Generally, I prefer to make furniture I design myself. But every once in a while I am struck by the lines and grace of a traditional piece and am compelled to make one for my family. This is exactly what happened when I saw this Tabouret #251 designed by Charles Limbert. It was so simple and elegant, I just had to have one in my living room.
Arts and Crafts furniture is often made out of quarter sawn white oak, which is exceptionally durable, stable and has a characteristic iridescent ray flake. My version is identical in material and dimension to the original, however, I simplified the construction a bit. Limbert’s Tabouret had super-thin 1/16″ splines connecting the parts for the top, and along the edge miter. Adhesives are far superior today, and the splines are unnecessary. As for finishing, furniture from this period has a particular ‘glow’ which I was determined to replicate. In my research, I learned the depth and beauty was the result of a many-layered finishing process; one complex enough to warrant it’s own article. Look for that coming soon to WWGOA!
Tabouret Table Plans
MAKE THE BASE
Trace the sides onto glued up panels. Take time to make an accurate template (see Diagram
). Use 3/4″ thick material, because the inside and bottom cutout on the final pieces will be trimmed using a router with a pilot bit. If you are like me, you barely buy enough material for each project. By nesting two parts, I am able to stretch the material just enough.
Next, cut the side blanks at a 45-degree angle. A track saw makes this operation a breeze because the cutline always remains visible. Consider making a custom, 45-degree track using Paul Mayer’s technique here
. It is possible to execute this taks on the tablesaw using a sled or tapering jig. I avoid this because tablesaws only tilt in one direction; the tapered bevel requires brain-twistingly complex geometry to get the cuts perfect. Once the length of all four sides are cut to 45-degree miters, reset the saw to 4 degrees and cut complimentary angles on the top and bottom.
Bore 3/4″ holes in the curved corners of the cutouts and remove the waste with a jigsaw. Trace the pattern closely, and leave just 1/16″ waste to trim with a pilot bit. Resist the urge to cut fast and loose here. The greater waste to trim, the greater chance for tearout. Trimming requires cutting with the grain, against the grain, as well as trimming on end grain. This combined with the inclination of Quartersawn White Oak to splinter makes careful jigsawing crucial.
Trim the cutouts with a pilot bit mounted in the router. Align the pattern with a side blank and clamp the setup to your bench, taking care to place the clamps so they don’t interfere with the router base and handles as you feed around the cutout. Carefully swap the clamps around and use the same operation on the bottom cutout.
Take good care of your parts! It is essential that all of these pieces remain flat and true. If these parts cup, bow or twist they are really difficult (if not impossible) to glue up. At the end of the day, it is hard to remember to take this little 5-minute step, but if you just leave the parts stacked on your bench without stickers, and they are liable to absorb humidity unevenly, and will surely cup. Don’t do that to yourself!
ASSEMBLE THE BASE
Lay the sides outside up and align the miters to each other. Line each set of edges with a piece of painters tape with the grain, and then reinforce each joint with 4-5 pieces of tape across the grain. Hold the seams of the corners tight together when taping.
Flip the taped assembly over with the help of a friend so the miters are up. Apply glue to the seams and spread the glue so all of the mitered surfaces have a thin coat, including the miters on the outside edges. The objective is to have even glue squeeze out on the inside of the joint, but not so much glue that the pressure inside the miter blows out the tape on the outside corners. This can happen, trust me!
Gently fold the corners up towards each other, using the tape as a hinge. Once the un-taped corners meet, tape across the grain to pull the miters tight to each other.
Once the fourth corner is taped together, tip the assembly up, align the top and bottom, and double check that all of the tape is tightly adhered. On every piece of furniture, I always measure corner to corner for square, and this is a great time to ensure the base is true.
In Part 2 of this story I’ll show you how to make the corbels, complete the base, and do the final table assembly.
Photos By Author
Desk Top Fasteners $4.00 for eight
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