Coffee Table
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The coffee table project

Coffee table drawing
A very rough sketch. A low tech drawing of the project. The table will have a simple and straight-forward design. At some point, I will buy software with which I can draw my plans.

ears upon years ago I built a toy chest for our family room that served as a coffee table and storage for Beth’s toys. Sometime later, the lid on the toy chest broke. So, it currently has toys in it which are difficult to get out. Plus, Beth doesn’t play with these toys any longer. So, the idea of a new coffee table was hatched after I made the end table for the family room.

Here is a photo journal of the progress on this table. I started it about a month ago. The table is being made of red oak, my current wood of choice. I made the legs about three or four weeks ago, then the project came to a stop. But, I have made a concerted effort towards starting it again, and finally I got down to my shop today and made some progress.

Legs taking shape. Not yet cut to length. Note lines showing the location of the upper and lower aprons.

legs made from three pieces of stock
Three boards. The table legs have been formed by gluing three boards together.

working on layout
Eliminating confusion. It is important to understand and mark where the legs will be. This will help avoid mistakes like drilling holes in the wrong places. Also, by deciding now where each leg will be positioned, blemishes in the wood can be located so that they are out of view.

The legs will be joined to the aprons with dowels. I have begun the layout for the dowel locations and have even drilled a few holes. More on this later.

Before I go, a word about the lumber, red oak. There is a growing dislike of red oak as furniture grade lumber. I am not sure why this is, but I suspect the following reasons:

  • Red oak is readily available at home centers – not the place that the very serious woodworker gets his/her lumber. Home center lumber = bad.
  • Red oak via the home center is often cut to yield the most lumber from the tree at the loest cost; a process know as plain sawn. Better is reift sawn or quarter sawn – these two techniques yield boards with more pleasing grain. The grain of plain sawn wood can be quite ugly.

I use red oak because I am an impatient woodworker. Why purchase rough sawn lumber when a perfectly good hardwood like red oak is available already surfaced on all four sides? Home center lumber means I don’t have to go to all the trouble of planning lumber myself. Over time, I most likely will change my ways when it comes to premium woods like cherry, walnut and figured maple, but for now, I simply carefully pick red oak boards for the best grain possible.

This is post one in this series. To see the next post, “Using a Dowel Jig” click here.


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This entry was posted in: Coffee Table


During the week, I sell flooring products for The Dixie Group. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.

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