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Build progress for nesting side tables

The first step is to cut jig patterns that match the arc of the ends of the tables. These patterns will guide tools and router blades in a precise arc. I use a hand-router mounted on a swinging arm to cut a 34 13/16" radius arc.

cutting curved apron pattern

Cutting curved apron pattern

From 8/4 hard maple stock I cut all the blanks for the two tables' legs and straight aprons. Then using the full-scale schematic I lay out the locations of the mortices and figure the lengths of the tenons. For each leg I determine the best orientation of the grain, and then mark the locations of the mortices. Using a drill press I can hog out most of the mortises before going to the mortising machine.

hogging out mortise slots

Hogging out mortise slots

The mortising machine cuts very precise square sided holes, but it cuts slowly. Hence the need to hog out the mortises in the step above.

Cutting mortises in legs

Cutting the mortises in legs

Next step is to lay out and cut the straight aprons to length and width, and then cut the tenons that will go into the mortises in the legs. I use a tenoning jig on the table saw. The tenoning jig holds the apron vertical and the jig can be set to cut the wide shoulders of the tenon. The narrow shoulder are cut by hand.

Cutting tenons in straight aprons

Cutting tenons in straight aprons

Next I test-fit all the mortise-tenon joints of the legs and straight aprons

Test-fitting mortise and tenon joints

Test-fitting mortise and tenon joints

With the mortises cut, I can now turn to tapering the legs.

I use a tapering jig on the table saw that is very accurate in setting the taper angle.

Cutting the leg tapers with a tapering jig

Cutting the leg tapers with a tapering jig

For the legs the final shaping step is to use a sharp scraper to shave away any tooling marks

Cutting the leg tapers with a tapering jig

Cutting the leg tapers with a tapering jig

With the legs and the straight aprons completely shaped, it's time to shape the aprons at the ends of the tables.
Since the ends of the table tops will be curved, the end aprons need to be curved.

At first I rough-cut the apron arcs from 8/4 hard maple. But the resulting grain pattern was harsh since it cut through grain lines.

So I glued up two 14" lengths of hard maple in a bookmatch pattern. This enables me to cut the curves across the grain, not with the grain. This has the effect of making the grain run at right angles to the curve, and therefore reduces the wildness of the pattern. After cutting the curved blanks, I then cut them to apron width centered around the glue line. This aligns the show grain in the aprons in a pleasing pattern.

Next I rough cut all the aprons on the bandsaw and sand the inside curve on a drum sander.

The outer face curve needs to be very accurate and smooth. It is the show side of the apron.

To make this curve, I use a jig to which the apron blank is mounted with screws, and that moves the apron in an arc exactly like the arc cut above.  This jig sits on the planer and sweeps the apron blank through an accurate curve right at the planer blades.  The curved bearings pivot, and the jig is gradually lowered onto the spinning planer blade using wedges:

Cutting curved aprons

Cutting the outer curve of the end aprons on a jig centered over the planer

Cutting the tenons in the curved aprons requires that each apron be stacked in some cut-offs to keep it vertical over the table saw blade(s)

I stacked two dado blades with shims to set their spacing equal to the mortise width so that I could cut the wide shoulders of the tenons in one pass (rats, I should have thought to do this with the straight aprons!)

Cutting tenons of curved aprons

Cutting tenons in curved aprons

With all the mortises and tenons cut, I'm now able to dry-fit and adjust the table bases (less tops). Here's the smaller of the two tables:

Small table base being test-fit

Small table base being test-fit

After prelimary sanding, I am now going to glue the table/apron assemblies together. I'll do this in two steps. First glue the ends of the tables together making sure that all the dimensions are held and legs are straight. Then glue the ends together with the straight aprons to complete the bases of the tables.

Glue-up ends of tables

Glue-up ends of tables

After cleanup of the end apron/leg combinations, I glue the ends together with the straight aprons to complete the bases of the tables.

Glue-up table bases

Glue-up table bases

Now cut center bars that will keep the table top flat. Cut to length and join with aprons using dovetail joints.

Cut and attache center bars

Cut and attach center bars

The table bases are nearly complete - just awaiting final sanding. Now it's time to turn to the tops.

Completed bases

Completed table bases

Chinese elm
Chinese elm