Hello from New York City - Coffee table question - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 05-13-2017, 04:30 PM Thread Starter
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Hello from New York City - Coffee table question

Hi!
My name is Ryan, I'm a Canadian now living in New York City. I grew up woodworking with my dad in his shop and recently decided to get back into it and make a bunch of furniture for my apartment. I can rent time at a well equipped woodshop here in NYC and am really excited to get started!

I was wondering if I could ask for everyone opinion during my intro :) For my first project I'd like to make a coffee table. I really like the idea of having no apron rails and a leg that smoothly joins into the tabletop (see my first diagram). There are two problems I see with this, first, how to actually make the smooth transition (I've considered just getting it CNCed, I'm not sure), and second, how to deal with the joint.

I can see that a table without stringers or apron rails will be pretty weak and unstable. I've thought of a few different ways of re-enforcing it.

The best one that I can think of is to inset a larger block into the table top, then drill a hole into the leg and the block of wood/tabletop and epoxy a steel pin in. This pin could be pretty long, and I think should add some stability. I've drawn a diagram of this as well.

If that still isn't likely to be strong enough I could put a screw plate a the bottom of this inset hole on an angle, then drill down through the attached block and into the table leg. I've drawn a diagram of what this would look like as well. This one would likely be really complicated as the screw plate is going to be at 90 degrees to the rod, so I need to add a wedge to get the table leg to go at an angle.

A third option which would be weaker than the other two would just be to make a circular mortise and tenon in the place of the steel pin.

In all pictures I've indicated the grain direction, except the ?? in the first picture, since I'm not sure where the joint between the leg and the tabletop will happen. I've indicated material that will be removed with "x"es. Also, the table top is at the bottom of all the pictures. Right now I'm not too concerned about exact measurements, I'm more interested in whether this steel pin idea is hopeless.

Thank you for reading! What does everyone think? I'd really appreciate any feedback :).
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post #2 of 10 Old 05-13-2017, 04:48 PM
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Welcome aboard. Nice introduction and well written question.

I do not know how you are going to do the block without it showing and detracting from the looks of the table. You are correct that it will be weak without an apron or stretchers.

How strong you need to make it depends upon just how rough it may get handled. If it is going to live in a very benign environment then your mortise and tenon joint will work. Much will depend upon how thick you are going to make the legs.

You might be able to attach a piece of 90 degree angle iron at each let. Maybe something like 3" on each leg. Inlet this iron into each leg and the top. 1//4" iron angle is pretty strong. Paint it a color that closely matching the wood. I think this would work in a moderately friendly environment.

Good luck on the project.

George
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post #3 of 10 Old 05-13-2017, 07:56 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply George!

So it's definitely not going to be handled very roughly (I don't expect anyone to sit on it, for example). Hmm, I didn't realise that the joint between the block would show up, they'd be made of the same wood and the grain would be going in the same direction, and I was planning on sanding it smooth. I figured the big joint to show would be partway down the legwhere the grain switches direction (in the second and third pictures).

I might be alright with that, I could switch the direction of the grain on the inset block from my last post so that it runs along the leg. If I make the base of the leg out of a few pieces of wood glued together (with similar grain) it shouldn't show up. Then I will have one joint in a circle where the leg joins the table instead of two joints (where the leg joins the table, and where the grain switches direction partway down the leg).

Hmm, I gotta do some thinking. Thank you!

Ryan
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post #4 of 10 Old 05-13-2017, 08:54 PM
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Welcome Ryanfrom a fellow Canadian. Your table leg attachment looks similar to the way the late Sam Maloof joined legs to runners on the beautiful rocking chairs he used to make. He sometimes emphasised the transition by using contrasting coloured wood instead of trying to hide it. You should google his work to see what I mean.
Cheers
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post #5 of 10 Old 05-13-2017, 09:29 PM
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For a coffee table it will work without the steel pin. The legs will be somewhat weak but after all it wouldn't be that much different then the legs of a chair doweled into the seat. A lot depends on just how much angle you put on the legs.

The wood block shown under the top to mount the legs you will have to make sure the grain runs the same direction as the top. If you glue a piece of wood with the grain running perpendicular to the top it won't allow for wood movement and will cause the top to crack.
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post #6 of 10 Old 05-14-2017, 10:28 AM
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Hello Rvilim,

Good to have another woodworker joining the ranks!! :smile3:

First agree with Bargoon...take a really good look a Sam's stuff. I was a runt when I met him the first time, but I do recall drawings in his own hand that looked very much like your sketch!

Here is a link to my Pinterest page I share with clients and other designers below. You may find some helpful inspiration in the furniture sections...

Tosa Tomo Pinterest Page.

Good Luck!
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post #7 of 10 Old 05-14-2017, 10:44 AM Thread Starter
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Cool! Thank you so much for the replies. It's good to know that this isn't a completely crazy idea.

I didn't figure the wood would expand enough over the small area that the leg connects to cause issues with cracking. I'll keep all the grains parallel.

Yeah it's really similar to Sam Maloofs stuff. I'm glad his chairs hold up, with presumably a lot more stress than a coffee table will ever take.

I'm also interested in a very gradual, curved chamfer on the underside of the table that reduces from the center thickness to pretty thin over like 6 inches, I can do that with a hand plane, but I've got to figure out if I'm skilled enough with hand tools to make this leg joint, or if I'll just outsource the whole thing to CNC (which seems really easy, but kind of a cop out). I'm kinda thinking the legs will be attaching when this chamfer is happening so there are a lot of angles and a lot of very gradual curves to get right.

The look I really like is where there are no flat surfaces except for on the top. This of course makes it a nightmare to actually build, but I'm willing to dump a ton of time and effort into this to get it right. I've got some saved up vacation that I can use in the shop :)

Thanks!

Ryan
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post #8 of 10 Old 05-14-2017, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
I've got to figure out if I'm skilled enough with hand tools to make this leg joint, or if I'll just outsource the whole thing to CNC (which seems really easy, but kind of a cop out). I'm kinda thinking the legs will be attaching when this chamfer is happening so there are a lot of angles and a lot of very gradual curves to get right.
Hmmm...I would suggest that learning hand tools is more than worth the effort.

I've been around CNC since it came to timber framing in the mid 80's...Nothing about it is better, cheaper or faster overall, and what it does to the wood is questionable in many applications.

In space I can see a place for CNC and 3D printing technology. I am for it when dealing with modern homogeneous materials and remote production modalities...Nevertheless, in natural materials it is never faster, or easier by any means...at least in my experience...especially on a joint like the one in question.
I think it can be..."made to work"...(aka forced to) but will never be superior to hand shaped joinery...At least not until Mr. Data (for you Trekkies) himself can make something...ha, ha.
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post #9 of 10 Old 05-14-2017, 12:20 PM
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I have no idea how to answer your question, but out of curiosity just how much does wood shop rental space cost up there in NYC? Going by what a few friends from NY have told me about the rent for their shoe box sized apartments in NY it ain't exactly what us folks living out in the hinterlands would call cheap.

I figured it's time to change my signature so hold your breath. This is it.
Impressive, huh?
Marty or Marty Farty if you feel mean.
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post #10 of 10 Old 05-15-2017, 04:56 AM Thread Starter
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Hmm, ok I'll figure out a way to make these curves by hand. Not quite sure yet. First things first is I need to mock this thing up in sketchup to get the look of it right, and make sure material thicknesses make sense, then figure out a plan to put it together. I'm glad the apronless legs isn't a stupid idea from the get go :)

I'm patient, so I have no problem taking my time on this one.

As for shop time, the place close to my house is $12 an hour. You can rent a space to store stuff in for $40 a month. Kinda pricey yeah.

I'm planning on doing the jointing, planing and large scale glue up at the shop, then taking it home and doing a lot of the hand tool work myself on the deck. I've somehow become incredibly lucky and landed an apartment with outdoor space for not a lot of money. I took it over from someone who's lived there for like 15 years. Might need to make some sawhorses that I can disassemble and store under my bed.

I have some tools already, and if I spend money on some other hand tools it'll net out to what I'd spend on shop time and then I'll have them at the end of the project.
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