Monday, January 20, 2014

House Project - Console Table, Part 1

One of the home blogs that Amp follows regularly is by Ana White, who has also published a book, The Handbuilt Home, which was a Christmas present this year. We decided that for our first real furniture making project, we will build a version of the console table shown on page 40. The book is pretty cool, with lots of projects that you can build at home, including parts lists, instructions and diagrams, in addition to a wealth of general how-to information.

In order to fit a specific space in Julia's room we needed to adjust the basic plan. The table as described is 46" long, 15.25" deep, and 30" high (long and thin to fit in a hallway space). We deconstructed the plan and changed all the necessary dimensions to make a piece of the same height (30"), but shorter at 33" wide and a little deeper at 17.25" (13"shorter and 2" deeper). We will have one large drawer instead of two smaller ones side by side. Although we bought nice quality clear pine, we are planning on painting the piece, although that may change.

What follows is how far we got on the project this weekend.

Step 1, accomplished a week ago, was to buy all the necessary wood. This always takes longer than expected as sifting through the racks to find straight pieces is more time consuming than you would think. We needed a 1x12, a 1x6, a 1x2, a 1x3, four or five 1x4, and five 2x2 (all 6 foot long, but they only had 8 foot 1x12s).
Raw materials

Step 2, accomplished Friday evening in about an hour, was to triple check my planning and then make all the cuts. I used a DeWalt 10" compound miter saw and went very slowly and carefully. Straight wood and proper cuts are probably the two most important factors in a good end result. We are skipping the drawer for now and will do that last.
All pieces cut (except the drawer...)

With everything cut, I laid out everything into the various subcomponents. Looking at all the pieces lying there, I realized that I had forgotten to shorten the two large flat side pieces when making our revised plan and cut list. They were the right length front to back, but I hadn't shortened them to the right height. Back to the saw...
Pieces organized into subcomponents

The first real construction step was to make two side/leg assemblies. Legs are 2x2s (which are actually 1.5x1.5), and the side panels are pieces of 1x12 (therefore 3/4" thick). On the outside face, two horizontal strips of 1x2 (also 3/4" thick) are used to trim out the side panel. The 1x2 laid over the 1x12 makes the finished depth 1.5" to match the legs. To hide all joins in the finished product, the 1x2 trim pieces are attached to the 1x12s with screws (and glue) from the back, and the side panels are then attached to the legs from the back (the inside-the-case side) using pocket holes and pocket screws.
Two finished side leg assemblies (back and front)

A detail of the pocket hole join is shown below. We are being very slow and methodical in clamping and screwing everything together so that the joints are square and flush, especially on the outer sides which will be visible on the finished piece. A Kreg jig set for making pocket holes has been invaluable in being able to hide joinery on the back side. This is a new toy that we ordered online and arrived this past week. We are loving it, as some of the hidden joinery we are doing would be impossible without it.
Detail of pocket joinery

The Kreg jig in action; making a pocket hole on the side of a 2x2 frame piece.
Kreg jig for making pocket holes

Next, the basic framework of the table is put together by joining the side leg assemblies with six framing pieces of 2x2. All framing pieces are joined to the leg assemblies by pocket screw joints on the underside. The upper four framing pieces form the box that the drawer will go into. The bottom two pieces will hold a shelf about six inches off the ground.
Leg assemblies and basic framing

Three pieces of front-to-back frame bracing are added next. These serve to stiffen the whole assembly, and the top two will be used when we attach the tabletop.
Bracing added

The tabletop itself is made up of three boards joined together: a 1x12 in the middle with a 1x4 on the front edge and a 1x3 on the back side. This was additional work in joining things together on the underside, but will look better than a piece of plywood cut to size.
Underside of top showing joinery

The top was attached to the frame by screwing up into it through the framing and bracing shown earlier. The top is flush to the back, overhangs the sides by two inches each, and overhangs the front by about an inch and a half.
Top in place

We then began building the shelf, but decided on a small design change as we were doing it and are not done that step yet.

That's how far we got on the project in about three hours of work on Sunday. We spent more time on it than that, but included a lunch break and various other distractions (our estimated three hours of work took place over about 5 real hours). Then the AFC championship football game (or pre-game) came on and we packed it in for the day.

We are very pleased with how it is shaping up so far. Everything is tight and square and the joints are flush. It's not a difficult project if you go slowly and carefully and have the right tools. Having four hands instead of two certainly helps. We have learned a number of things that will be useful for the remainder of this and on future projects. We are also speeding up as we learn and get more comfortable with what we are doing.

Remaining steps include finishing the shelf (much like we built the top), attaching an inset backer panel behind where the drawer will be (putting a back on the piece), and then building and attaching the drawer. Based on what we have done so far, the only tricky part (since it is new for us) will be getting the drawer slides attached correctly so that the drawer is in exactly the right place and works properly.

To be continued...

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