Arts & Crafts End Table

Comments (0)

This article is from Issue 56 of Woodcraft Magazine.

A period piece made perfect with simple jigs and templates

Overall dimensions: 22"w × 22"d × 241⁄2"h

Based on the dozens of times that I’ve taught my table-building class, it seems that Arts and Crafts furniture may never fall out of fashion. The clean lines complement almost any décor, but I think woodworkers, especially beginners, are particularly delighted to show off newly mastered joinery skills. The fact that the base can be disassembled, allowing the table to fold flat for easy transport, is a major plus for students driving compact cars.

Like the originals, my table utilizes simple joinery (the rails and stretchers are joined at their mid-points with half-lap joints) with a few subtle curves and chamfers. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that I adopted a few modern tricks to ensure a speedy and successful build for even beginning-level woodworkers. For example, rather than relying on traditional mortise-and-tenon joinery, I employed loose tenons and designed a mortising jig that works with any plunge router. To reduce the time spent sawing and sanding parts, I created templates so that the legs and top can be quickly routed to shape.

Authentic Arts and Crafts tables like this one sell for hundreds of dollars, but you can build an honest reproduction in a weekend or two for little more than the cost of a few board feet of lumber. For those interested in making Christmas gifts, the jigs facilitate a last-minute production run.

Note: I used quartersawn red oak. Purists prefer white oak, but cherry or mahogany would also make a nice-looking table. Whichever wood you choose, stick with quartersawn stock. The cathedral grain patterns of plain-sawn stock would be too distracting.

Hold the rail against your sled’s fence and nibble out the waste. Firmly-set stop blocks will prevent you from sawing past your lines.

Make the parts

1 From 5/4 (11⁄4"-thick) stock, mill enough material to 7⁄8" thick to make the top (A), legs (B), rails (C), and stretchers (D).

2 Select the best-looking boards, and then glue up a panel slightly larger than 22 × 22" to make the top (A). Put that assembly aside as you prepare the other parts.

3 At the tablesaw, rip the legs (B), rails (C), and stretchers (D) to the widths listed in the Cut List. Using a crosscut sled or miter saw, square-cut the rails and stretchers to exact length. (You’ll miter the ends of the rails after cutting the half-lap joint.)

4 Referring to Figure 1, lay out the half-lap joints on the rails (C) and stretchers (D). Clearly mark the material that will be removed so that you don’t mistakenly notch the wrong edge.

5 Set a crosscut sled on top of your tablesaw and adjust the blade height to one-half the width of the rails (C). Using the layout lines drawn on a rail (C), clamp stopblocks to your sled’s fence so that the blade grazes the inside edges of your lines. To notch the rail, make the outermost cuts first, and then slide it between the blocks to remove the waste (Photo A). Repeat with the second rail, and then test the fit. If necessary, fine tune the joint with a sharp chisel.

6 Reposition the stopblocks and then saw the opposing half-lap notches on the stretchers (D), just as you did for the rails.

7 Using a mitersaw equipped with a fence and stop, cut the 5° angle on both ends of both stretchers (D). Make sure to cut the miters so that the notch faces up on one rail and down on the other.

8 Referring to Figure 1, lay out the curves on the ends of the rails (C). Using a bandsaw or jigsaw, cut just outside your line, and then use an oscillating spindle sander to finish the curve. At the drill press, drill 1⁄8" clearance and 5⁄16" counterbore holes, where shown for attaching the top (A).

Shape the legs

1 Referring to Figure 2, lay out a full-sized leg template on a piece of 1⁄2" plywood or MDF. Cut outside your lines, and then carefully sand up to them.

2 To make the Leg Shaping Jig shown in Figure 3 at left, temporarily attach the leg template adjacent to the edge of a 6 × 29" piece of 1⁄2"-thick plywood. Position the fence and end stop against the template, and then nail these pieces to the base. Next, trace along the leg’s front edge, and then bandsaw just outside your line. Attach the handles and toggle clamps, and then clamp the template to the jig. Finally, using a table-mounted router equipped with a flush-trim bit (see the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide), rout along the outside edge of your template to shape the working edge of your jig.

3 Remove the template from the jig, and use it to lay out the legs (B) on your stock. As you did with the template, cut 1⁄8" outside your lines, and then insert the rough-cut leg into your shaping jig and rout the outside edge, as shown in Photo B.

Using a template to lay out the legs and then routing them to final shape ensures symmetrical parts and reduces sanding time.
Establishing a gap between the jig and workpiece gives sawdust an easy exit so that it won’t clog your cut.

After clamping the work to the jig and the jig to your bench, fit the bushing in the slot and rout.

Use a pair of sturdy clamps to secure the jig. Position the leg low in the vise so that neither the jig nor leg tips or shifts in mid-cut.

Rout the mortises

1 Build the mortising jig, and make the spacer strip, as shown above.

2 Referring to Figure 1, lay out the mortises on the legs (B), rails (C), and stretchers (D). Using the centerlines on the base and fence of your jig, clamp a leg to the fence, as shown in Photo C. Next, install a 1⁄2" bushing and 3⁄8" upcut spiral bit in your plunge router, and adjust the plunge depth to 11⁄4". Remove the spacer strip; then plunge-rout the ends of the mortise to full depth (Photo D). Finish excavating the mortise in 1⁄4"-deep passes. Repeat with the edge mortises in the other legs and rails.

3 Center the mortise layout lines on the end of a leg with the lines on the mortise jig, clamp the two together, and rout an end mortise, as shown in Photo E. Rout the mortises in the remaining legs, and then mortise the ends of the stretchers (D) in this same manner.

4 Make the loose tenons (E) by thicknessing a piece of stock to 3⁄8", and then ripping a few 11⁄8"-wide strips (making the tenons a bit narrower than the mortises allows a little wiggle room during assembly). Round the edges with a router bit or hand plane; then cut the strips into 11⁄2"-long tenons.

5 Using the loose tenons, dry-assemble the legs (B), rails (C), and stretchers (D), and make any adjustments so that the adjoining parts are flush. Put these parts aside for now.

Use a template and a router equipped with a spiral flush-trim bit to shape the top and smooth the edge in a single step.
Pay close attention to the notch directions when assembling the base halves. Custom cauls help apply pressure directly across the angled joint.

Screwing the rail to the top locks the base together, but the dry-fitted rail enables the base to be disassembled and folded flat.

Make the top

1 Using a router equipped with a straight bit and a shop-made trammel, make a 22"-diameter top template for the top from 3⁄4"-thick plywood or MDF. Place the template on the top panel and trace the outline of the top. Using a bandsaw or jigsaw, cut to within 1⁄8" of the line.

2 Affix the template to the top panel. Note: Screws are more reliable than double-faced tape. Just make sure that you’re screwing into the bottom face of your top. Using a router equipped with a flush-trim bit, rout the top, as shown in Photo F.

3 Finish-sand the top through 220 grit. Finally, rout a 1⁄8" chamfer along the top edge and a 1⁄16" chamfer along the bottom edge.

Assembly and finishing

1 Using the pattern below, make at least two pairs of clamping cauls from 3⁄4"-thick scrap material.

2 Before gluing the base, review Figure 1 and do a dry assembly to make certain that you understand how the halves fit together. At this time, mark the stretcher (D) locations on the legs (B), making sure that both stretchers are the same distance from the bottom.

3 Starting with the rail (C) and stretcher (D) with the up-facing notches, apply glue to the mortises, insert the loose tenons (E), and then attach the legs (Photo G). Glue the remaining stretcher to the second pair of legs, but do not glue the remaining rail. Finish-sand both frames through 220 grit.

4 To assemble the table, fit one base half into the other half, and then dry-fit the remaining rail (Photo H). Flip the assembled base upside down and position it on the underside of the top (A). Center the rails on the top, and then use the clearance holes as guides for drilling pilot holes into the top. Finally, attach the rails (C) to the top with 11⁄2"-long screws.

5 Finish the table. (If you’re looking for a finish that captures the Arts and Crafts look without the hazards of ammonia or the hassle of mixing dyes, check out my simple, off-the-shelf approach in the sidebar on page 32.)

6 Reassemble the table, and put it to good use.  

About Our Designer/Builder

A custom furnituremaker for over 35 years, Mario Rodriguez now spends much of his time teaching aspiring woodworkers at the Philadelphia Furniture Workshop (


Write Comment

Write Comment

You must be logged in to write a comment. Log In

Top of Page