"Queen Anne" Coffee Table - Sapele
I’m calling this a “Queen Anne” table pretty much just because of the legs: I think it makes it sound a lot fancier! A friend of mine wanted a smallish coffee table (42 inches long, 26 inches wide, 16 inches tall), and they really wanted me to make it for them.
It’s all sapele, which I LOVE. It’s dense, tough, and beautiful. I also recommended a tung oil “friction finish”, because they already have one toddler and a newborn (or will soon). In my experience, the friction sealing makes a piece essentially liquid-proof, handles heat (like coffee mugs) a lot better than poly, and – most importantly – handles damage a lot better as well. In a highly polished polyurethane finish, a ding (such as might be caused by a toy car) or a scratch (like a toddler dragging car keys along it) stands out quite a bit as clear, obvious damage. However, in a piece finished with tung oil (like our own coffee table), the table seems to incorporate the damage into the overall look. Damage is much less obvious, and much less of a flaw that needs to be fixed.
This project had quite a few firsts for me, and the biggest was definitely the cabriole legs. I didn’t have a bandsaw, and so I knew I would be doing quite a lot of chisel work, but honestly the legs came together a lot quicker and easier than I anticipated. The first leg, I pretty much made according to a Popular Woodworking article about making them by hand: Basically using long cuts from a hand-saw to remove most of the material, before going after the rest with a chisel and draw knife (although I didn’t have the draw knife, so it was all chisel work).
It turned out pretty well, but for the other 3 legs, I thought I could do a little better. I used my table saw to “outline” the cuts, going at quarter-inch intervals, and it worked spectacularly. It greatly reduced the amount of wood I had to remove with my chisels, and helped me make the legs even more consistent.
This was also my first time making something completely out of sapele, and I hope I’m able to do it again soon! It planes beautifully, and the chatoyance is incredible. The whole table shifts as you walk around it, and I love it.
I also had a lot of fun making my first elliptical jig for my router (thanks Popular Woodworking!). It worked like magic, giving me a perfect oval.
Overall, this project was a LOT easier than I thought it would be. Even with just a few hours a day, it took me about a week and a half while also working on a couple smaller projects (another huge advantage of friction sealing over polished poly!). I hope I’m able to make another one through Etsy soon!