Having recently purchased a home, like many young couples, our living room was essentially empty, and lacked, well, furniture. So like any good woodworker, I volunteered to make some side tables for the one piece of furniture we did have, a couch. Again, like any good woodworker, I made sure to design something that would cost way more than buying them, and take many times longer to make. That’s half the fun right? I settled on a pair of Black Walnut side tables with a slight twist. Literally. The legs are entirely shaped by hand using rasps and an apron plane, giving them a helical twist, something I had never seen in a piece of furniture. I hoped the twisted legs would be the focal point of the table and as such, made the rest of the table quite linear to complement and highlight the twist.
This being my first actual piece of “fine woodworking” I decided to use traditional joinery (mortise and tenon for the leg to apron connections + half blind dovetails for the drawer attachments) and do as much of it as I could with hand tools. Shaping the legs were the biggest challenge of this project. At first I thought I would use a jig to do this, but the helical nature of the twist made this too difficult for a guy like me. I resorted to a couple of good rasps, a sharp apron plane, and a few episodes of Wood Talk to get me through it. This may not have been the fastest way but was quite cathartic, and yielded great results.
When it comes to finishing I try to keep things simple. I like my projects to look natural and be soft to the touch so I sanded to 600 grit and finished with four coats of “Tried and True Danish Oil”, polishing between coats. I used a plywood drawer bottom and Red oak for the drawer sides and finished the outside of them as well.
For me, the details are what separate great work from good work. Sharp lines, tight joinery, and smooth finishes are not only visually appealing, but are telltale signs of whether or not pieces will pass the test of time. I hope to be looking at these for many years to come.