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Montreat Side Table: More Templates

Remember two blog posts ago how I said it has not been a scorcher here in Alabama? I spoke too soon. It is now officially a scorcher and while some parts of the USA are enjoying more pleasing Fall weather, we are setting record high temperatures. As I write this (10/03/19), the temperature hit 103 degrees, a record for this date. Tomorrow is forecast to be 99 degrees. In fact, all week has been close to 100 degrees with several records set. Then the week upcoming we will see a couple of days with high temperatures in the upper 70s. What a contrast and I can’t wait for cooler temps.

So, it has been easy to find other things to do instead of being in my un-airconditioned workshop. But with my trusty box fan close by, I found some comforting wind in my workshop and I made a little progress on my side table.

The first of two new templates

I have a couple of items on the to-do list before I can begin sanding for pre-finishing my side table. First, make a unique angular shape on the stretchers and second, drill for shelf supports in four of the side slats.

I considered my options for cutting the angular shape for the stretchers and decided template routing was the best way for me. I considered cutting the material away with a bandsaw and then smoothing the cut, but in the end template routing would cut away the waste and also leave a mostly smooth surface. But this means I need to design and build a template.

Stretcher Jig Long

The template design for cutting angles on the stretchers.

Stretcher Jig Long2

Template “in use” view. Note the red edge on the template itself.

In the images above the stretcher is in blue and the template itself has a red edge which helps define the needed angle. With screws, I can move the temple forward or backward as needed to zero in on the correct position. The yellow and white components help lock the stretcher in place and the base extends outward left and right to give me some area for clamping the whole thing to my workbench (without interfering with the travel of my router). After positioning the white and yellow components, I lock them in place with hot melt glue and then add screws.

Below is the template in it’s actual rudimentary state. I again used throw away materials to make the template.


The actual template.


A smooth edge after just a little hand plane work.


Stretcher fabrication complete.

This moment has been one I have looked forward to because these angular shapes are signature elements in this table design.

The second template

This template is pretty simple. I need a way to precisely locate holes which will get dowels inserted into them to support the middle shelf. Precision is needed because if one or more of the holes is misaligned, the shelf will rock or move slightly. For adjustable shelves, I like to make a simple jig and use it as a template for my plunge router.

Montreat Side Table Final

Note the holes on the inside face of two side slats.

Originally, I designed the adjustable shelf with multiple potential locations. In reality, I can foresee needing just two different shelf heights. At some point in the future I plan to place the subwoofer for our home theater sound system in this table.


A very simple template.


Just two holes per slat.




Note the angular shape added to the stretchers.


The top edge has the opposite angle on each end.


All of the construction for the table is now finished except the drawer. It is time to prep the oak and walnut components for finish. I’ll plane and sand these parts and then choose a finish. Since Tom Monahan of General Finishes has conducted two presentations to the Alabama Woodworkers Guild, I am switching to General Finishes for all my stain and top coat products. But I still have not decided which General Finishes products I’ll use.

By the way, today (10/06/19) the high temperature will be just 88 degrees. Thankfully Fall like temperatures will be here soon. 🙂

A Satisfying Repair

Problem solving a woodworking mistake can be very satisfying. As I finished my shop time last weekend, I had just made my final cuts on the middle shelf of my side table project. Unknown to readers of this blog: I made a bone-headed mistake which wasn’t terrible and the result was something I could have lived with, but at this point in my woodworking journey I just can’t let this be. And actually I made two mistakes. Not fixing them would bother me always.

I’ve read several woodworking magazine articles which detail the best ways to fix mistakes and with some luck, repairs can be invisible. I was hopeful I could make the needed repairs to my satisfaction. Let’s take a look at the numerous mistakes on a single piece of wood…

MST Middle Shelf Repair

The middle shelf in blue as it should be shaped.

MST Middle Shelf Repair 2

An overhead view showing the correct shape of the shelf.

MST Middle Shelf Repair 3

The yellow area is what I mistakenly cut away. The blue area is the resulting shape and size.

Basically, I cut the shelf to align with the inside edge of the front stretcher instead of the outside edge. I cut the front edge of the shelf 3/4″ too short (shown in yellow above).

Also, I cut an adjustable shelf like this undersize to allow for easy movement when the shelf needs to be moved up or down. But, I simply cut too much off the back edge of the shelf (see the yellow area at the back of the shelf). The result is sloppy work on what is really a nice white oak panel. Knowing how this table will be positioned in my home, the mistake at the back would not be seen. The 3/4″ mistake at the front of the shelf could be viewed as an acceptable design decision. But again, I knew these mistakes would bother me.

To repair it, I still had a cut-off from when I ripped the shelf to width. I know from past mistakes that with some luck, grain and color will match well enough that gluing a cut-off back in place can be hard to see.


Adding a slender strip of oak at what is the back of the shelf.


Small piece of filler oak ready to be trimmed.


Shown from the front, the repaired middle shelf.


Close-up, 3/4″ added to front edge. Virtually invisible glue joint.



The middle shelf now aligns with the front of the lower stretcher.

Note how the front of the middle shelf aligns with the outer edge of the lower stretcher. The future drawer front will align with both these parts making the leg offset of the components facing the front the same as the offset on the side and back components.

I’m all happy now. These mistakes were surprising because I was trying hard to make the notches for the legs as accurate as possible. Next time I attempt a process like this shelf, I’ll likely make a test shelf out of some inexpensive, thin hardboard. If I had done this in the first place, I could have easily determined the needed adjustments to get a good final fit on the oak shelf.

Live and learn.

Hot Summer Days in the Workshop

The pastor at my church once said Alabama seasons run like this: Winter, Early Summer, Summer and then Late Summer. The implication here is Alabama is hot most of the time. This is an exaggeration; it is really hot now, but I would call June (getting hot), July, August, September and October (cooling off) as the hot months of the year.

This summer has not been a scorcher; I think we have been at or over 100 degrees only a day or two at the most, but when adding the effects of humidity, there have been some tough days. And it’s the humidity that affects me the most.

One evening this past week, I thought about getting in a little woodworking after dinner. I opened the door to my basement workshop and the heat and humidity coming from my non air conditioned workshop made it feel worse than what was actually going on outside. So, no woodworking that evening. And that is the way it has been since my last post. I have had to be very motivated to do any woodworking at all. And when I do, I have a box fan blowing on me all the time. But the box fan then blows sawdust all over my workshop.

Other than adding air conditioning to my basement workshop, I don’t know what else to do. And, I am mainly just a weekend woodworker so I can’t justify the cost of adding air conditioning. A box fan will simply have to do the job. Is this an ideal woodworking environment? No, but most of us use workshops which are less than ideal. We just have to make the best of it and enjoy what we are doing. I am very much enjoying building my new side table.

Using a backwoods jig

From the Merriam-Webster website defining “backwoods” – “especially culturally backward or unsophisticated.”


My super simple circular saw cutting jig

I have been using a jig which is very much backwoods. Or you could say it is unsophisticated or rudimentary. I slapped this jig together in a matter of minutes. Made from scrap material (1/4″ beaded pine plywood and 1/4″ MDF), it is extremely crude. When I realized a photo of it should be included in this blog post, I sort of wished it was more presentable. But this basic jig or cutting guide for my circular saw helped me make accurate cuts that were almost effortless. It helped that I had a new circular saw with a sharp blade. The cuts were all crisp and clean.


Jig in use cutting the bottom shelf to length.

I used this jig to cut the unique angular profile for the top as well as precision cuts to fit the lower shelf and middle shelf in place. It isn’t pretty, but it cost no additional money to make and it did the job well.

I also had to add cleats which the lower shelf will mount to. I used a cut-off of the lower shelf as a spacer helping me properly position the cleat.


Adding a mounting cleat for the bottom shelf.


Cleats in place. Note pre-drilled holes in each cleat.


Lower shelf in place.

The pre-drilled holes in each cleat are sized to allow the lower shelf to expand or contract. The goal is to have the lower shelf fixed at the front tight against the front stretcher. The lower shelf will then be allowed to move at the back of the table. Also note the lower shelf is notched to fit around the legs. I did this for the lower shelf and the middle shelf as well.

A special profile for the top

The top of the Montreat Side Table has a very unique profile – an angular shape which helps add a little modern look to the top. See the profile below…

Top with yellow

The highlighted yellow area needs to be cut away.

Using my crude jig, I was able to draw the needed lines and simply position my jig at each line and cut the waste away with my circular saw.


If you look carefully, you can see the slight angular profile at each end.

With all of this completed, I temporarily positioned the top and middle shelf in place and snapped a couple of photos…




A little better view of the side.

The table is still not glued together. Two items not completed: no recesses drilled in four of the slats for adjustable shelf supports and I still don’t have the angular profile on the four lower stretchers. The recesses for the shelf supports will be easy to add and for the stretchers, I’ll need to drive over to the woodworking guild to use one of their band saws to rough cut the angular profile. Then clean the cut with some template routing. Those two steps will be next. I’ll then sand everything, pre-finish and glue the table together. Finally, I’ll add the drawer. Maybe I’ll finish this by Christmas. 🙂