Making a side table from some 2x4s

I finally got around to doing an all hand tools project. Also, the first bit of real furniture after making boxes and spending time fixing up tool etc.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted. Some Shaker-esque design that would fit in a certain width and a handy height and deep enough front to back to hold a lamp and a book.

I figured 1-1/8 would be a good size for a leg so I started off by ripping a 2×4 I had laying around.


I started off with 4 leg blanks and started to joint them til they were tried and true, square all 4 sides. I ended up with the legs at 1-1/16 when I was done.


In a similar fashion, I cut apart a 2×4 and made 4 aprons. 2 at about 18″ long and 2 at about 10″ long. All were about 3-1/2″ tall and 3/4″ thick.

I laid out lines on each leg to mark where the tops of the legs would be, the tenons and the bottoms of the aprons.


Next up I started chopping out mortises. I never did this before and it worked out easier than I thought. I used a guide block to line up the walls.

The mortise gauge I have is less than useless, so I just measured from the sides and used the chisel itself to guide the width of the mortise, allowing for a step between the face of the leg and apron.

Of course, I laid out the first leg totally wrong. They are on the wrong corner as can be seen in the photo below. I just turned the leg around and started cutting on the other end instead as I had not yet cut the legs to length.

I got the other 3 to work ok.


I measured tenons to match the mortises and sawed them out.

I cut and planed the ends at a 45 so that one tenon would not interfere with the other inside the joint. I cut and angled haunch on each tenon and chiseled out a recess to match on each mortise.


The joints pulled together OK. Some shoulders were gappy as I didn’t get the knife lines perfect when crosscutting the shoulders.


Here’s all the joints pulled together. The legs here are longer than they ought to be as I wanted to put it together roughly before I measured and exact height.


I took the lot apart and trimmed the top of the legs to match where they meet the aprons and then cut off the bottoms to length.

True to form, I cut off the wrong end of the leg on which I laid out the mortises incorrectly.


So, next step was to either fix the bad leg, or cut a new one from another 2×4. I figured the handiest way out was to work on what I had, fit a blank into one of the mortises and then start over.

I cut a blank to match the height of the mortise and planed the width.

Here you can see my planing stop, which is like a bench hook that is held in the front vise. A cedar shim kept it up off the bench so that the plane didn’t slam into the planing stop.


Here is the filler glued into one of the mortises.


While that was gluing up, I started out to put a taper on the legs. I wanted a taper on the inside faces, starting about 1/2″ down from the apron and ending up with a 5/8″ x 5/8″ square on the bottom of the leg.
The first I started by cutting roughly to a line and finishing up with a smoothing plane to get the taper.

The rest of the legs I just took down using a jack plane with a 8″ radius blade. I had used the jack after sawing the first leg. The plane was a lot faster to use.
I did find it handy though to saw the first leg as the cutoff was used in the vise to help clamp the legs in place.

I cut off the filler piece in the last leg and planed it smooth.

sidetable13 sidetable14

I did a dry fit, took the lot apart. Then glued up the joints one by one and set it aside to set up.


On to doing the top. I ripped up another 2×4.
I jointed the edges and joined the lot toghether. I didn’t flatten each board before gluing as I figured I’d do the lot together.
I don’t know if this was a good idea or not. The grain was running in every direction so I didn’t see if it would make a difference or not.

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After the top was glued up, I flattened it by using the jack plane an angle in one direction and then at an angle crossing the previous lines and then along with the grain.
A run with the smoother plane got it smooth enough. If you stand far enough away it looks fine.
I laid in on top of the legs and cut it to width and length, allowing for 1″ of an over-hang on the front and back and a 2″ overhang on each end.

I put the tabletop in the vise and put a chamfer along the length
I put the tabletop on the bench and butted it up against the planing stop and planed a wide chamfer along the width.
This process is like the panel-raising we have been shown.

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I put the tabletop on the legs for a quick inspection.
Looks like a table to me.
It was, of course, that I now remembered that I did not account for turnbuttons to attach the table top.
I cut up some L-shaped moulding into 6 pieces each about 1-1/2″ long. Each of these was screwed to the inside of each apron and then another screw went into the table top at 90 degrees. Hard to explain I guess, but I didn’t take any pictures.
I gave the lot 2 coats of flat black latex paint and then a coat of wax.

Finished product.



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