The Hall Table Project              

    Richard Gingras

  The inspiration   My version   Status as of June 19   Materials



> STEP ONE - Table Top

> STEP TWO - Rails & Aprons

> STEP THREE - Mortise & Tenon

> STEP FOUR - Legs

> STEP FIVE - Shelves

> STEP SIX - Ebony Plugs

> STEP SEVEN - Drawer

> STEP EIGHT - Final Assembly

> STEP NINE - Final Finishing


            The project was inspired by the designs of Greene & Greene, the legendary early 20th century American architects. They created exquisite homes and furnishings with a design motif that might be called Japanese-inspired, high-end Arts & Crafts. The Gamble House in Pasadena is a stunning example of their work. The table above was created by Darrell Peart using a design language of Greene & Greene motifs.            My table is stylistically similar though not identical. Since it will be a hall table it is taller and has two shelves. The finished piece has five coats of shellac and two wax finishes. I'm quite pleased with it; immensely satisfying, and yes, a great learning experience. It was completed on June 30.            Today I finished a few final components such as the drawer pull and completed the final assembly and gluing. Rather appropriate that this is Father's Day since my dear old dad taught me nearly all I know about woodworking. This is all part of Step Eight.            The table is being constructed of African mahogany. It also features various inlays made of Gabon ebony.


    STEP ONE - Table Top



2 breadboard ends (1" by 13" by 2")
3 breadboard middle pieces (7/8" by 14" by 3"
12 1/4" splines
2 L-shaped ebony splines
2 2" by 3/8" by 1/2" ebony splines

The first step is dimensioning all the pieces for the top including the "proud" ebony splines. The "breadboard" middle is made of three parallel internally-splined pieces with end pieces that are also splined. Creating the proud splines on the front edge was a task I feared but it worked out quite well. The hardest part was determining how to shape the spline pieces given their small size. The ebony splines were first rough cut on the table saw, shaped on a bandsaw, and hand-filed and sanded.


The spline openings were fashioned with a 3/8" bit on a router table and then squared with a chisel. This is the rough fit of The spline since it has only been roughly shaped. The spline piece will be further refined to reflect the protruding breadboard end piece.


The spline has now been cut to reflect the breadboard shape. It now will be sanded, rounded, and polished. Note that the center breadboard pieces have yet to be dimensioned to be recessed 1/8" below the end pieces.

           Ebony plugs 3/8" square are fashioned for use either as decorative elements or to hide reinforcing tenons. Ebony is an amazingly hard wood. Phenomenal stuff. It feels like oiled steel.            Here I am assembling the "breadboard" core of the table's top. The core is made of three pieces that have been milled to an identical thickness: 7/8". They will be joined using splines that are inserted into grooves (called dadoes) that have been routed a half-inch deep into the edges of each piece.            The spline is 3/8" thick as is its companion groove.            Wood glue (similar to Elmer's) is applied to the surfaces. The resulting joints will be as strong or stronger than the wood itself. The grain of the spline runs counter to the grain of the boards. This adds great lateral strength.            The pieces are now glued and clamped. The breadboard ends on the left and right await being added to the top.            A groove will need to be cut in the left edge of the core.            Same for the right edge.            Cutting the mortise for the "proud spline" ebony inlay on the side edges of the table top. The mortise cutting is done on a drill press using a wood boring drillbit that spins inside a square chisel housing. This mortise is 3/8" wide by 2" long. The mortise is cleaned with a chisel.            The ebony spline inside the mortise. The piece has been sanded and the edges pillowed on a belt sander. After spending an hour sanding small ebony pieces I no longer have fingerprints on three fingers of my right hand!            The edges of the table top have been rounded using a 1/8" rounding bit on the router table. The surfaces have all been sanded to a very smooth finish. Here you can also see the proud ebony spline on the left side of the top.            The shaped ebony spline has been sanded and pillowed. Inlays are typically flush but this common Greene and Greene motif, called a "proud spline" protrudes from the surface. I love this detail.            The proud faux tenon in the middle of the top's side edge. It's called "faux" because it has no structural purpose, it's only decorative. Tenons like this could be cut several inches long and used to pin this outer board to the core.            The smaller ebony inlays are 3/8" by 3/8". These are also sanded and pillowed on the belt sander. These can be used to hide a reinforcing screw. In this case, the purpose is only decorative. All glue, no screws!            The breadboard ends have been glued and clamped.            The table top is complete but for final finishing which won't be done until it has been attached to the completed table.            One more look at the corner detail. These kinds of design details and motifs are new to me. It was a kick figuring out how to execute them.


    STEP TWO - Rails and Aprons



2 side aprons (3/4" by 8 1/2" by 5")
2 side top rails (3/4" by 8 1/2" by 1")
2 side bottom rails (3/4" by 8 1/2" by 1")
1 back apron (3/4" by 12 1/2" by 1")
2 front/back top rails(3/4" by 12 1/2" by 1")
2 front/back bottom rails(3/4" by 12 1/2" by 1")
1 drawer front (3/4" by 12 1/2" by 5"
      The upper housing has sides comprised of an upper and lower rail with a panel in between which I refer to as an apron. I decided to shift to a design that features a more dramatic arch incorporating the "cloud lift" motif. This is far more complex than the original plan and is not something I've done before.            I couldn't find instructions for creating the arched pieces so I had to develop my own approach. I began by making a paper template of the arch in Photoshop and printed it at full size (many thanks for Mitzi's 13" x 18" tabloid printer). I then replicated the template onto a piece of MDF and refined the shape. The MDF template can then be used to guide a router or simply to mark the mahogany stock for cutting. The various MDF templates will be saved for later projects.                    There are various ways to cut a workpiece using templates. I opted for the bandsaw.            I'll need to file and sand each rough cut piece into a more polished state. The half-inch butt ends of each piece will be cut down to tenons that fit into the table legs.                      Round and flat files of various sizes are used to refine the surfaces.                      The first arch. They will be given an 1/8" rounded edge later.                      All four arches for the upper part of the table.                      Joinery to accommodate the apron panels is done on the router table. The first step is to route a 1/4" deep rabbet along the top edge of each arch. The 3/4" wide apron will be cut to fit within this space.                      The apron panels are first dimensioned on the thickness planer.                      I transfer the shape of the rabbeted arch to the uncut mahogany panel.                      Then cut that shape with the bandsaw.                      Each apron fits snugly into its companion arch.                      A hint of the final look of the upper part of the table viewed from the rear, sans legs.                      Straight rails have also been rabetted to fit above the companion aprons.                       The larger assembly at the bottom is the front panel of the drawer with its corresponding upper and lower rails. The drawer will float between the two with a clearance of approximately 1/16".                      A good day's work. However, I must note it took an additional day or two to figure out how to create the arches. With techniques in my head and templates in my hands, all this work could be replicated fairly quickly.                      A close look at the unglued joint between an arch and its apron panel.          


    STEP THREE - Mortise and Tenon



22 1/2" wide, 1/2" deep tenons on all side rails and aprons (excluding drawer front)


      Next I need to prepare mortises and tenons for the legs and side assemblies. It's tenon day! Each of these square or rectangular projections will be joined with mortises, a recessed square or rectangle, in another piece. The tenons are cut on all the rail and apron pieces that fit between the legs. Companion mortises will be cut into the legs to receive the tenons.            Doing mortise and tenon work can be tedious. There are a lot of details to get right: the basic math of the layout, translating that math to the stock, then making all the cuts correctly. It's not rocket science but it requires focus and concentration, which is why I find it relaxing.                   I cut these tenons using a table saw. Each tenon is one-half inch square. I use the table saw to remove one-quarter inch of material on each side.            The tenon is rough cut and left a bit rich. It is then refined with a chisel.            The tenon's thickness, a half-inch in this case, is adjusted as necessary for the specific joint with a fine chisel. The objective is a fit that is "just a bit snug", not loose.                      The tenon on each apron piece is a centered and two-inches long. The bandsaw will be used to trim the tenon close to its final shape.                       The tenon is then squared on the bandsaw.                      Here are the tenons on the side rails and apron before they are refined with a chisel.                      It's like creating pieces of a puzzle.           


    STEP FOUR - Legs



4 legs (32" by 1 1/2" by 1 1/2"
72 mortises cut for rails, aprons, and ebony plugs
      Each of the four legs is 32" long. Each contains 18 mortises -- the rectangular recesses that receive the tenons of other pieces. Each also will have set-back indentations along their lower interior ends that will provide a more graceful arched shape.            First, each leg is rough cut from a larger piece of mahogany stock down to about 1 5/8" on the table saw.                   Then each leg is milled (or dimensioned) on the thickness planer. The legs will be sized to 1 1/2" square. The planer smoothes the surface of the lumber while reducing it to the desired size.            A lot more cutting and reshaping will go into the four legs.             The location of each mortise is penciled on the stock.                       In addition to the mortises each is marked for the "cloud lift" indentations on the lower inside faces of each leg.                       The mortises are cut with a mortise-cutting jig on the drill press.                       The mortises from the top portions of each leg for the main housing. The drawer front moves freely so one leg has no companion mortise.             The cloud lifts on each leg are cut on the table saw.                       I'm using a tenon jig that my dad, a machinist, made many years ago. He gave it to me several years back. Fully-adjustable, and at twenty pounds, rock solid, it guides the workpiece through the blade. Of course back in the day this sort of work would be done by hand with a chisel. Am I a wise modern technologist or a wimp?                      Power tools. Sweet! I am definitely a wise modern technologist!                 I recall James Bond had this view of a spinning-blade view during an "enhanced interrogation" scene in Thunderball!                       The cloud lifts on the interior faces of the legs. They will be sanded to an eight-inch round. When assembled it will present as an arch.                       Each leg has eighteen mortises and four lifts. I always fear I'll muck-up the workpiece with a mistake on the final cut. Not today. Thankfully.            The interior faces of one leg.                  The top and bottom rails for the front of the table along with the piece that will become the drawer front.                       The rail and apron pieces are dry-fitted into a leg.                      An assembled side panel. However, no assemblies will be glued until all the pieces are done.                       Each piece is mated to specific other components. The parts are not interchangeable.                       I get tremendous satisfaction out of loose assembling the pieces. I guess it's the boy-who-likes-models-and-puzzles part of me. It always makes me smile -- unless I've made some bonehead mistake.                      Another hint of what it will look like -- still no bottom shelves and missing a lot of final detail. However, this is my first real view of the piece. My simple 2D line drawings don't ever give me a full sense of the aesthetic. It's always a bit of a mystery.                       Ebony pegs like the small ones on the table top will be added along the legs at each joint. I will be mortising those next.                      

    STEP FIVE - Shelves & Rails


6 breadboard middle pieces for two shelves (3/4" by 11 1/2" by 2 3/4")
8 tenon connectors (2" by 1/2" by 1 1/4" with 1/4" thick by 1/2" deep tenons cut into each end
4 side rails (1" by 8 1/2" by 1")
4 front/back (1" by 12 1/2" by 1")
      Each of the bottom shelves will "float" between rails. By that I mean there will be a visible gap all the way around. Each shelf will be attached only to the middle of each rail. I will craft four tenon connectors for each shelf to mate these mid-points. Note the mortise cuts on the legs. These will be used for ebony tenons.            Here's a full set of pieces that I've crafted for each shelf: the shelf, four rails, and four tenon connectors to join the shelf to the rails. The rails are joined to the table legs at each corner.            I have dimensioned the rails to be one-inch square and rough cut them to size. Here I'm preparing to cut tenons on four of the rails simultaneously using the table saw. I know it looks like one piece but they are so uniform it's hard to see the seam.            Then I use the router to give the rails a 1/8 inch rounded edge.            All the shelf rails are done but for the mortise cuts that will be necessary to hold the shelves.            There will be two shelves. Each shelf is comprised of three pieces assembled in breadboard fashion -- like the table's top.            Dadoes (grooves) one-quarter inch wide and one-half inch deep are cut into the edges of the shelf panels to accommodate the reinforcing splines.            The dadoes are cut on the router table with a 1/4 inch spline cutting bit.            The spline is 1/4" thick and fits snugly into the companion groove.            The pieces are then glued, clampled, and left overnight to dry.            The glued assemblies are then run through the thickness planer to assure a nice even surface and then sanded. Each shelf almost looks like one piece.                   Here's a fully-cut tenon connector, one of eight. It's 1/2" thick by 2" with 1/2" long 1/4" by 1 1/4" tenons. To cut these without loss of my digits I did all the tenon cutting on a longer piece of stock and then sliced off the finished pieces. I did the tenons with repeated cuts using a standard blade on the table saw. I'd have gotten a smoother result using a dado blade but I was too lazy at the moment to change blades.            Here's one of the tenon connectors dry fit between the shelf and a rail.            All the pieces are now dry fit. This lets me double-check for errors and, yes, stand back and admire the work.                       A rear view of the piece. The Greenes did not believe in leaving the typically-unseen back of a piece unfinished. Even there, all the detail, including ebony inlays, will be included.            Here's a look at the leg indentations. It was surprsing to me how much this small detail effected the overall grace of the piece -- though one can't sense that from this close-up view.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

    STEP SIX - Ebony Plugs



36 3/8" square plugs
6 3/8" by 2" plugs
2 3/8" by 2 1/2" L-shaped plugs


      Greene and Greene made common use of ebony plugs as "faux" tenons, meaning they have no structural purpose but are simply decoarative.            Each of the plugs needs to be cut to shape, then sanded to give it a pleasant rounded look.            Ebony is extremely hard wood, about as hard as wood can come. Sanding can be tedious though I speeded the process by using a belt sander. Given the small size of the workpieces this all had the effect of smoothly rounding my fingertips as well.            Glue is deposited in each receptacle and spreak along the walls.            The plug is then inserted and nudged into place with a rubber mallet.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

    STEP SEVEN - Drawer



1 drawer front cut earlier
2 drawer sides (1/2" by 8" by 4")
1 drawer back (1/2" by 12" by 4")
1 drawer bottom (1/4" finished plywood by 11" by 7")


      The key feature of the drawer is the set of "proud-fingered tenons". These are a common motif of Greene and Greene design. They yield a pleasant aesthetic while displaying how the pieces are joined. Most joinery is designed to be hidden. Greene and Greene, following their Japanese inspiration, chose to disclose the joinery. Be joined and be proud!            The drawer joinery is a variation of a box joint. However, since my tenons are irregularly spaced I can't use any of the common box joint jigs. Thus these are hand-measured and cut. A bit nervous-making since precision is key. Here I'm cutting the negative spaces on the drawer front with the table saw.            A quick inital assembly to check the fit. Amazingly I got it right on the first try. The joints are snug and accurately aligned. I love the smell of wood shavings in the morning. It's the smell of, of...victory!            The proud-fingered tenons, as noted, are designed to display handcrafted joinery. I filed and sanded the ends of the tenons. I also rounded the negative spaces they fit into. This creates a shadow effect, making the tenons as proud as they can be.            Here are all the drawer pieces. Note that each side piece has been routed along the lower edge to join the drawer bottom. Also, the side pieces are routed on the outside surface to create a 1/2" wide, 1/8" deep channel which willaccommodate the drawer rails within the table housing.            The fully-assembled dry-fit drawer.            The drawer inserted into the housing. The unit is still only dry-fit. Final gluing is the next step.                                                                                                                                                                                                              


    STEP EIGHT - Final Assembly


- All legs, rails, aprons, ebony plugs, shelves, tenon connectors
      I've learned it's very useful to break the work into sub-assemblies if possible. In this case, I first assembled and glued all the side pieces. Here the second side is clamped.            The next day I assemble all the remaining pieces except the drawer together with the side assemblies. This was a bit tricky and nerveracking because there were 32 elements that had to be glued, fit, aligned and clamped.            Since I feared it would be tricky applying shellac to the floating shelf edges, I put two coats of shellac on the edges of the relevant pieces before glueing.             I also crafted the ebony and mahogany drawer pull.            The drawer pull after it has been glued to the drawer. I also applied black paint to the 1/4" thick drawer bottom. I then glued the 32 ebony plugs in place.            Here's the fully assembled piece. I'm very pleased with the aesthetic balance.            Another view of the fully-assembled table. Next step: about six coats of shellac with a very light sanding in between.                                                                                                                                                                                      


    STEP NINE - Final Finishing


- Completely constructed project
- Amber shellac
- 220 sand paper
- 0000 grade steel wool
- carnauba-based furniture wax
      Five coats of amber shellac were applied to the piece. After each coat, the piece was lightly sanded with 220 grade paper and vigorously polished with steel wool. The sanding process seems counter-intuitive but you begin to understand the theory when the richness of the finish builds with subsequent coats. You can see the left leg has been sanded while the rest of the piece still carries the sheen of the recent coat.            A close-up of the drawer after sanding and polishing.            The look of the finish after five coats and final polishing of the finish with steel wool. It's a rich but satin sheen. This is before a wax finish is applied.            A look at some of my favorite details, specifically the ebony plugs, the "floating" shelves.            The finished piece. No, it's not patio furniture. The light was perfect outside.            And a final look at the various Greene and Greene design motifs: the proud-fingered tenons, the "cloud lift" arches, the ebony inlays.