Montreat Side Table
Comments 9

The Montreat Side Table – Getting Started

Just typing the post title gets me excited. A new project and do y’all realize how long it has been since I actually made a piece of furniture? The workbench took forever and then the tool cabinet for the bench had some finicky, fussy, time-consuming drawer fronts. Before I built my workbench, I added a much needed cherry and tiger maple tool cabinet and wall surround for my basement steps. Then I built a new tool storage wall, made some bench jigs, then worked on my bandsaw and planer. Plus numerous SketchUp projects/woodworking plans. So, pretty busy really. All of these things were great fun and necessary, but I have not built a piece of furniture since the window seat bookcase, more than three years ago (that’s right, bold and italic font). I can’t believe it has been that long.

So it is a good and right feeling to begin this project. Like my woodworking has been a little out of balance and now is tilting back in the right direction.

Anyway, in my last blog post, I thought there would be at least a few minor design refinements to the Montreat Side Table, and there has been. Even though I like designing in SketchUp, I have learned to make a full size drawing of the design (if possible) and in doing so, I decided a change was needed for the drawer. Let’s take a look at the original design…

Front view.

Working on the full size drawing. My workbench is awesome for this task.

Final line work with black markers.

From the full size drawing, I determined the drawer was a little too over-bearing; too big, too tall, too thick. The original design called for a drawer that is 5″ tall. To start, I decided to take a quarter-inch out of the drawer height and I thought this was enough. To make a drawer more useful, it’s depth is an important consideration. As a drawer becomes more shallow, my wife and I will be able to store less junk stuff in it. The location of the angle apex seen in the legs relates to the bottom of the drawer, so I had to move the apex upward 1/4″. The change in the drawer size also meant a corresponding change in the side aprons and the back. I finalized all of this in SketchUp and the result is shown below…

Old design outlined in blue. Changes in red.

The changes shown above are subtle, but I think leads to a better design. The drawer front being smaller also means the drawer pull and the shelf move upward accordingly.

Mortises for the legs

I sourced some 2″ thick white oak, about 10′ long and 6″-7″ wide; a pretty significant piece of lumber. I chose it because this oak is just about a perfect color match to my renderings. I did not want fancy grain for this project, so the oak is not quarter-sawn. I used my bandsaw for rough rip cuts forming the legs (since it’s tune-up, I plan to use my bandsaw more often). After passes on my jointer and trimming at the table saw, I got the legs to final length but still a little fat all the way around.

The beginning. Imagine a table between the legs.

I recently was the recipient of a large stash of Woodpeckers tools. Some are shown in the first photos above (the red ones). All of these are nice to have but the one I get the most use from is the Paolini Pocket Rules. I have three of them and they are great layout tools.

Marking the location for a mortise.

I chose the best faces of the boards to be oriented outward (there are three knots I am trying to hide) and then marked the location of all the mortises. I had planned to take the legs to the Alabama Woodworkers Guild workshop, but it was Easter weekend and the shop was closed. I was going to use the Guild’s Powermatic hollow chisel mortiser thinking that drilling and chopping all this white oak would be the best way to go. Instead, I drilled out some of the waste and then used my plunge router equipped with a fence and a 3/8″ straight cutting bit to clean up the mortises after drilling.

Removing some of the waste for the mortises.

A rare photo of me with a bunch of stuff on my head.

In the photo above, I have a little LED light strapped to my head. I got this for Christmas from my wife. I thought it would be an item I’d rarely use, but it has been very helpful to shed light on a task such as the precision routing I was doing. I also have a RZ mask and ear plugs in place. I thought it was sort of funny to have all this stuff on my head.

Mortises complete. Note the fence attached to my router.

Giving the legs a little style

A key design element found on the Montreat Side Table is the outward angle seen on each leg. The top of each leg is 1-7/16″ square. Then the legs angle 3/16″ only for the two outward faces. I adjusted this distance a few times and decided any greater outward angle would be tool bold. The angle reaches its apex at 5-3/4″ down from the top of the leg. The leg then tapers back to 1-7/16 square at the bottom of each leg.

Note the pencil marks at the top of each leg showing the taper.

A rudimentary tapering jig.

I did a lot of layout for each taper and pulled out my trusty tapering jig. This is 1/2″ plywood with a hardwood runner attached to it. The runner slides in the miter gauge slot in my table saw. Careful study of the photo above shows that it is riddled with screw holes. This jig could not be more simple. I place the leg in the proper position; hot melt glue a couple of scraps of wood to the plywood base. Add screws from below and I have a functioning and very crude tapering jig. I also use it for all kinds of odd angles. At some point this jig will have so many screw holes in it that I’ll put it in the trash, and make a new one.

After making cuts to taper the lower ends of the legs, this is what I have…

I still need to clean them up with a smooth plane.

How the legs will be positioned.

After some smoothing with my #4 bench plane to remove the milling marks, I’ll have four completed table legs and I didn’t mess them up by putting a mortise in the wrong place or add a taper to the wrong face. I’m pretty pleased at this point.

Next for the Montreat Side Table

I will attempt to re-saw the remaining 2″ thick oak left over from the legs. I hope I’ll be able to get the side aprons and stretchers from this stock. So, the goal for the next update on this project is to have the stretchers completed and maybe even some of the side and back aprons. We will see.

* * * * *

Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).

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


  1. I love the RZ mask. I use one to0. These days it seems I spend as much time putting on safety gear as setting up the machines. I tend not to do the full sized drawings, but I’m starting to think you’re right about doing that more often. Looking forward to the rest of the project.

  2. Chuck says

    Headlamps are GREAT! I have used them for many years. I keep at least 2 nearby since they eat batteries.

    Suggestion about the taper jig:
    1 — No need for a runner in the miter slot; instead just use your rip fence.
    2 — To stick the cleats, use (paper) double sided tape.
    Result: Less setup time and no need to replace the plywood base.


    • Hey Chuck, your points are good ones. The jig I’m using is more of a multi-purpose jig used for a variety of angles. In the past some of the things I have used it for won’t work with a fence, and is the reason for the runner. The double-faced tape I have used in the past is thick enough to allow some movement which I definitely don’t want on these cuts. Plus I didn’t have any on hand. I’ll explore that option more. Thanks for the comment.

      • Chuck says

        You can find paper tape at Woodcraft and on Amazon in a wide range of widths.

        I used to use the fabric, carpet tape, but have switched over to paper for several reasons:
        1 — Paper tape is so thin that it won’t move like carpet tape.
        2 — It also doesn’t leave a residue like carpet tape.
        3 — You can easily tear off pieces without the need for a knife or scissors getting all gummed up.
        4 — The backing tape separates easily – especially if you tear off a piece instead of cutting.

        Regardless of whether I use paper or fabric tape I want to control which of the 2 work pieces will retain the tape when I pull them apart. So I will stick one side of the tape to my shirt or pants several times before applying it.
        When it comes to positioning false drawer fronts I never remove the tape. Once I stick the false front to the drawer box I just leave it and screw the pieces together permanently.


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