Coasters And Cradle

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This article is from Issue 31 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Acquire valuable new skills making this serving accessory.

Designer/Builder: Craig Godsey

Hot and cold drinks can do a number on finished wood surfaces, leaving rings or chemically damaging the finish itself. The problem disappears, however, with this uniquely designed set of coasters and holder. As an added benefit, you’ll learn how to safely cut a large cove on a table saw and fashion coaster discs with perfectly-centered recesses for the cork inserts. When you’re done, you’ll have made a coaster set for yourself plus two more for welcomed holiday gifts!

Start with the coaster cradle

Note: For safety, we begin with a blank that’s long enough to make three coaster cradles. Also, consider picking up a pair of 30mm Mag-Jigs for the three jigs used. (See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide for items needed to build this project.)

1 Face-glue enough hardwood stock (we used straight-grained walnut) to create a blank that measures 3 × 5 × 15". Joint one edge and then rip the opposite edge for a flat, even surface.

2 Measure and mark three 47/8"-long segments with a pencil where shown in Figure 1. Allow for saw kerfs between the segments. Next, mark the locations of the 1/8" holes on both edges of the blank.

3 Use an awl to further mark the hole locations. Set the fence on your drill press 3/8" from the bit’s center, adjust the depth stop to 11/2" deep, and drill 7 holes in each segment, referring to Figure 1. Now, move the fence 1" from the bit’s center to drill the second row of holes (Photo A).

4 Strike a line across one end of the blank, measuring 15/8" down from the top face. Now, raise the blade on your table saw to that measurement and set up an auxiliary fence on the saw table at a 60° angle to the blade where shown in the callouts on Photo B and clamp it in place. Set the fence so that the distance from the front outside edge of the blade to the fence measures 5/8".

5 Lower the blade below the table and place the blank against the fence and over the blade location. Clamp either a second parallel fence against the blank along the opposite edge or use magnetic featherboards, as shown, to keep the blank snug to the auxiliary fence when sawing. Now, remove the blank, raise the blade 1/8", place the blank top face down on the table, and make your first pass over the blade to begin the cove-cutting process. Flip the blank end for end and repeat the cut to guarantee a centered cove. Repeat this process several times as shown in Photo B, raising the blade in 1/8" increments until the cove depth intersects the 15/8" line on the blank end.

6 Sand the cove to remove saw marks as shown in Photo C. (We used a drill and 150- and 220-grit sanding stars for a clean even surface.) Once smooth, crosscut the blank into three equal segments measuring 47/8".

Adjust your fence and drill the two rows of holes in each segment.

Use pushpads for control when cutting coves, taking no more than 1/8" of material at a time. Make the final “cleaning” cut by raising the blade 1/32".

Sand the cove in the blank by using 4" sanding stars chucked in a portable drill. They conform to the concave shape, removing saw marks.           

Mark the arched cutline on the blank segment, and bandsaw the cradle to shape.

Use a finishing nail to work epoxy into the 1/8" holes, and insert the brass rods, making sure they protrude at each end.

7 Use a compass to scribe a cutline 1/2" in from the cove on the resulting segments as shown in Photo D, forming a parallel arc. 

8 Bandsaw along the cutline in the segments to free the C-shaped cradle (A) from the blank segment as shown in the Photo D Inset. Hold off sanding the outside surface.

9 Cut 14 pieces of 1/8" brass rod to rough length (see Figure 3). You’ll need 5"-long rods for the top holes and 41/2"-long rods for the bottom holes. Next, mix and dab two-part epoxy in the holes and insert the appropriate length of brass rod in each set of opposing holes as shown in Photo E. Let the epoxy cure.

10 Belt-sand (with 120 grit)the outside bandsawn face of the cradle on a stationary belt sander as shown in Photo F. Then hand-sand the surface to 220 grit.

11 Make a copy of the Cradle Base Pattern in Figure 2. Now, cut out two pieces of contrasting 3/4"-thick stock (we used padauk) to 11/2 × 5". Bond them together with double-faced tape, spray-adhere the pattern to one face, and bandsaw the bases (B) to shape. Wrap the cradle with sandpaper to sand the arched base parts for a snug fit as shown in Photo G.

Rotate the outside face of the cradle into the belt, keeping the piece moving to grind  away the brass stubs and remove saw marks.

Sand the concave stand arch by wrapping the cradle with sandpaper and running the stand over the cradle to create a good fit. 

Now make the coasters

1 Rip and plane enough stock for the coaster blanks. (We used three 41/8 × 30" padauk boards for 18 coasters—enough for three sets—and planed them to 3/8" thick.) Crosscut the stock into 41/8 × 41/8" coaster blanks. 

2 Chuck a 31/8" Forstner bit in your drill press. Next, mark the center of a coaster blank and adjust the fence so the bit’s spur aligns with the center. Adjust the depth stop to bore a 3/16" recess in the coaster blanks and clamp on a holding fence to lock the blank in place during machining. Add stops and bore the recesses in the coasters (see Photo H). While you’re setting up, cut a piece of 1/4" hardboard or plywood to 41/8 × 41/8" and bore a 31/8" hole through it to serve as a template for cutting cork later. 

3 Make a bandsaw coaster-cutting jig like the one in Figure 4 to match your bandsaw (or scrollsaw). Drill a 1/8" hole centered at one-half the diameter of the finished coaster (ours measured 35/8" across) plus 1/32" from the blade. Disc-sand a point at one end of a 1/8" length of brass rod and epoxy the rod in the hole, allowing 1/4"-3/8" of the pointed tip to protrude above the jig. Before attaching the jig to the table, place the compass point in the centerpoints and scribe the coaster circumferences (cutlines) plus 1/32" onto the coaster blanks. Now bandsaw starter cuts (clockwise) to the cutlines on the blanks. Next, attach the jig to the table (we used the same Mag-Jigs as before).

4 Using a 1/4" blade, lower the cone-shape hole made by the Forstner bit spur in the coaster blank onto the brass “pivot pin,” fitting the blade into the starter kerf.  Saw the blank round to make a coaster (C). Similarly bandsaw the remaining coasters as shown in Photo I.

Use two fences so that the blanks can’t spin if the bit catches; then bore the recesses in the coaster blanks for the cork.

Rest the top (recessed) face of the coaster blank on the pivot pin and turn the piece into the bandsaw blade to cut a perfect circle.

5 Make the disc-sander coaster jig in Figure 4 to suit your tool, and, using the same pivot pin approach, sand the saw marks from the round edges of the coasters as shown in Photo J.

6 Chuck a 1/8" round-over bit in your table-mounted router and carefully rout the top and bottom edges of the coasters (C). Break the inside top edges of the coasters with sandpaper, and then finish-sand all the parts (A, B, and C) to 220 grit. Now, spray-finish the parts. (We used a satin spray lacquer from a can.) 

7 Retrieve the hardboard template from Step 2 and use it to trace the recess diameters on a piece of 3/32" cork and cut out cork discs with scissors. (We purchased a 12 × 24" sheet at a crafts supply store.) Using E-6000 silicone adhesive or contact cement, glue the discs in the coaster recesses. Cut wood discs from scrap and use them to help clamp the cork in place and ensure an even bond. 

Use a pivot-pin jig to lightly disc-sand the coasters round and remove saw marks.

About Our Designer/Builder

Craig Godsey earned his woodworking degree at the University of Rio Grande, Rio Grande, Ohio. He worked at an antique reproduction furniture shop in the Boston, Massachusetts, area before returning home to Marietta, Ohio. Craig works for Woodcraft Supply, LLC, at Parkersburg, West Virginia, as a technical services rep.


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