Coffee Table: Getting Started

When I had the idea for the coffee table, I worked out the desired dimensions for the top.  I thought it needed to be about five feet long.  And to test the width I measured the size of the Ticket to Ride board and concluded it should be about 30 inches wide.  At first I thought maybe I would get wood from Greener Lumber.  They are retrieving wood from rivers in Belize where it has been sitting for a couple hundred years, and hence the wood is fine grained and supposedly quite nice.  Of course, it’s also expensive.  To get a better idea about the character of their wood I ordered a pen blank set and frankly, while the wood seemed nice, it didn’t seem amazing.

Meanwhile I heard about Northwest Timber. They have hundreds of unique, interesting boards posted for sale, often at quite shocking prices. I started thinking about marbled claro walnut boards for a coffee table and looking for bookmatched sets the right size. When I showed Joni several choices she unerringly picked the most expensive set as her favorite. But I eventually found a “cheap” set that was exactly the right size, 59 inches long and 30 inches wide.

The next question was what wood to use for the base.  I thought making the base out of claro walnut was an unnecessary expense, but I wasn’t sure what wood I could pair with the walnut that would look good.  I finally settled on Honduran mahogany, which seems to have a similar color to the light stripes in the claro walnut.  My local lumber hard had dimensional 3×3 Honduran mahogany, but no regular 4/4 material.  He claimed he could order some for me.  My local guy is a bit flaky.  I bugged him week after week and he kept saying “not yet” so after about 8 weeks of this I finally gave up and went online. I ended up getting the material from Hearne Hardwoods. It took three days from when I called them for my order to show up.

My plan with the dimensional 3×3 material was that I could orient the leg in any direction to get a rift sawn piece. As it happened, these pieces were already rift sawn, so I ended up with 1″ thick rift sawn offcuts that were 3″ and 2″ wide boards. The material I ordered had a lot of swirling grain that wasn’t ideal for pieces like aprons, so I spent quite a while doing the layout to decide which boards should be cut for which parts. And I ended up using those 3×3 blocks for most of the structure visible at the ends.  The offcuts, being rift sawn, had nice straight grain, suitable for aprons and rails.  And usin gwood from the same board at the ends gives the ends a nice unity in color. The drawer fronts are from a different, lighter colored board providing some contrast.

This picture shows the visible parts, not yet assembled:


The shelf can be seen a bit on the left. In the center the long low aprons with double tenons are behind, and the long top aprons with single tenons are in front. And on the right, piled on the bench are the short aprons and rails.

Here are the legs:


The four legs with all of the mortises and slots for the rails.


Leg close up showing the bottom joinery with the double mortise and the slots for the rails.

Does everything fit together?  Let’s see:

img_0318.jpg_smimg_0319.jpg_smThis dry fit test looks good.  Some of the mortise and tenon joints could be prettier overall, but the visible parts that are on the outside are all looking good.  And the thing I was the most worried about, the length of the shelf, seems to be right.   Next I need to make the internal structure that supports all the drawers, and cut the openings on the front apron.


2 thoughts on “Coffee Table: Getting Started

  1. Hearne is very good, a bit pricey but they have just about everything and all in stock. They are about a 45 minute drive from where I live so I go there from time to time.

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