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Easy Woodworking Plan – The Sarah Side Table

With the publishing of my new woodworking plan, You Can Build The Sarah Side Table, I have reached a milestone: this is my 20th woodworking plan. I may have a celebratory cold beverage with dinner tonight. The Sarah Side Table reflects a new design trend for me – contemporary furniture made from natural materials. But still rooted in traditional shapes.

This table is an exercise in curves. For the curves, the design process started with the arched base which incorporates slight vertical elements or end points. The hope is that these help establish feet for the table.

Then, the same or very similar curves were added to the both ends of the top, the drawer pulls and a very distinctive cut out for the sides. About the sides, they get an additional design feature from a slender vertical separation, or gap. The shape of the pulls and their contrasting wood helps give the table a modern feel.

A couple of my friends have been encouraging me to make a woodworking project which is much easier to build than my previous ones. Like bird house plans which I have no desire to make. But I did use the Sarah Side Table as an opportunity to incorporate pocket screws as the primary joinery with dowels as a second joinery method. I wanted to see if I could create a design which looks more refined than what you typically find with pocket screws. See the slide show video below…


Some quick facts about the plan:

  • It is 22 pages in length
  • It includes a cut list and a material cutting diagram
  • It includes a link to the fully detailed SketchUp model
  • Most pages include large, color coded images
  • It includes sources for specialty items needed for construction (Kreg pocket hole jig and dowel center points).

This is a total woodworking guide for building this table: a lot of images, the SketchUp model and text which describes the construction process. The plan is organized to help you easily move from one step to the next ending with a successful project.

In case the video above moves a little fast, here are a few page images so you can get an idea of the level of detail provided…

Cover using my favorite headline font “Editor”.

Page 4 which includes the cut list and notes.

Page 9 where assembly begins.

Page 19, an overview of drawer construction.

Get the plan at Etsy

You can buy You Can Build the Sarah Side Table at my Etsy shop for $14.99 – a deal really since I saw some woodworking plans there for twice as much money. Go to my Etsy shop by clicking the link below…

Get The Sarah Side Table at Etsy

And, be sure to check out the my other plans at Etsy or the 15 free woodworking plans here at my website. These are instant downloads which do not require you giving me your email address and such. See all 15 here.

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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).


Designing in SketchUp #4 – The Montreat Side Table

I am closing in on finishing my next woodworking plan, You Can Build The Sarah Side Table, and I always thought it would be my next furniture project; but it won’t. Proportion plays a big role in a successful design and when I took the Sarah Side Table and re-sized it to fit the space between our couch and love seat, I didn’t like what I saw. But I like the Sarah Side Table and intend to build it as a bedside table for our guest bedroom.

I do some of my best thinking on Saturday and Sunday mornings as I lay in bed trying to get a few more minutes of sleep. My new design is what I call the Montreat Side Table named for the community east of Asheville, North Carolina. My wife and I would love to live there or anywhere in the Asheville area really. While laying in bed Saturday morning, I worked out this design in my mind and then visualized it in SketchUp.

Before we get to the Montreat Side Table, let’s take a look at the Sarah Side Table. This design was born from an article in Fine Woodworking titled simply, “Build a Nightstand” by Michael Cullen. I remembered seeing this table in the magazine and liked the fact that the table sides were made from two separate pieces of wood with a slender gap between them. I incorporated the gap in the side of the Sarah Side Table and then began playing around with curves…

I really like this design.

The split side with the curved cut-out and arched bottom.

I also like the drawer arrangement.

So this design = A+, I like it. But when I began to alter the size to fit an area in my family room, the look was not so good. The Sarah Side Table is a slender, upright design. As it morphed into something useful in my home, the table became more wide and deep. Take a look…

What I call the Sarah Side Table Wide.

To help break up the wide, flat side, I added a front and back leg.

This version has no lower drawer.

The deal breaker for me with the wide design is the depth, front to back. The sides became much wider and the curved cut-out (a key design element in the original design) looked odd with all the flat surface adjacent to it. I tried to make the cut-out bigger, but that didn’t help. In one final attempt at making a pleasing design, I added a thicker leg like feature to the front and back edges. This would break-up the wide flat side surface and create a shadow line. This helped, but these legs looked out-of-place, like an odd addition to an otherwise curve focused design.

I realized from the design exercise with the wide version I really needed a table with legs vs. solid sides. I began thinking of the Gustave Side Table I designed a few months ago. From this design, I created a more contemporary version, the Montreat Side Table…

I really like this design.

I like the two-tone color.

With the top removed; I’ll make hand cut dovetails for the drawers.

Front view.

Side view.

From all of this, I have learned to sleep on a design idea. I came up with the initial idea Saturday morning and by the end of the day, thought I had the design nailed down, but I wasn’t happy with the slat placement for the sides and back; very symmetrical and with too much negative space between the slats. See below…

Saturday design; note the slats.

Sunday design; more slats, two sizes, much better.

How the table will be used.

The last image shows the table as it will be positioned in our family room: in the corner between our sofa and love seat.

I am following some design concepts I recently heard from Mike Pekovich, Matt Kenney and Philip Morley who promote the idea of using restraint with bold figure in wood as well as restraint with strong design elements. To that end, I decided to tone down the contrasting color with my newest version of this table and several of the design elements are very subtle. I’ll talk more about the look of the Montreat Side Table in a future post.

This design has developed over time and the key thing here is to be patient and let the design evolve into something you really like. Don’t settle for a design which seems off in some way; keep at it and let the design become just right. That is not to say I won’t further refine this one. I am sure I will, but I am 99% happy with the Montreat Side Table as is.

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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).

Repairing My Delta 22-580 Planer

Quite a while ago, I heard some particularly good woodworking advice: “Don’t point out your mistakes.” For the most part, I have stuck to this recommendation ever since. I’ll admit a stupid mistake from time to time (especially while a project is under construction), but mostly, I just keep quiet especially when a friend or acquaintance is looking at a finished project. There was a time when a compliment would be replied with, “Thanks, I had this terrible tear-out down there near the base, you can’t hardly see it, but it’s there.” Or, “I really wanted the quarter-sawn grain on that fine piece of oak to pop more.” Now, I usually just smile and take the compliment.

I do need to come clean on a never before revealed mistake. It’s my new workbench top. While I was bringing the top down to its final thickness, I noticed the top wasn’t flat. In fact it had a strange dip or broad gouge across the face of both tops which make up the split top design. Even though these two top slabs looked flat, I could feel an uneven surface. A straight edge confirmed my suspicion: there was in fact a shallow gouge or cup present. A fix was achieved by simply using the planer at my woodworking guild. But the extra passes through the planer meant my workbench top is not as thick as planned. Instead of the top being 3-1/2″ thick, it is more like 3-1/4″. Not a big deal, but at this point in my woodworking life, this inaccuracy was unwanted.

By the way, there is a good back story on how I obtained my planer. It was a gift from Christopher Lindsay, a woodworker I knew online. I had complained in this blog post about needing a planer (the blog post is dated 11/28/2010). Christopher had one he wasn’t using and offered it to me if I could come get pick it up. Ultimately, I paid the cost of freight and Christopher shipped it to me. It was a kind thing that Christopher did for me.

But for the life of me, I could not explain how this odd surface happened in the first place. My planer is a Delta 22-580. I initially thought the knives had become worn from all the ash and oak I had been sending through it. So I decided to do a little investigation by taking the knives out and inspecting them. This video gives you an idea of the process…

In all the years of using this planer, I haven’t touched these knives, so I suspected it was time for a new set. The knives came out easily and surprisingly, these knives are two-sided. A new edge could be obtained simply by turning them end for end. The first knife did not reveal anything unusual, a couple of nicks in the cutting edge which wasn’t a surprise. But the second knife was a different story…

A clue as to the problem.

A close-up shows wood which shouldn’t be where it is.

When I removed the second knife, there was a sliver of wood under the knife. This wood isn’t supposed to be here; I easily removed it and moved on. The knife is slender and wasn’t bent, but I noticed the mounting bar which holds the knife in place was bent.

The bent mounting bar.

What I think happened is this: while running my workbench front and back stretchers through my planer, I had a pretty severe cut; one that was potentially dangerous (see this blog post). This cut, made in error, took off a large chunk of wood and I think some of it jammed under the blade. Subsequent passes with oak and ash only made the problem worse ultimately bending the mounting bar which is kind of thick steel. This in essence created a curved planer knife causing the odd-shaped cut to my bench top.

I decided to order a new mounting bar to replace the bent one. Since my planer is now getting old, it is not unusual to find that replacement parts have been discontinued, and this was the case with the mounting bar. I did find aftermarket mounting bars at, a company I had never heard of. It took about two weeks to get two new bars; you have to order them in pairs so as to maintain balance on the spinning planer head.

Original mounting bar in front, replacement bars in back.

I attached the new mounting bars and cleaned the rollers and waxed the planer bed. It was time to make a test cut; I picked a piece of ash which had a rough surface…



You can easily see in the “after” photo a couple of lines indicating nicks in the planer knives, but the surface is otherwise flat and the nicks are acceptable right now. The lines are nothing a card scraper couldn’t easily remove (or a pass with a smoother). I’ll most likely order a new set of knives to get the planer where I really want it to be. I consider this a successful repair and my Delta 22-580 is back in working order. The mounting bars cost $57 including shipping costs.

Back in working order.

The lesson here is that routine tool maintenance is important not only for keeping your tools in like new condition, but keeping them safe as well.

One more thing…

On March 9th and 10th I attended a class at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild. Mike Pekovich was on hand to demonstrate the unique steps for building his display cabinet on stand. The class was sold out and we had several people travel quite a distance to take the class. A big success for our guild and a great time to learn from a master woodworker and designer.

Mike Pekovich at the table saw.

His kumiko tools.

I got Mike to sign my copy of his book.

Pretty cool stuff. In my copy of his book “The Why and How of Woodworking” Mike wrote, “Jeff, It’s a great craft without an end of challenges.” So true.

Still one more thing…

I have added a banner in the right sidebar of my blog formally announcing a service where I will custom design woodworking plans for individuals. I have begun calling the plans I make “woodworking guides” since they guide the woodworker through the process for completing a project. My starting fee for project design is $75 and plan documentation starts at an additional $75. Complex designs or lengthy plans will have a higher fee. I receive requests for design and plan service a few times a year and in some cases I have actually created custom plans for individuals. I don’t expect this to be a lucrative endeavour but if I can make a little money and help a woodworker build something, then that’s a win, win.

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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).