fancy pants


Stickley Tabouret - Part 1

The Stickley tabouret (also known as a “side table” to those of us who don’t wear fancy pants) has been in production for over one hundred years.  The picture above is a page from their 1909 catalog, where the Stickley 603 was available for the low low price of $3.75.  Allowing for inflation, that’s somewhere around $95 in 2015 dollars, which is still a fantastic bargain for a well-made piece of solid wood furniture.  Stickley still sells the 603 today, but I’m guessing they charge more than $95.  Maybe not; I didn’t ask.

I need a small side table to place between two reading chairs and I think this design is a great fit.  The 603 tabouret is 20 inches tall with a top diameter of 18 inches.  The 18 inch diameter top is the perfect size to fit between my two recliners, but 20 inches is a little low.  The Stickley 604 tea table has the same basic design, but stands 26 inches tall with a top diameter of 20 inches.  Judging from the catalog picture, the stretchers on the tea table have also been lengthened slightly to widen the stance of the taller table.  For my purposes, however, the tea table is too big.  The 20 inch diameter top is too wide, and the 26 inch height would put the table top too far above the armrests of my chairs.  I want the tabletop to sit just below the armrests to avoid whacking the edge of the table with my elbows.  After exhaustive research, I determined that a height of 23 inches is optimal for me to retrieve my glass of Dr Pepper comfortably, while minimizing the ever-present chance that I’ll spill it all over the place.  So, my tabouret will have an 18 inch diameter top and a height of 23 inches.  I guess my version of this table could be called a Stickley 603-1/2.

I was able to get most of the parts for the base out of this single 8/4 cherry offcut

Rough blanks for four legs, two upper stretchers, and two lower stretchers.

One of the things I love about the tabouret is how little material you need to build it.  I was able to get all four legs and the two top stretchers out of an 8/4 offcut of cherry that was taking up space on my lumber rack.  A few minutes of digging in my scrap bin yielded an additional piece just large enough to produce the two bottom stretchers.  I was even able to get all four legs with rift-sawn grain.  If you look at the end grain of a leg blank, a “rift sawn” grain pattern means that the growth rings run from corner-to-corner (i.e. diagonally).  This yields straight grain on all four sides of the leg.  If your rough stock is thick enough, you can carve your leg blanks out of it in any orientation necessary to achieve a rift sawn grain pattern.  In my case here, however, I had enough diagonal growth rings on both edges of the board to just rip the leg blanks straight out. I briefly toyed with the idea of widening the stance of my table slightly, but in the end, I opted to keep the stretchers the same length as the Stickley 603.  My rough stock just isn’t long enough to allow me to increase the size of the stretchers.  Sometimes you have to let your material dictate the size of your finished piece and, honestly, I don’t think increasing the height by 3 inches will impact the stability of the table in any significant way.

All the parts for the table base are rough milled and left to rest for several days before milling to final size.

I prefer to complete my milling in two steps: rough milling and finish milling.  I ripped the oversized leg and stretcher blanks out on the bandsaw and rough milled the parts to the point where they were flat, square, and slightly oversized in all dimensions.  Milling rough stock releases tension in the boards, which will often cause the blanks to warp or cup slightly, so I usually give them about a week to move around, and then I mill them flat and square to their final dimensions.  Next steps are finish milling and joinery.  Stay tuned!