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Coffee table/chest

My first big project, following the purchase of my Ryobi BT3000 table saw/router table, some ten years ago, was this chest/coffee table.

oak coffee table, oblique view

The coffee table was built from locally-obtained red oak. It was finished using Old Masters golden oak stain, satin polyurethane sanded to 600-grit, and Clapham's furniture wax.

The basic design is my own. I made mistakes, of course. The sides are joined using butt joints - and gluing end grain to long grain results in an inherently weak joint.

oak coffee table, oblique view showing edges reinforced with square-cut nails

As the pictures show, the edges have been nailed, with ornamental square-cut wrought-head nails. This adds a little reinforcement, but not much. Were I to do this project over again, I would either dovetail these edges, or use dowels, biscuits, or screws to reinforce the joint. To avoid splitting the end grain, I drilled pilot holes - something you'd also need to do if you were using screws.

oak coffee table, side/top view, side boards joined by glued edge joints

Sides were glued up from narrower boards: glued edge joints are very stronger than the boards they join. My BT3000 table saw is fantastic - boards ripped so clean, no edge-jointing was required.

Another lesson learned: checks and knots may make for interesting details (and I still enjoy including them, where appropriate), but do not get paste wax into them! Wax becomes transparent once buffed to a clear soft sheen - but remains a very obvious, incongruous, undesirable filler if stuck where it can't be buffed.

oak coffee table, top and end view showing check in wood

The oxidized antique steel-and-iron hardware shown above came from Lee Valley, at www.leevalley.com. So did the flap stays below, the final necessary detail - without them, the chest lids slam down with enough force to do major damage to little fingers. For long, heavy lids like the ones on this project, be sure to use one on each side.

chest/coffee table, with flap stays to prevent the slamming of very heavy chest lids onto little fingers

- PD

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