Display Your Finest on This Elegant Hall Table

With its graceful, curved brackets supporting an inlaid top of contrasting woods, this table is perfect for displaying treasured knickknacks and heirlooms. The advanced techniques used in this project challenge you to be creative and precise. 

Woodcraft  Magazine started this project in the previous issue by tackling the hardest part: the inlaid top. Now we will move on to the circular base, which actually requires similar techniques. Then we will make the three feet and three center support posts, and assemble the entire piece. 

The table base

Begin by cutting two pieces of MDF to 9¼" square. Find the center of one piece and draw a circle with a radius that brings you as close to the four sides as possible. After the circle is drawn, center a protractor across one of your diagonal lines and make marks every 30° (Fig. 1). Now draw lines connecting the center point to the marks you made around the circle. This will leave you with a 12-piece “pie.” Glue and clamp this to the second piece of MDF and let it dry. Set your miter saw to 30° and cut the 12 tangent lines (Fig. 2). You could also complete this operation using a table saw and a miter gauge set at 30°. If you do, it would be helpful to add a sacrificial auxiliary fence to span the opening of the manufacturer’s fence.

Run a ¼" dado down a long piece of the hardwood border stock, and run a corresponding dado in each of the 12 sides of the MDF disk. Drill a counterbored 3/8" pilot hole in the outside surface of each hardwood border piece. These holes are for screws that will be used as temporary clamps. Go ½" deep with a 3/8" Forstner bit, then finish with a 3/32" twist bit. The holes will later get plugged with contrasting dowels. Cut the border pieces, trimming them to fit  as you move around the outside of the disk. Glue them in place with a spline between each of them and the MDF, as shown on the tabletop on page 19. (Editor’s note: The splines for the base are not included in the illustration because of space constraints. In Part 1, the splines were inadvertently omitted from the tabletop as well, but the illustration has been corrected.) Secure them with 2" drywall screws and clamps (Fig. 3).

After the glue has dried, remove the screws. The next step is to cut a groove in each seam where the hardwood pieces are joined, creating a gap for a spline in a contrasting wood. This serves as a decorative element as well as a device for hiding imperfections in the joints. I used a crosscut sled on my table saw (Fig. 4). Clamp the workpiece down for each cut. Rip stock for the splines, making it just thick enough that, in a dry fit, the material slides in and out of the groove with just a slight bit of friction. Work your way around the 12 sides, applying glue to the splines and gaps, and tapping the splines in place (Fig. 5). After the glue dries, fill the screw holes with dowels of contrasting wood. Then turn the 12-sided piece into a circle, following the same sequence that was used earlier for the tabletop.

A triangular post

This project is assembled around a short triangular post which will stick through the round base, with a few inches above the base and a few below it. The post will slide through a triangular hole. The three feet and the three tabletop brackets will all eventually be attached to this post.

Begin making the post by sizing stock to 11/8" square and about 2' long. Then set your table saw to 30°, raise the blade height to 1", and lock the fence at 1". Test your setup with scrap. Then rip the piece of hardwood stock; you’ll trim it to length later on (Fig. 6). Turn the piece end-for-end and rip the other side; this delivers a triangular molding. Splined joints connect the post to the curved brackets and the feet, so mill a ¼" dado in each face of the center post to accept a spline (Fig. 7). There’s no need to clean up the faces of the molding, as they will be hidden. Use the triangular post to mark the opening in the base. Drill a ½" hole in the center of the base and cut the hole with a jigsaw (Fig. 8). File the opening until the post slides smoothly, but with just a bit of friction.

Lay out the veneer pattern for the base and proceed as you did with the top. Apply glue, and then clamp the veneer down with a caul that covers the entire surface. (Don’t forget your plastic bag!) Once the cauls and clamps are removed, re-establish the triangular hole in the center by gently breaking through the veneer with a file. Smooth the edges of the hole and the outer circumference of the disk. Then run a ¼" cove bit around both faces of the disk.

Make the feet

Each of the three sculpted feet is joined to the center post with a short stretcher, as shown in Fig. 9. This is attached to the center post via a spline joint, and to the foot with a bridle joint.

Begin making the feet by transferring the pattern from page 18 onto 1½"-thick stock, then bandsaw them to shape. Refine the cuts with a spindle sander, rasps and files. Using a tenoning jig and a dado head in the table saw, cut a 1"-wide opening across the top of each foot (Fig. 10). This creates the bridle for the stretcher. Then plow a ¼" groove in one end of each stretcher. Glue the stretchers into the feet. Rout a profile on both sides of each foot using a ¼" cove bit (Fig. 11), and you’re ready to move on to the brackets.

Make the curved brackets

Three curved brackets run up from the bottom disk to the underside of the top disk (see pattern on page 19). The angles on their tops and bottoms, where they meet the disks, must be identical. I made a jig that allows me to do this and also create a flat spot where each bracket is attached to the triangular post. Before we get to the jig, transfer the bracket pattern to your stock and cut out all three brackets on the bandsaw. I used an old rocking chair leg for the original pattern (Fig. 12). The one you’ll use makes the brackets about 3" longer in each direction. Refine each curve with an oscillating spindle sander (Fig. 13), spokeshaves, files and any other tool that gets a nice consistent curve to the pattern.

Now on to the jig. You’ll need two toggle clamps and a piece of ¾" MDF. Place a bracket on the MDF so that one end of it exits at the upper right while the other exits at the bottom left. Mount two scrap blocks of wood or MDF against the backside of the curved piece, to establish this position and act as stops. Screw a toggle clamp onto each block, to clamp the curved piece in place. Now you are ready to make three cuts on each bracket. 

For the first cut, turn the jig 90° and place it against the miter gauge on your table saw (Fig. 14). Adjust so the MDF is just short of the blade. In this position, make the first cut to trim the top end of the support. You might need to attach an extended auxiliary fence to the miter gauge, to support the jig. For the second cut, turn the jig 90° and place it against the rip fence, which is locked 13½" from the blade (Fig. 15). This will trim the jig and the curved piece, leaving a straight section of approximately 4" at the bottom of the bracket (where it will later be joined to the triangular post). For the last cut, return to the miter gauge and trim the other end of the bracket. This cut must be made last because the second cut creates a straight edge along the jig that can ride along the miter gauge. Cut all three brackets in this sequence.

After each bracket is cut in the jig, the next step is to run a ¼" groove in the center of the straight section of each one (Fig. 16). This will allow for a splined joint where the three posts join the center triangular post at the top side of the lower disk. Chuck a ¼" straight bit in the router table at ¼" deep, add a tall auxiliary fence to the regular one and adjust it so that the groove is milled in the center of the workpiece. In addition to the splined joints, I used some 15/8" drywall screws to fasten the brackets to the centerpiece. Pre-drill and counterbore these holes (Fig. 17), as they will be plugged with a contrasting wood dowel. 

Rip some spline stock to ¼" thickness and just less than ½" wide. Cut the stock to the length of the straight section on the base of the brackets. Dry fit all the parts and, when you’re satisfied with the fit, apply glue. Clamp the center post, the splines and the brackets together (Fig. 18). Drive the screws through their predrilled holes. Make sure the triangular post doesn’t protrude past the straight sections of the three posts. 

With the base assembly upside down, apply glue to the top of the feet, stretchers, splines and the protruding center post. While clamping the feet in place, screw them to the base (Fig. 19). When you have all three feet glued and fastened, turn the assembly over and drill and countersink three holes through the top of the base at the center points over each foot. Screw the base and foot together as shown in Fig. 20, and plug the holes with contrasting dowels. 

Wrapping up

Position the leg set upside down so that the fleur-de-lis on the top is centered between the brackets. Mark the locations where the brackets lie and find each center. Use a brad-point bit to drill a  3/8" hole about ½" deep at each location. Drill a matching  3/8" hole in the end of each bracket. Glue a  3/8" dowel into each hole in the back side of the top, apply some glue to the mating surfaces on the brackets, then place the base assembly upside down on the back of the top. Gently tap the sections together, wipe away any glue and let it set.

I used a tung oil varnish, followed by a gloss oil-urethane top coat on the two tables I built, but most any clear coat will make this table stand out.

Alan Young

Alan Young is an engineering technician at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. From his home shop in Ypsilanti, Mich., he’s rapidly making the leap from woodworking hobbyist to professional. See more of his work at woodwardwoodworks.com

Bandsaw, fixed-base router in router table, plunge router, laminate trimmer, table saw, planer, jointer, sliding compound miter saw or radial arm saw, spindle sander, random orbit sander, veneer saw, utility knife, “J” roller or veneer hammer, household iron, clamps, scraper, chisel, toggle clamps

Variety of sandpaper through 220-grit
Masking tape
Veneer tape
Veneer glue
Plastic sheet (trash bag)
Mineral spirits
Fine steel wool
Wood screws (6) 1-5/8" x #8
Drywall screws (12) 2" 
Drywall screws (12) 1-5/8"
3/8" hardwood dowel, about 18"

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