Kyle’s First Coffee Table
By Kyle Rolfe from Centralia, WA
Added on August 27, 2012
I was at a store that sells exotic hardwoods just looking around and came across this amazing grained African mahogany that I just HAD to buy (I’m sure some people can relate to that feeling). I had no idea what I was going to make with it but I just “knew” it would be a good idea to have it for when the inspiration hit me.
I’ve needed a coffee table for some time but didn’t know what I wanted it to look like so I thought I’d just wing it and make one using the lumber I bought. I thought my girlfriend’s coffee table was kind of nice because it had glass in the center which spawned the idea of having a glass centered piece.
The legs and aprons were all mortised and tenoned by hand and I made corner braces to reinforce the joints. Being new at woodworking and only knowing what I’ve read and a little correspondence with my dad, it was dreadful to produce good looking mortises. I was humbled by learning that regardless of how much I read about woodworking, practice and experience will always produce better results.
I decided to make the table top mortise and tenon as well so I ended up buying a bench top mortiser instead of doing them by hand. On the underside of the table I locked the mortises in with dowels and made the drill holes on the outer part of the tenons slotted to compensate for movement. Before I assembled and drove the dowels home, I rabbeted the inside of the boards for the glass to sink into.
I think I was getting a little impatient by the time I got to attaching the legs and aprons to the table top which is why I made the blocks that are holding them together. They won’t compensate for movement so I don’t know how they’ll hold up in the long run.
I made a test board for the finish and I was torn between one coat of transfast brown mahogany dye and two coats. I went with two coats because for some reason in my head, dark wood looks more rich to me. I brushed on the boiled linseed oil and wiped the excess off. I tried padding on the shellac and didn’t end wiping with the grain so I had pad swirls all over so to fix that I just brushed on the same cut of shellac and all those swirl marks were gone. I then topped the table top with three coats of poly, measured for the beveled glass and ordered it, and then let everything cure for a week while the glass was being made. I’m really happy with how it turned out (which was exponentially better than I ever thought it would have). I just hope that it’s not destroyed by the blocks holding the top and bottom together.