Building a Cherry Sidecar Drink Table

I started this table design quite a while ago, as a challenge to build something new using a single board. I found a single 5/4″ x 6″ rough cut cherry board at Architectural Salvage in Columbus, and thought it would be the perfect use. The design was simple, two stave legs with a single cross foot at the bottom, something I thought was reminiscent of a Nakashima design.

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I wanted this table to be the right height to sit next to an arm chair, about 25 inches, and with a top just big enough to hold a drink or two, my personal choice is a Bulleit Rye Manhattan. I milled my rough board down to an inch thick, and cut the legs to 2 inches wide. The cross bars and foot are cut at 1.5 inches wide. I love using Irwin’s Quick Clamps to hold things in place while I’m playing with a design.

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This was a first opportunity for me to try a few things; first, I hand cut the bevel on the feet and the recess on the bottom with a chisel and block plane, something I had not done before. Second, I used a half-lap dado through the foot and cross bar at the bottom to give the a stronger joint. Third, I used visible 5/16″ dowels in all the joints to strengthen the staves to the cross bars.

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I wanted the top to be just big enough to hold a drink, after some trial and error, I settled on a 12 inch by 8 inch top. I ripped two pieces to width, and jointed the edges with a hand plane to glue up; using a pair of biscuits to help keep things aligned. Using my miter saw, I cut the top into an elongated octagon, using the same angle I planed onto the foot, about 15 degrees. You can see the dowel sticking out at the bottom of the legs here before I cut them flush with a Japanese pull saw.

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After dressing the edge of the top with a 15 degree chamfer router bit, I sanded all the surfaces to 220 grit with a random orbit sander and a hand sanding block. For a finish, I wanted something durable but also easily repaired. I settled on Danish Oil to bring out the grain in the cherry, then a coat of brush on lacquer and polished out with some finishing wax.

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Overall, I’m very happy with the look and design of the table, but tuning in the legs and feet to keep the table stable with four small and closely spaced feet was a challenge. I found it easiest to set the foot a little proud of the two stave legs and the plane down the contact patches until it was all level.

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The top was attached simply, but I tried to consider wood movement in the top. In this design I ran the grain of the top in the same direction as the cross member in the frame. Two screws through the cross member hold the top down; the holes for the screws are counter-bored and plugs with dowels. In future designs, I ran the top perpendicular to the cross member, and used some different methods to accommodate wood movement.

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Another Hardware Salvage Story

Why do people paint over and throw away vintage hardware? I live in an area with houses built as far back as 150 years ago, and I frequently find doors, with their original hardware, in the trash. It breaks my heart to think how people don’t respect and value the design elements of their own homes. These are the details that make an older home interesting and visually stimulating to be in.

I found this door, stacked up in our alley, ready for the trash. It’s an original 4-panel, solid wood, door that matches the doors in our home… built in 1880. It’s solid, with mortise cut rails and stiles and the original mortise lock, doorknobs and backplates: the complete set.


The original mortise lock has an interesting stem with a threaded brass doorknob. My favorite design element, though, in these old doors, is the escutcheon around the doorknob. These backplates are a design element that is absent from most modern doors, and I can’t fathom why someone would paint over them! I will take them off, and using the method my father-in-law taught me, clean the old paint off and find the metal underneath. I expect these will be a cast brass, matching the doorknob… but only time will tell!