8 Details: Transform an ordinary table
Protruding Joinery: Extending the ends of the stile
and rail accentuates an ordinary
A piece of marble adds beauty, color
and texture without being visually
dominant. It’s also a practical surface
for drinks and plants.
The Greenes replaced sharp
edges with rounded ones that
are easy on the hands and eyes.
Lifts: Lifts break the monotony of a straight
line with S-shaped transitions.
Simple carvings done with ordinary
bench chisels accent the
lifts on the aprons.
Pins, a hallmark of hand joinery,
usually aren’t functional
in Greene and Greene pieces.
They’re purely decorative—made
of ebony, square, left proud of
the surface and gently rounded.
The edges of flush-fitting joints
are rounded, creating shadow
lines that catch the eye.
The subtle, inverted taper on the
outside edges of the legs is virtually
invisible, yet it’s responsible for the
table’s graceful appearance. Square,
untapered legs would look out of
proportion—they’d either be too
wide at the top or too narrow at
the bottom. Tapering gives the base
a firm stance while keeping the top
of the leg proportionate to the
understated overhang of the top.
Although this table isn’t a replica of a specific Greene
and Greene piece, it incorporates many of the details
they used—accentuated joinery, decorative pins, lifts
and rounded edges. It’s made from walnut, one of several
woods they favored. You’ll need at least 10 lineal feet of 2-in.
square stock for the legs. It’s easiest to use 5/4
stock for all the other pieces—10 bd. ft.will be plenty.As on original Greene and Greene pieces,
the pins are ebony.
The marble inset in the top is a 12-in.-square floor
tile. Marble tiles are available at flooring stores. Have the marble in hand before
you cut any of your lumber. Tiles can vary as much as
1/4-in. from the specified dimensions. You’ll have to
change the lengths of the stiles and rails for the top and
the aprons and stretchers for the bottom if your tile is
not exactly 12 in. by 12 in.
Make the top
It’s easy to make the protruding ends that accentuate the
top’s joinery. Just make the tenons longer and the slots
deeper than the widths of the stiles and rails. Assemble the top
pieces and mark the inside edges (they receive a smaller
roundover). Then test the fit of the marble. The plan
measurements allow 1/16-in. clearance for it. If you
want a tighter fit, remove a bit more from the tenon
shoulders and make the slots a bit deeper.
Mortise holes for the ebony pins in the top stiles
and rails.You’ll need only two fence settings to cut all of
these holes. Next, round
over the ends of the rail tenons and the stile legs with a
3/16-in. radius bit.Use the same bit to round
the outside edges of the stiles and rails, top and bottom. Create joint reveals between the stiles
and rails by routing the rail shoulders and all top and
bottom inside edges with a shortened 1/8-in. radius
round-over bit. Then glue the top together.
Make ebony pin blanks. Seat them with a
hammer and a bit of glue, saw them off and
round their tops.
Make the legs
Rout lifts at the bottom of adjacent inner sides of the leg
blanks. Then taper the two
Cut mortises for the haunched apron tenons on the
two inner sides of each leg (the sides with lifts). First,
using the tablesaw, cut stopped dadoes. They provide
room for the haunch of the tenon and guide the bit
when cutting the mortises.
These dadoes are parallel to the tapered side of
the leg so the apron has a consistent reveal. The
mortises for the stretchers are also parallel to the outside
tapers, and have the same reveal as the aprons.
Mortise holes for the ebony pins.
This time, position the legs with their straight inner
sides against the fence.Level the faces using a tapered
offcut, and protect the mortise cheeks with sacrificial
plugs before cutting.Round the edges of the legs with
the 3/16-in. radius bit. You’ll have to round the inside
edges,where the lifts meet, by hand.
Make the aprons
Prepare four blanks with tenons on both ends.Rout
the lifts using a template. Add the carvings
to the aprons.Round the
bottom edges of the aprons and the top and bottom
edges of the stretchers.
Glue together two sides, each with two legs, an
apron and a stretcher and install the ebony pins.
Complete the glue-up, adding the remaining two
aprons and stretchers. Then install the rest of the
pins.Glue blocks on the insides of the aprons for the
screws that hold the top.
Install the ledger strips for the marble, working
from the underside of the top. Set the
marble in place after the finish has cured.
I used a glaze of burnt sienna and burnt umber
over a seal coat of shellac, topcoated with varnish.
Cut mortises in the straight, untapered sides of the legs,
using stopped dadoes to set and guide the bit. Make sure the
leg’s two tapered sides are against the base and the fence.You’ll
have to level the leg so the mortise is perpendicular.
Use the scrap left from sawing the tapers for leveling, making
sure it completely supports the leg. Cut the mortises for the
stretchers the same way.
Click any image to view a larger version.
Saw tenon cheeks on the rails using a shop-made
tenoning jig. Remove the waste with bandsaw cuts first.
Then you can raise the tablesaw blade and clean the tenon
cheek in one pass. Cut the slot mortises in the stiles with the
same jig. CAUTION: This operation is difficult to do with the guard in
place. Use extra care.
Square the tenon shoulders using a miter gauge with a
stop block.The critical dimension on the rails is end-to-end
between the shoulders. On the stiles it’s the distance between
the slots.These dimensions must be slightly longer than the
marble so it fits in place after the top is assembled. CAUTION:This
operation is difficult to do with the guard in place. Use extra care.
Cut square holes for the pins with a 5/16-in. mortising
chisel and bit. Space the pins evenly on a diagonal that starts at
the end of the slot mortise. Mortise through the upper leg of
the stile. Stop in the sacrificial tenon. It keeps the chisel and bit
from blowing out the inside surface of the joint.
Hold the styles and rails upright to round the
ends.To reduce the risk of
blowout, always cut into the
rotation of the bit. Clamp a
piece of hardboard with a 1-in.
hole on top of your router
table to support these short
pieces while routing.
To fit inside the slot between
the legs of the stile you’ll
need a bit with a 1/4-in. pilot.
Round the rail shoulders with a 1/8-in. radius bit.
Shorten the bit slightly, by grinding the tip of the pilot, so it fits
under the tenon.The inside edges of the stiles and rails also
receive an 1/8-in. rounding.
When the top is assembled, these rounded edges create
reveals at the joint between the stiles and rails and between
the wood and the marble.
Saw square stock for the ebony pins from a single
saw set-up. First, cut a kerf in the face side of the board.Then,
with the board on its edge and the kerfed face against the
fence, make a second pass. A featherboard and push stick are
mandatory when cutting small parts.This shop-made push stick
includes a stop that prevents the newly cut square blank from
kicking back. CAUTION:This operation is difficult to do with the
guard in place. Use extra care.
Saw the pins proud of the surface, after seating them
in the glued-up top. Use a notched credit card as a spacer so all
the pins are a consistent height.
Sand the pins by hand, leaving them rounded and slightly
proud of the surface. Bear down with your fingertip on each
side of the pin to cut down the edges and create the rounded
shape.Tape protects the walnut from scratches.
Rout the leg lifts using a jig with a template
and a router (outfitted with a 5/8-in.O.D. guide bushing and
a 2-1/2-in. long, 1/2-in. dia. straight bit).To make routing
easier, saw away most of the waste first.When you use this
guide bushing and bit, the finished edge of the leg will be
1/16-in. away from the edge of the template, so be careful
not to saw away too much.
Cut leg tapers with this shop-made jig. It holds
the legs securely and keeps your fingers away from the
blade. Save the tapered offcut. It’ll be used for mortising.
CAUTION:This operation is difficult to do with the guard in
place. Use extra care.