Country Kitchen Work Table

Pre-turned legs and loose tenons make this table simple, stylish, and strong.

Designer/Builder/Writer: Craig Bentzley

Kitchens demand more from every square inch than any other room. To earn its keep, the furniture in it must serve multiple uses. That’s the inspiration for this table. The drop-leaf table offers space for everything from food preparation to informal meals. In addition, the classic design makes it suitable for other rooms and functions.

Router-made mortises and loose tenons keep the joinery quick, strong, and simple. We also designed it to be cost-effective. By deciding to paint the base (see “Add Crackle to Your Finish,” page 39), we were able to use less-expensive materials (poplar, soft maple, and plywood), keeping the total materials bill under $400.

Best of all, you don’t need a lathe! We used pre-turned legs from Osborne Wood Products (see the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide, page 37) that cost less than $125, including shipping. If you decide to take a spin at turning, you can download CAD drawings of the leg from the company’s Web site.

Cut the base parts to size

1 Starting with the pre-turned legs (A), lay out the locations (including the mortises) for the side aprons (B), the rear apron/rail assembly (C, D), stretchers (G, H), and drawer rails (E, F) where shown in Figures 1, 4, and 5. Note that the side aprons (B), rear apron assembly (C, D), and the upper and lower drawer rails (E, F) are inset ¼" from the outer face of the legs. The stretchers (G, H) are inset by 1" and centered in the square section of the leg. Mark the legs’ orientation on the top ends for easy identification.

2 Prepare 1"-thick stock for the side aprons (B), rear apron assembly (C, D), drawer rails (E, F), stretchers (G, H), drawer divider (I), center drawer runner (J), drawer kicker (K), leaf support guide and leaf support (L, M), and drawer fronts

(Q) to the dimensions in the Cut List, but cut all parts long for final trimming. Label the parts for easy identification.

3 Clamp the rear apron assembly (C, D) together and test-fit the leaf support (M) between the panels (D). Adjust the panels so that the support slides smoothly within the opening and then mark the apron assembly to ensure proper alignment at glue-up. Glue and clamp the rear apron assembly. Once the glue dries, center the opening and trim both ends to final length.

4 Install a ¼" beading bit into a table-mounted router and shape the outer edges of the stretchers (G, H), the bottom edge of the side aprons (B), the rear apron assembly (C, D), and the bottom edge of the lower drawer rail (F). (A beading bit creates a decorative detail and softens sharp edges so that they aren’t as susceptible to dents.) Next, install a 1/8" round-over bit and soften the inside edges of the stretchers.

5 Cut the side aprons (B), drawer rails (E, F), and stretchers (G, H) to length as indicated in the Cut List.

6 Now lay out the mortise locations for aprons (B), rear apron assembly (C, D), lower drawer rail (F), and stretchers (G and H) where shown in Figure 1.

7 If you don’t own a mortising jig, build the “Shop-Made Mortising Jig” (page 32). To rout the legs (A), clamp the jig to the edge of your workbench and attach the fence guide to your router. Clamp a horizontal support to the jig, and then position and clamp the legs to the jig, using the mortise layouts as a guide. With a plunge router equipped with a ½" spiral upcut bit, make the 1¼"-deep mortises on the legs (A) as shown in Photo A.

Plunge the router to the full depth at each mortise end. Rout out the waste between the mortise ends in ¼"-deep increments.

Orient all the parts with their show faces touching the jig so that the mortises line up.

8 Using a square, attach the mortising jig’s fence to the jig’s front face so that it’s perpendicular to the jig’s top edge. Clamp on a side apron (B), with the end flush to the jig’s top. Using the mortise layout, rout a 1¼"-deep mortise in each end. Now rout the other apron (B) and the remaining mortises in the rear apron assembly (C, D), the lower drawer rail (F), and the stretchers (G, H) as shown in Photo B.

9 Cut out the pieces from ½"-thick MDF and glue up the Horizontal Mortise Template as shown in Figure 3, page 33. To set the template, position the two front legs (A) side by side with the faces receiving the lower drawer rail (F) facing up. Carefully center the template’s holes over the mortise layouts from Step 6 and then clamp the template to the legs as shown in Photo C. Now outfit your plunge router with a 5/8"-diameter bushing and ½" upcut spiral bit. Rout the 1¼"-deep mortises for the lower drawer rail (F).

10 Mill the stock for the loose tenons shown in Figure 1. Rip the tenon material to the needed widths and then round the edges with a ¼"-radius round-over bit. Crosscut the needed number of tenons to 2½" long.

Shop-Made Mortising Jig

I built this mortising jig some years back from scrap and a few bucks worth of hardware. It remains my favorite solution for loose-tenon joinery. The fence-guiding track on the back face of the jig guides the router to make mortising nearly foolproof. The jig is designed to handle stock up to 8" wide. Make sure your workpiece mortising face is flush with the top edge of the jig.

Dry-assemble the base

1 Glue one end of the loose tenons into the mortised parts of the apron (B, D), rail (F), and stretchers (G, H) to assist with the dry assembly. Clean up any squeeze-out with a damp cloth.

2 Using a biscuit joiner, cut the #20-sized slots on the side aprons (B), rear apron assembly (C, D), and upper drawer rail (E) for the tabletop fasteners. Locate the slots to agree with your choice of tabletop fasteners and where shown in Figure 1.

3 Make the shelf supports (U, V) and cut the slots for the tabletop fasteners with a biscuit joiner down from the top edges as before. With a marking gauge, scribe a line on the inside faces of the stretchers (G, H) 7/8" down from top edge so that the shelf sits 1/8" below the top edge. Using the scribed line as a guide, attach the shelf supports to the stretchers with glue and screws.

4 Referring to Figure 5, lay out and saw the dovetails on both ends of the upper drawer rail (E). Now use the cut ends to lay out the sockets on the tops of the legs (A). Saw the sides of the sockets shown in Photo D and then chop out the waste material with a chisel as shown

in Photo E. Test the fit and adjust as needed.

5 Clamp together the side assemblies consisting of legs (A) and side aprons (B). Referring to the Cut List, cut the outer drawer guides (O) long. Check their fit on the side assemblies and cut to length. Using a biscuit joiner, cut the slots for the #20 biscuits in the legs (A) and outer drawer guides (O) so that the guide sits flush with the inside edge of the leg.

6 Dry-assemble the rest of the base and then cut the center drawer runner (J) and drawer kicker (K) to fit. Now cut the slots for the #20 biscuits in the ends of both parts. Locate the centers of the rear apron assembly, the upper drawer rail (E), and the lower drawer rail (F) and cut the matching biscuit slots for the center drawer runner (J) and the drawer kicker (K).

7 Cut the drawer divider (I) to length. Use the biscuit joiner to slot both ends for the #20 biscuits and then cut matching slots on the upper and lower drawer rails (E, F).

Clamping and routing both legs at once helps ensure exact alignment of the mortises.
With a dovetail saw, set the blade on the waste side of the pencil line and cut to your base lines.

Chop down and then in to remove the waste. Use a skew chisel or knife to clean out the corners.

Assemble the base

1 Start with the base sides. Test-clamp the legs (A), side aprons (B), side stretchers (G), and outer drawer guides (O) together, without glue. If everything fits, disassemble, apply glue, and re-clamp.

2 Dry-assemble the entire base. You may need an extra pair of hands to position the rear apron assembly (C, D), lower drawer rail (F), and front/rear stretchers (H) when tightening the clamps. After checking the fit, disassemble, apply glue, and then reassemble. Finally, position the drawer divider (I) and kicker (K) in place and then tap in the dovetail ends of upper drawer rail (E) as shown in Photo F.

3 Make the outer drawer runners (P). Refer to the

Cut List, but check the fit on

the actual piece. Glue and clamp in place, making the runners’ top edges flush with the top face of lower drawer rail (F).

4 Cut the center drawer/leaf support guides (L) to fit in the base as shown in Figure 1. Cut the leaf support (M) long for now.

Apply glue in the dovetail mortises and tap the upper drawer rail home with a mallet.

5 To make the leaf support face (N), start with a piece of stock at least 2" wide. Using a table-mounted router, install a 5/8" round-nose bit, adjust the bit height to 1/4", and rout the finger grooves. Cut the #20 biscuit slots in the end of leaf support (M) and the leaf support face (N), trim the leaf support face to length, and then glue the two together. Test the fit; the top end of the leaf support face (N) should be flush with the base top. Set assembly (M, N) aside.

6 Cut the plywood shelf (W) to size and notch the corners to fit. Attach the shelf to the shelf supports (U, V) with tabletop fasteners.

7 If desired, make the optional towel bar. Copy and apply the Full-sized Bracket Pattern (Z) on page 37 to two pieces of 1 × 2 × 3½" stock and bandsaw and sand the brackets to shape. Bore mirroring ¾" holes ½" deep in each part with a Forstner bit. Cut a 14"-long piece from a ¾" dowel rod for the towel bar (AA). Then attach the assembly (Z, AA) with screws from the inside of the side apron (B) after finishing.

Once set, the drawer-lock bit routs the locking profile in one pass. Use a backer block to prevent blowout at the end of the cut.

Cut the mating drawer lock profile in the side using a tall fence.

Build the Drawers

1 Fit the drawer fronts (Q) to the drawer openings. Referring to the Cut List, cut the drawer sides (R) to width, but leave them long.

2 Install a drawer-lock bit in a table-mounted router. Raise the bit above the tabletop and set the fence. Using a zero-clearance fence, make a test cut to match the Drawer Joint Detail in Figure 6. Now, rout the drawer fronts (Q) as shown in Photo G.

3 Without changing the bit height, slide the fence forward so the small diameter of the bit is flush with the fence face. Rout the sides, as shown in Photo H.

4 Cut the grooves for the drawer bottoms (T) on the table saw with a standard-width blade. To do this, raise the blade to ¼", set the fence ½" from the inside face of the blade, and make the first cut on the inside face of each drawer side (R), drawer front (Q), and a piece of scrap. Now using the scrap piece, adjust your fence and make a second cut to widen the kerf to match the bottom’s thickness. Complete the grooves on the drawer parts.

5 Measure from the inside face of the rear apron assembly (C, D) to the outside edge of the lower drawer rail (F). (This will be your total drawer length for a flush fit.) Now, dry-fit the drawer front (Q) to the drawer sides (R) and mark the measured length on the back ends of the sides. Cut the sides to length. Next, cut ½" wide dadoes ¼" deep in the sides for the drawer backs (S). Finally, cut the drawer backs to size.

6 Locate and drill centered holes for the pulls (Shaker knobs) in the drawer fronts (Q).

7 Cut the drawer bottoms (T) to size. Glue up the drawer front, back, and sides, and then slide the bottoms into the grooves. Secure the bottoms in place with three 3/4" nails through the bottom and into the drawer backs (S).

Make the top

1 Glue up the boards for the top (X) and leaf (Y). Make both panels a few inches larger in width and length to allow for final trimming.

2 Cut the rule joint on the edges of the top and leaf and install the hinges as described in “Master the Classic Rule Joint” on page 26.

3 Cut the assembled top to length using a straightedge and circular saw as shown in Photo I (on previous page). Clean up the sawn edge with a plane or sandpaper. Now disassemble the top and rip both pieces to final width.

4 Cut the leaf support assembly (M, N) to final length and insert it in the base. Lay the center drawer/leaf support guides (L) in place. Check that the guides don’t interfere with the drawers or leaf support before gluing in place.

With the top in place, extend the leaf support assembly (M, N) and mark it as shown. (Top removed here for clarity.)

5 Put the top on the base. Adjust the overhang so that the leaf hangs perpendicular when it is in contact with the leaf support face (N). Then clamp the top to the base and mark its location underneath with a pencil.

6 Raise the leaf and extend the leaf support assembly (M, N) so it’s 1" in from the edge of the leaf. Now make a pencil mark on the leaf support as shown in Photo J. Remove the leaf support, measure in ¼" from the pencil line and drill a ½"-diameter hole. Finally, reinsert the leaf support and glue in the 2" long dowel (Photo K).

7 Lay the top good face down on your bench. Now place the base on top, lined up with your pencil marks, and attach the two together with tabletop fasteners (Photo L).

Drill through your mark and glue in the dowel that serves as the leaf support stop.

Finishing up

1 Remove the hinge hardware and sand all parts to 220 grit. (I colored the top and drawer knobs with a mixture of 25% General Finishes Amber Dye Stain, 25% General Finishes Medium Brown Dye Stain, and 50% water.)

2 Seal the top with three coats of General Finishes High Performance Water-based Satin Topcoat with General Finishes Enduro Crosslinker added for extra durability

3 The base received an antique crackled paint finish. For more on this, see “Add Crackle to Your Finish,” page 39.

4 Glue the knobs on the drawer fronts, reassemble the top, and install on the base.

Drill pilot holes for the screws and attach the top with tabletop fasteners.

About Our Designer/Builder

Craig Bentzley has been restoring antiques and building furniture for nearly 40 years. 

His primary interest is 18th century American furniture. In addition to writing, Craig also teaches at guilds, woodworking shows, and at Woodcraft stores.

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