By Steve Shanesy
As empty nesters, my wife and I recently said goodbye to the family homestead and downsized to a smaller house. Our generously sized dining room was traded for “dining space” at the new place. Our dining room furniture wasn’t going to fit.
My challenge quickly became apparent – design and build a new table and sideboard. But how to optimize the smaller space took a lot more time to figure out. In fact, my early conclusion was there wasn’t space for a sideboard.
Once I settled on a table, I turned my attention to the sideboard. A small cabinet as narrow as 15″ deep could work, as long as it hung on the wall. It then struck me that a dining server could double as a counter and be perfect for morning coffee or a light lunch.
The shape of the server is taken from the dining table and mimics its super-elliptical form. I had a great piece of walnut for the top, and walnut veneer to face the curved, built-up front. But how to wall-mount the server required a bit of engineering.
Fingers of Steel
Years ago while working in a commercial cabinet shop, I learned a neat trick that appears to magically suspend a piece on the wall: Drill into the wall’s wooden studs to install a few steel rods, then sleeve the shelf on to the rods via built-in, open pockets.
I had a length of 3⁄4″-diameter steel rod on hand, and matching 3⁄4″-thick material for the build-up is easy to find. The strength of this method is remarkable. I wouldn’t hesitate to rest my 175 pounds on the server after it’s fixed in place.
The base that supports the top and houses pockets for the steel fingers is similar to a torsion box, a structurally strong, wooden sandwich of lightweight materials. It is made up of a 3⁄4″-thick build-up that surrounds the perimeter (except for the back), fit between two layers of 1⁄2″-thick plywood. Additionally, there are five crosspieces that complete the base.
Before the base can be assembled, the top and bottom plywood pieces are cut to the curved shape. I began with a template for the server top (see “Pattern Routing Curved Shapes” on page 44). For the server base, I made a second template to provide the 7⁄8″ setback, and used a jigsaw to carefully cut on the line before smoothing any irregularities. Before moving on, transfer the centerline locations from the top template to the base template.
With the second template complete, I traced the pattern onto the top of a two-plywood stack. I then used my jigsaw to remove most of the waste, and completed the work using a router with a pattern bit to trim to the template.
I used the bottom piece of plywood to position my build-up and crosspieces. To establish the cutlines on the build-up pieces, I held each in place then penciled on the curved design. At the band saw, I cut these pieces slightly outside the marked lines so I could trim everything flush with a router after the parts were assembled.
When positioning your crosspieces, make sure you don’t put one where a steel finger is planned. That, of course, means you must first determine where on the wall the shelf mounts and where the studs are located. For the pockets, I left plenty of space for the steel fingers.
Blog: Get the story on how and why the server and table came to be, including the fate of the author’s Thos. Moser table.
Blog: Read how the author flattens wide stock using a C-arm drum sander.
In Our Store: Get Thos. Moser’s classic book, “How to Build Shaker Furniture.”
Video: Watch Steve Shanesy turn a 24″-diameter walnut tabletop: Part 1 and Part 2.
From the June 2013 issue #204
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