Stickley Tabouret - Part 4

Final edge profile of the top.

Gluing up the base of the tabouret required some advance planning.  It may look simple, but there are 10 joints to worry about here.  To reduce the complexity, I decided to glue up the half-lap joints first.  Once that was done, the rest of the assembly only required two clamps since the dovetails on the top stretchers are self-clamping.  Looking closely at the Stickley catalog page from 1909, I can see that the mortise-and-tenon joints were pinned, or possibly drawbored, but I didn’t bother. This is a light duty table and the mortise-and-tenon joints alone are more than strong enough.

Gluing up the base.

Rough 4/4 figured cherry board.

While the glue on the base was drying, I turned my attention to the top.  I’ve had a beautiful figured 4/4 cherry board sitting on my lumber rack for years waiting for the right project to come along.  The board itself was about 8” wide, but it had a strip of sapwood on one side that limited the usable width in places.  I cut three lengths, milled them flat and square, and glued them into a single blank that measured approximately 20” x 20”.  I’ll admit that I went overboard on the clamps and cauls during the glue-up, but I wanted to maintain as much thickness as possible, so I tried to avoid the need for excessive post-glue-up flattening.  With patience, and some trial-and-error, I was able to get a nice grain match on the glue joints.

Three pieces were crosscut from the rough board...

...and were milled and glued up into a 20" x 20" blank.

I was shooting for a circular top with a diameter around 18”.  Working on the underside of the blank, I tapped in a finish nail, tied a string around it, and traced out a circle slightly larger than my final dimension.  I cut this out at the bandsaw, which left me with a vaguely circle-ish block of wood with a diameter around 18 1/4”.  Next, I used a scrap piece of plywood to cobble together a circle jig for my router.  One of the most challenging aspects of cutting a circle is securing the workpiece in such a way that it’s elevated off the bench with the entire 360 degree circumference unimpeded by clamps or other holding devices.  I solved this problem by using some double-stick tape to secure a few scrap blocks to my bench, and then double-stick taping the workpiece to the blocks. I cut a “perfect” circle using the jig and a straight bit, and then added a wide chamfer all along the bottom edge using a bearing-guided bit. 

A circle-ish object emerges from the bandsaw.

Cleaning up the edge of the circle after using the router circle jig.

While the resulting circle had a perfectly consistent diameter, the edge quality wasn’t pretty.  There was some burning, some divots, a few areas of tearout, and a whole lot of roughness.  I cleaned this mess up using a spokeshave, a card scraper, and some sandpaper.  The spokeshave worked well, but I proceeded with caution.  Since I was working on the circumference of a circle, the grain direction changed often.  The tool itself would warn me when this happened by giving some chatter or a rough finish, and then I would change directions and continue on.  In some cases, I couldn’t get a clean cut regardless of my direction or angle of attack, and that’s when the card scraper came in handy.  I used the sandpaper to blend all the surfaces together.

The top, ready for finish.

Once I was satisfied with the quality of the edge, I cleaned up both sides of the top with a smoothing plane.  I pulled the router out one more time to add a gentle round over to the top edge, and I blended everything together with 220 grit sandpaper.  In the end, I’m happy with the way the top came out and I can’t wait to see how it looks with some finish on it, which will be the topic of the final post in this series.