Curvaceous Corner Table

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This article is from Issue 65 of Woodcraft Magazine.

With simplified curved drawers and shop-made veneers

Overall dimensions: 283⁄8"w × 20"d × 3811⁄16"h

Based on a design I made many moons ago for my folks, this diminutive table will dress up any room, oozing charm with its curved front and tapered feet. The grain-matched, wedge-shaped drawers track smoothly on wooden runners, and present an undeniable “cool factor” when opened. The tapered legs connect at the front via a slender, bent-laminated stretcher that provides strength while keeping the design light and airy.

This table is flush with skill-building exercises. You’ll learn how to cut precise arcs on the bandsaw, veneer curved surfaces, and create bent-laminated parts. I’ll also show you how to make an unusual “hybrid joint” that combines the strength of solid wood joinery with the convenience and stability of a plywood panel. And then there’s the angled sliding dovetail drawer joints! You’ll be surprised at how easy they are to make with a simple shop-built router table jig.

The table shown is made from figured walnut for the body, maple for the drawer parts, and rosewood for the pulls. But feel free to use any favorite combination of hardwoods. And prepare to have fun building this. It’s certain to impress.

When using a hollow-chisel mortiser to cut the leg mortises, register each outside face of the leg against the fence.
After fine-tuning the cutter height for tight-fitting tenons, nibble away the cheeks on the aprons and lower rails.

Make the legs

1 Mill the legs (A) to the dimensions shown in the Cut List, checking that all surfaces are square to each other.

2 Lay out the mortises in the legs, where shown in Figure 1, Leg Detail. I cut them using a hollow-chisel mortiser (Photo A), but you could rout them instead, and then chisel the corners square. (You’ll cut the dovetail sockets later.)

3 Lay out the tapers on the inner sides of the leg, where shown in the Figure 1, Leg Detail. Bandsaw them, and then clean up the saw marks with a plane.

Make the aprons, lower rails, and stub rails

1 Cut the aprons (B), lower rails (C), and stub rail blanks (D) to the dimensions in the Cut List. Mill some extra stock to the same thickness and widths for machine setup.

2 Cut the tenons on the aprons (Photo B) and lower rails, after setting up the cut with scrap and testing the fit in a mortise.

3 Cut a 3⁄8 × 1⁄2 × 27⁄32" tenon on each end of one of the two stub rail blanks (D), offsetting them, as shown in Figure 2. After checking the fit of each in its mortise, crosscut the blank in half. Then set it and the uncut stub rail blank aside for now.

4 Miter the rear tenons on the aprons (B) and lower rails (C), where shown in Figure 1. In the process, trim each about 1⁄32" shorter to leave room for the opposing tenon in the rear leg.

5 Referring to Figure 2, lay out the dovetail on each end of the uncut stub rail blank (D). Cut the dovetails, and then crosscut the blank in half.

Clamp or nail the deck to a crosscut sled, and saw the second deck edge 90° to the first.
Glue the stub rails to the curved rail, aligning their shoulders with a mark 5⁄16" back from each edge of the rail.

Make the sawn-curved parts

1 Glue up the top (K) from two or more 11⁄16"-thick boards to produce a panel that’s 19" wide by at least 30" long. Joint one long edge, and then from that edge lay out the two perpendicular edges of the top, leaving a 3⁄8"-wide flat at the back, where shown in Figure 1.

2 Bandsaw just shy of your layout lines, and then joint or hand-plane to the lines. Set the top aside for now.

3 Mill the drawer fronts (M) to the dimensions in the Cut List, and then lay out the 75° and 60° miters on the ends of each front, where shown in Figure 2. Cut the miters on the tablesaw using a long fence attached to the miter gauge, and then set the fronts aside.

4 Cut the deck (E) blank to the dimensions in the Cut List, and lay out the 90° cuts, as shown in Figure 2. Saw and joint one of the edges, and then cut the opposite edge using a tablesaw sled, as shown in Photo C.

5 Referring to the deck layout in Figure 2, mark out the rear notch and the two front corner cuts. Bandsaw the notch, and then cut the front corners on the mitersaw.

6 Cut the curved rail (F) to the dimensions in the Cut List. 

Then trace the shape of the deck onto the rail, with the front edges of the two pieces aligned, where shown in Figure 2. 

Cut to your lines, compare the parts and, if necessary, trim any errant edges until the deck and rail match perfectly.

7 Mark the deck (E) and aprons (B) for #20 biscuit slots, where shown in Figure 1. Then cut the slots and dry-assemble the parts to make sure everything fits well.

8 Cut the clamping notches in the curved rail (F), as shown in Figure 2. Then glue the stub rails (D) to the deck (E) and curved rail, locating the joint shoulders 5⁄16" back from the edge (Photo D). 

Once the glue has dried, plane or sand the stub rails flush with the deck and curved rail.

Saw the veneers

1 Slice the veneers (G,H, and N) for the deck (E), curved rail (F), and drawer fronts (N) from the same face of a single board at least 6" wide × 28" long. Bandsaw the piece to about 3⁄16" thick for now. (I use a 1⁄2"-wide × 3 TPI, hook-tooth blade.)

2 Thickness-plane the veneer to 1⁄8". To prevent tear-out on planers with bed rollers, or if your planer can’t cut thin enough, use a riser panel on the bed of your planer. (See “Planer riser for thin stock,” page 18, Woodraft Magazine, #60.)

3 Rip the veneer into three strips, each about 1⁄16" wider than their dimensions in the Cut List. Mark the pieces for reassembly later in their original orientation, and then set them aside for now.

Secure the top to the platform with double-faced tape, slip the platform onto the pivot pin, and rotate the assembly through the blade.
With the drawer fronts butted together at their inner ends and attached to the screw blocks, rotate the platform past the blade to shape the fronts.

Shape the top and drawer fronts

1 Make the arc-cutting platform in Figure 3, and mark out the layout lines where shown. You’ll use this platform to bandsaw the curves in the top (K), drawer fronts (M), deck (E), and curved rail (F).

2 Set up your bandsaw for cutting arcs by installing an auxiliary support table that will accept a pivot pin for guiding the workpiece. I use the Bandsaw Circle-Cutting Jig featured on page 50, which includes a sled with an adjustable pin block. Instead, you could just drill holes for your various pivot pin locations in a stationary support board clamped to your saw table.

3 In preparation for sawing the arc on the top (K), locate the center of the pivot pin 24" from the blade, and at a right angle to the blade’s path at the front of the teeth. (I use 1⁄8"-diameter brass rod for the pin.) Mark out the lines for the edge of the top, where shown in Figure 3. Also, nip the corners of the top as noted on Photo E to provide clearance for clamps or other hold-downs.

4 Secure the top (K) to the platform with double-faced tape, aligning the platform with the appropriate lines, where shown in Figure 3. Then saw the arc (Photo E).

5 Make the screw blocks shown in Figure 3, and fasten them to the platform. Attach the drawer fronts (M) with screws, making sure that their mitered ends butt together perfectly. Locate the center of your pivot pin 23" from the blade, and then saw the arc in the drawer fronts (Photo F).

Clamp the drawer front veneer from the center out, first taping across the middle and ends, then fully along the length, and finally across the entire surface.
Saw both the deck and rail at the same time. With a properly aligned jig, the blade should start cutting right at the outer dovetail and tenon shoulders (inset).

Veneer the drawer fronts

1 With the drawer fronts (M) still attached to the platform, smooth the sawn surfaces with 180-grit sandpaper wrapped around a flat block.

2 Unscrew the drawer fronts (M) from their screw blocks, locate the jig’s pivot pin 221⁄4" from the blade, and then swing the platform (with screw blocks attached) past the blade to saw away 3⁄4" of material from the edge. (This allows increased clamp pressure for the taping procedure that follows.)

3 Reattach the drawer fronts (M) to the platform, and clamp the assembly in a bench vise. Glue the front veneer (N) to the drawer fronts, clamping it in place with several layers of tightly stretched packing tape, as shown in Photo G. 

4 Once the glue has dried, use a square and a knife to separate the drawer fronts at the centerline. Then detach them and the blocks from the platform.

When sawing the interior edge of the curved rail, you’ll be cutting through the platform as well. Be ready to catch both freed pieces.
With the table dry-clamped, use a combination square to align the curved rail with the deck for laying out the dovetail sockets on the legs.

Shape the deck and curved rail, and cut the sockets

1 Use double-faced tape to attach the deck (E) to the arc-cutting platform, placing it against the appropriate reference lines, as shown in Figure 3. Then tape the curved rail (F) atop the deck, aligning their edges. Locate the pivot pin center 231⁄8" from the blade, and then saw the curve (Photo H).

2 Relocate the center of the pivot pin 201⁄4" from the blade. Tape the curved rail (F) to the platform with its edge extended 1⁄8" and its ends aligned with the appropriate lines shown in Figure 3. Then saw the interior rail curve (Photo I).

3 Smooth the sawn edges of the deck (E) and curved rail (F) just enough to remove any bumps or irregularities while keeping the edges square.

4 Dry-assemble the table, using plywood to allow cross-clamping the side assemblies (A,B,C) to the deck (E) and to support the curved rail (F), as shown in Photo J. (It helps to weigh the rail down with a hand plane or other heavy object.) Then knife around the curved rail dovetails to trace their shape onto the tops of the legs.

5 Disassemble the table, and mark out the rest of each dovetail socket on the face of its leg. Then cut the sockets using a handsaw and chisel.

Glue and clamp the stretcher laminates to a drawing bow, resting the assembly on a flat surface to prevent twist.

Complete the deck and curved rail

1 Mark the center of the deck (E) and curved rail (F), as well as the centers of their respective veneers (G, H). Apply glue to the edges and veneers, and then tape the veneers in place, working outward from the center as you did when veneering the drawer fronts. (I use white glue for its longer “open time.”)

2 After the glue cures, plane or sand the edges of the veneer flush to the faces of the deck and curved rail, and then saw and chisel the excess from the ends.

3 Lay out and cut the #20 biscuit slots in the curved rail (F) and aprons (B) for tabletop fasteners, where shown in Figure 1.

4 If you don’t have a right-angle drill or air wrench (See Photo T), lay out and drill 1⁄2"-diameter driver tip access holes through the deck, where shown in Figure 2. 

5 Cut the curved-rail supports (I) to the dimensions shown in the Cut List.

Make the laminated stretcher

1 Mill five 1⁄8 × 7⁄8 × 22" strips of wood to make the laminated stretcher (J). Cut them in succession from a single blank, marking them for reassembly later in their original orientation.

2 Set a symmetric drawing bow (see Buyer’s Guide) to a distance of 14" from the center of the adjustment strap to the center of the bow. Apply glue to the laminates, and clamp them to the bow (Photo K).

3 Once the glue has dried thoroughly, joint one edge of the stretcher, and then thickness-plane the piece to 3⁄4".

4 Dry-assemble the table, and locate the stretcher on the lower rails (C), where shown in Figure 1. Then mark the dovetail shoulders where the stretcher meets the rails. Referencing the shoulder marks, lay out the dovetails on the ends of the stretcher, and then saw them out.

5 Clamp the stretcher onto the lower rails, and knife around the tails. Unclamp the stretcher, lay out the 3⁄4" socket depth on the rails, and then saw and chisel out the sockets.

Begin by gluing together one side assembly, and use a cushioned block to tap the joints all the way home. Don’t clamp yet.
After slipping one deck tenon into its mortise, carefully spread the assembly and push the remaining deck tenon into its mortise.

Assemble the table

1 In preparation for glue-up, rout a 1⁄8"-wide 45° chamfer on all part edges except the top edges of the aprons (B) and curved rail (F). Stop the chamfers short of the dovetail sockets on the lower rails (C); you’ll finish them up with a chisel after assembly. Also stop about 11⁄4" below the apron mortises in the back leg (A) on the innermost corner only, and 1⁄2" below the deck mortise on the innermost corner of each front leg (A). Again, finish the chamfers in these areas with a chisel after assembly.

2 Start by joining the back leg and one front leg to an apron (B) and a lower rail (C), as shown in Photo L.

3 Add the opposing leg, apron, and rail to the first side assembly. Then, glue the biscuits into their deck slots, and add the deck (E) to the assembly (Photo M).

Clamp the lower rails first, then the aprons, and then use a plywood panel to clamp the deck to the legs and aprons.
Rout the dovetail slot, centering it on the relief cut. Use a backup block to keep the stock square to the fence as you rout.

4 Clamp the legs (A) to the lower rails (C) using your heavier clamps to keep the weight down low. Then clamp the aprons (B), orienting the main weight of the clamp to the rear when possible.

5 Clamp your plywood scrap panel to the deck (E) as before, and draw the deck tight to the aprons (Photo N).

6 Glue the curved rail (F) into the dovetail sockets in the legs, and then glue and pin-nail the curved-rail supports (I) to the aprons (B) below the curved rail. Finally, add the stretcher (J), gluing and tapping it into the dovetail sockets in the lower rails.

7 To counter the table’s tendency to tip when the drawers are opened, you’ll need to install weight at the rear. The simplest approach is to buy a 5-lb. lead ingot (see the buying guide), hacksaw it in two, and then drill two 3⁄16" screw-mounting holes in each bar. (Because lead tends to load bits, use a hand-held power drill at low speed instead of a drill press.) Mount the stacked bars to the back leg with two #8 × 3" screws, where shown in Figure 1. Then dismount the weights to make the following steps easier. Note: Wear gloves when handling lead, don a dust mask during cutting, and dispose of any dust, chips and filings thoroughly.

Build the drawers

1 Trim the overhanging veneer on the ends of the drawer fronts (M), and then rip them to 4" wide on the tablesaw.

2 Fit the veneered drawer fronts (M, N) in their opening, planing the top and bottom edges as necessary to create a 1⁄16" gap under the curved rail (F). The fronts should be inset 1⁄8" from the front of the rail and deck.

3 Drill a 3⁄8" hole 11⁄16" deep in each drawer front for the pull, centering it along the length of the drawer and 13⁄4" up from the bottom edge.

4 Lay out the dovetail sockets on each drawer front, where shown in Figure 4. Saw a 3⁄16 × 5⁄16"-deep relief cut on the tablesaw, and then rout the 3⁄8"-deep sockets using a 1⁄2" dovetail bit (Photo O). (Note: In the photo, I’m using the fence in Figure 5, set up at a 90° angle, but any fence will do.)

To cut the inner cheek of each drawer side dovetail, locate the fence so that the cut produces a sharp tail tip.
Relocate the fence, and feed against its rear face to rout the outer cheek of each dovetail. 

5 Mill the sides (O) to the dimensions in the Cut List, mitering two front ends to 60° and two front ends to 75°, where shown in Figure 4. (You’ll trim the four rear ends to length later.)

6 With the dovetail bit still set for a 3⁄8"-deep cut, use the angled router fence shown in Figure 5 to cut the dovetails in the drawer sides. First, with the jig’s 60° supports in place and using scrap stock, adjust the fence to produce a sharp point on the tail without cutting any deeper than necessary (Photo P).

Then cut the inner dovetail cheeks on the two inner drawer sides. Next, position the fence so that feeding against the inside face (Photo Q) produces a tail that fits with light hammer taps into its drawer front socket.

7 Replace the 60° jig supports with the 75° supports, and repeat the procedure to cut the dovetails on the outer drawer sides.

8 Rip the sides to 4" wide. Then trim the inner sides to 12" long and the outer sides to 14" long. Dry-fit them into their sockets in the drawer fronts.

9 To make the glue blocks (P), begin with a single, oversized blank measuring 11⁄4" × 2" × 12", and bevel its edges, as shown in Figure 6. Then crosscut it into two 35⁄8"-long glue blocks. Also, crosscut the thicker of the two offcuts into two 35⁄8"-long pieces for complementary clamping blocks.

10 Disc-sand or hand-plane the blocks (P) to mate well with the dry-assembled sides (O). Then, with each block in place, mark the sides to length, and then cut them at a 221⁄2°.

11 In preparation for gluing up the drawers, make a 3⁄8 × 5⁄8" spacer strip, and a 3⁄4 × 23⁄4 × 35⁄8" backer block. 

Clamp the backer block to the glue block (with both sitting on the spacer), and then glue and clamp the sides to the glue block between complementary cauls.
With the drawers shimmed and clamped in position, glue and screw each runner support to the deck between its runners.

12 Glue the sides (O) into the drawer fronts (M).Then glue on the blocks, as shown in Photo R using the complementary clamping blocks you made in Step 9.

13 Cut the drawer bottoms (Q) to the size in the Cut List. Mark them to shape by tracing around the inside of each drawer, and then cut them out on the bandsaw. Test the fit by pushing them into the drawer box from above, and then set them aside.

Fit the drawers

1 Mill the runners (R) and runner supports (S) to the dimensions in the Cut List. 

2 To help lay out the drawer runners as shown in Figure 4, first clamp each runner support (S) in place to the underside of its drawer’s front (M) and glue block (P). Bandsaw the rear tapers on the runners to fit against the drawer sides while terminating in a 1⁄8"-wide flat tip. Then cut the runners to length so that their front ends extend 3⁄4" onto the underside of the drawer front. Knife around the runners, and then cut the 1⁄2 × 3⁄4 × 3⁄8"-deep pockets in the underside of each drawer front (M).

3 Referring to Figure 4, drill and countersink the runners and the runner supports for #4 × 3⁄4" screws. Clamp the runner support back in position, and then glue and screw the runners into the pockets in the front (M) and onto the glue block (P).

4 Position both drawers inside the case, with their fronts aligned with each other and recessed 1⁄8" from the edge of the deck. Then attach the runner supports (Photo S).

5 Make the two 3⁄4 × 3⁄4 × 2" stopblocks (U), face them with leather, and countersink and drill them for two #8 flathead screws. Glue and screw the blocks to the deck with the leather face pressed against the drawer backs. 

6 Mill the drawer slips (T) (see the Cut List). Apply a bead of glue to the top of the runners and along each drawer side 5⁄8" up from the bottom. Then tap the drawer bottom (Q) down onto the runners. After the glue dries, spread glue on the slips, and then rub them onto the drawer bottom and sides, where shown in Figure 4.

7 Turn the pulls (V) to the profile shown in Figure 4, and glue them in place.

You can drive the tabletop fastener screws in the restricted space using an air-powered ratchet wrench outfitted with a 1⁄4" socket and driver bit.

Bevel and attach the top

1 Scrape the bandsawn edge of the top (K), and sand it through 220 grit until the curve feels fair. Then use a 15° chamfer bit at the router table to bevel the edges of the top, avoiding the small flat at the back.

2 Remount the lead bars, and then up-end the table onto its inverted top (K) with the front extended 3⁄4" from the curved rail (F). Clamp the parts to the bench.

3 Secure the top with tabletop fasteners, using #8 × 1⁄2" sharp-point screws with washer-heads that don’t require pilot holes. If you didn’t drill access holes earlier, your best option will be to use a pneumatic right-angle ratchet wrench (Photo T). The tool is available at auto and home supply stores for as little as $30.

4 Mill the kickers (L) to the size in the Cut List, and then drill and countersink them for #8 × 11⁄4" self-tapping screws, where shown in Figure 1. Elongate the middle and rear holes to allow for wood movement. Position them 1⁄8" from the curved rail (F), and screw them to the top, centering them by eye.

5 Finish-sand everything through 220 grit, and apply finish. (I wiped 3 coats of shellac inside the drawers, and 3 or 4 coats of wiping varnish on the rest of the table, rubbing between dried coats with 0000 steel wool. I finished up with a thin coat of an oil-polyurethane blend.)  

About Our author

Andy Rae is an award-winning furnituremaker who has authored a number of books on woodworking, including Furniture and Cabinet Construction and Working Wood (Taunton Press). He lives in western North Carolina.


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