that you too will find them effective and efficient!



  1. Keith Walton on 12 May 2021 at 3:49 pm

    Do you ever just use rift stock for square legs so the grain is similar all around?

    • Izzy Berger on 10 June 2021 at 9:19 am


      Paul says:
      Generally not. I am not that precious about the facets being the same so much as interesting.


  2. Bill Hall on 12 May 2021 at 5:40 pm

    I like that your starting the project showing how your dimensioning the stock!

  3. Shawn OBrien on 12 May 2021 at 5:45 pm

    Paul, What is the name of the material you use on your mortise guide faces?

    • Izzy Berger on 10 June 2021 at 9:20 am

      Hi Shawn,

      Paul says:
      I made mine out of a vintage plastic serving tray. Plastic laminate works well too and I have some made with brass plate faces which I cut from push plates made for swing doors and such.


  4. Phil Lorenzo on 12 May 2021 at 6:29 pm

    Paul, this looks like a great piece for me to attempt, will you be providing a cutting list for this project?

  5. John McDermott on 12 May 2021 at 7:12 pm

    What is the minimum thickness for preparing stock this way, with a bandsaw? Is it safe to use this technique to thickness 3/4 inch pieces down to 1/2 inch final thickness? I realize that one can go pretty thin starting from something like 4 quarters, but what about starting with something that is 3/4 or 5/8 inches thick?

    • Izzy Berger on 10 June 2021 at 9:21 am


      Paul says:
      With new or known-to-be-sharp blade you can cut to any thickness just fine. If you are close to an outside face though, blade might break out to the outer face and remain there rather than cutting to the line you want. ¾” to ⅝” or less will be no problem at all.


  6. Austin Conner on 12 May 2021 at 9:00 pm



    I’ve had no trouble running 3/4 and 5/8 stock through my bandsaw. As you get to thinner stock, you’ll likely want a good featherboard and push stick to keep yourself safe and guide the cuts.

    For me, once I get below 5/8 it’s usually faster to plane to thickness than setup the bandsaw


  7. joeleonetti on 13 May 2021 at 5:13 am

    Thanks Paul.

    For the top mortises, I noticed you went with a haunch. Is this just the general default way it is traditionally done?


    • Izzy Berger on 28 July 2021 at 9:52 am

      Hi Joe,

      Paul says:
      It is. It means that the tenon is constrained all the way to the top and it easier to marry the tenon to the mortise and haunch too.


  8. Robert Bellairs on 15 May 2021 at 1:29 pm

    Out of curiosity, how many times did you have to sharpen your chisels when chopping the 16 mortises?

  9. sanford on 15 May 2021 at 3:59 pm

    Hi Joe, haunched tenons are quite standard for this sot of construction. As I understand it, they are a sort of compromise. Longer tenons provide more strength and fully enclosed tenons provide more strength, particularly when the various forces that might be placed on a joint are taken into account. The haunched tenon is supposed to get a bit of both: much of the tenon is fully enclosed but a bit of it (the top) is longer. I have seen it said, in several places, that this adds strength but I have no idea whether anyone has actually tested it in a reasonably precise way. But it does make a kind of sense. For example, some folk, using power tools, could cut a mortise hole, using an electric router, that is completely open at the top: quick and easy with a router. The provides a long tenon, but since it is open at the top, there is no wood at the top holding the leg in place. If you drag the table across the floor, the resulting forces could stress the upper part of the joint and snap the leg out — I did that once though, now that I think about it, it was a haunched tenon that I broke. Oh well.

  10. Andrew Konopitski on 18 May 2021 at 11:51 pm

    Hey Shawn,

    I made a set of these mortise guides and ended up using 1/8” brass plate stock for the face which I affixed with countersunk screws. It’s durable enough to use in this application, but soft enough to be easily shaped with hand tools. It’s also a consistent thickness which is paramount for these guides (that’s why Paul uses plywood for the rest of the guide construction). I was able to purchase it cheaply from both eBay and Amazon.

  11. John D Oswalt on 19 May 2021 at 10:01 pm

    Paul, it’s quite noticeable that the haunch for common cuts #1 & #2 do not align well. That very uncharacteristic of your previous work. Isn’t that going to create a problem later when you assemble the leg and the rail? And how did that happen when you were using your mortise guide? I am curious to know why and how this happened because I have found myself in this situation on previous projects before you demonstrated using the mortise guide. I usually had to make a new piece. Very frustrating after all of the work involved.


    • Joseph Sellers on 27 May 2021 at 11:58 am

      Hi John,

      Thanks for the question.

      First up, while the mortise guide was used for the mortises you can see at 37.08 that the haunch recesses are sawn and split. This combined with the fact that the legs are hand planed means they may not meet precisely when seen from the end view and the haunch recesses look a little ‘wonky’. Honestly, it is not necessary for haunches to be very precise and this doesn’t necessarily reflect on the mortises themselves. Also at this stage it is still possible to pare these somewhat when fitting the haunches into the recess.

  12. rafi on 26 May 2021 at 7:52 pm

    Not to worry, John. New legs in Episode 3.

    • Joseph Sellers on 27 May 2021 at 12:33 pm

      You surprised me with that comment as I was certain we didn’t get new legs. I have reviewed this and it appears some of our footage was out of order. We are going to fix the footage issue but to be clear, there was only one set of legs.

  13. Michael Cameron on 18 July 2021 at 5:06 am

    Is there something I can do to fix a sloppy lateral adjustment on my #5 plane? It won’t stay put once adjusted. Thanks!

  14. Joost Borst on 19 July 2021 at 12:00 pm

    You could try tightening the screw that holds the cap iron in place. My plane had the same problem and that fixed it.
    It does make everything harder to move tough.

  15. Edouard Poitras on 24 July 2021 at 5:43 am

    I noticed the upper guide bearings on the bandsaw where set well above the work. I have found the blade to wonder at these settings. Could you clear up why to set this way and how it keeps your cut from wondering please Paul.

  16. Austin Klaus on 17 November 2021 at 1:37 am

    Thanks again for inspiring me to begin woodworking. My first project ever was the workbench you guided me through, and I have since made the Seller’s Home Coffee Table, along with a second table loosely based on the former. I really enjoy the stepped tenons and laminated arches. At age 32, I have embarked on a career change into the fine furniture industry. I find that the basics you have taught me, equipped me with the understanding needed to be confident enough to tackle any project thrown my way. I am about to start on the Seller’s Home Rocking Chair!

  17. peter marshall on 3 March 2022 at 4:33 pm

    Good Morning , What is the overhang from the edge of the leg to the edge of the table ? It appears to be about 1/2 inch from the drawings if I am reading correctly? On a couple other of Paul’s midsize tables tables the overhang is 1 inch . I know this may be a small detail but I am about to make that very final crosscut to length on the apron and thought I would check !! Cheers , Peter

    • peter marshall on 3 March 2022 at 8:02 pm

      I doubled checked and confirmed I had made a calculation mistake ( oops ) and the table layout is is for a one inch overhang .. Thanks

  18. BruceLamb on 10 May 2022 at 12:47 pm

    What does Paul use for that little chip extractor tool?

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