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.
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.
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.
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.
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.