The whole unit consists of about 16 pieces, including the table top and lid that are not to be glued. To keep track of their orientation, I marked all pieces using foolproof cabinetmaker’s triangles.
Marking out the components prevents many unnecessary milling or assembly errors.
The wider pieces such as the top and compartment bottoms were formed by gluing up 1 × 8 boards together
The cauls keep the panel flat while the glue-up cures.
A cranked-neck chisel and a scraper make a perfect pair for removing glue squeeze-outs.
I chose dominos for all the joinery: the leg-to-apron joints, the butt joints and the mid-board butt-joints. The legs, aprons and compartments were mortised using the standard butt box joint procedures.
Work smart by organizing and finishing all the cuts under one machine setting before changing its setting.
I joined the divider in the lower compartment to the front, back and bottom of the lower compartment case using the carcase butt joint technique. I followed these steps after marking the necessary placement lines:
- To mill the mortises on the bottom edge of the divider:
- Lay the divider board in the middle of and on top of the compartment bottom, and clamp them down
- Rest the machine’s baseplate on the face of the bottom piece with the Domino’s fence face against the bottom edge of the divider board, and plunge
- Reposition the machine to cut the rest of mortises on the divider’s bottom edge.
Mortise the divider board in the same manner as milling mortises for a bookshelf.
- To mill the mortises on the lower compartment’s bottom:
- Stand the machine upright with its fence face on the bottom piece, and with the baseplate against the bottom edge of the divider board, plunge
- Reposition the machine to mill the remaining mortises on the bottom piece.
Double check the cutter’s depth setting before plunging vertically to prevent blow-outs.
The above procedures were then used to cut mortises on the vertical sides of the divider board and their mating boards (front and back) of the lower compartment.
Lastly, I cut some button slots with the largest cutter (10mm) on the upper aprons (inside face) and on the back piece (inside face) of the upper compartment.
Overlapped mortises are cut to accept the buttons’ tongue.
I rounded the edges of the top and legs (outside corner) to provide a smoother look and eliminate the sharp, dent-prone edges. End grain tends to split out as the bit exits the end of the cut, so for the table top, I routed the ends of a board first before the sides.
To prevent router tearout, rout the end grain edge first.
Dings and Dents
Before sanding everything to 220 grit, I used heat to remove all the blemishes found on the visible surfaces. Lastly, the lid rests were installed.
Press a damp rag over the dented spot with a hot iron to swell the wood and raise the dent.
Assembly & Finishing
Using a sub-assemblies approach, I glued up the two side frames (consisting of the legs, and upper and lower aprons), and then the upper and lower compartments. Before I delivered the sub-assemblies to my neighbours for staining, I left a marker’s mark on the piece.
Check all the sub-assemblies for square as you go along prior to final assembly.
For the side frames, check the diagonals for square.
The maker’s mark conveys a sense of accomplishment and pride.
While awaiting the return of the stained parts, I milled a rabbeted strip on the table saw, and crosscut it into a batch of cabinetmaker’s buttons (Photo 13). After the final glue-up, I attached the top, and returned the side table to its eagerly-waiting new owners – this time, for good.
When cutting the rabbet to depth, set up the waste to fall to the offside of the blade.
Scraps are used as clamping pads to avoid marring the softwood.
Tape was used on four corners to mark out the offset position of the top.
The author used a drill with an angle attachment to install the buttons.
Text and photos by Charles Mak
Charles Mak, now in retirement, is an enthusiastic hobby woodworker, teacher, writer and tipster. He formerly worked part-time at his local Lee Valley Tools store.