Coopered Leg Table

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Turn a curve with straight stock, one stave at a time.

This dining table was inspired by a Rough Cut Road Trip to Napa Valley, California. The top, with its cask-shaped profile, only hints at the source of my design. However, the legs–made by beveling the edges of narrow stock and then assembling them edge to edge to create a curve–are an obvious tip of the hat (or glass) to the wine barrels of this celebrated wine region. Barrel making, or coopering, is a craft from which I borrowed to make the legs for this table. To try your hand at stave work, all you need are some thick strips of stock, a full-scale layout, and a custom clamping jig. Once you understand the procedure, you can create stave-built arcs in a variety of shapes and sizes. I chose ambrosia maple because the dark streaks on the light wood make for striking patterns on the legs and top. Straight-grained oak, cherry, beech, or clear maple would make an equally handsome looking table. (Of course, the availability of thick stock in your area might ultimately influence your decision.) Wide slab tops often have a few cracks or checks. You could trim off blemishes, but I think they add to the character of the piece, provided that they are kept under control. To learn how to stop cracks in their tracks, check out “Butterfly Basics” on page 56.

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