Back & Drawer
This next step can be a little awkward, so if you have a friend handy, give him or her a call. Dry-assemble the stand by laying one side flat so the through-mortises hang over the edge of the table. Place the shelves in their respective dadoes and insert the through-tenons into the mortises. Then place the other side over the tenons and insert the shelves. To hold everything in place, use soft-jawed clamps across the width of the stand placed underneath the through-tenons. This should pull the tenons and the shelves into place. Check the fit and adjust as necessary.
With the stand still dry-assembled, measure for the trapezoidal back, allowing as tight a fit in the back grooves as possible. The bottom of the back will overlay the back edge of the bottom shelf and be tacked in place to the shelf. The top of the back should be flush to the top of the sides.
With the stand still dry-assembled, mark the location of the sides on the top and bottom surfaces of the shelf tenons extending through the sides. Then disassemble the stand and drill out or hand cut through-mortises through each tenon to accept the wedges. Note that the inside edge of the mortise should be 1/8″ or so inside your marks to allow the wedges to draw the stand up tight. The diagram at right shows how the joint works. Cut the wedges a little oversized, reassemble the stand and fit the wedges in place. Make sure you mark the wedges so you’ll be able to reassemble the piece easily.
If you hadn’t noticed, this stand includes a little drawer just below the top. While not of a size to store a great many things, it’s a good place for hiding an extra set of keys. The drawer itself is of simple box construction using tongue-and-groove joinery with a bottom captured in a groove. The angled sides of the stand serve as indexing runners to keep the drawer centered left-to-right. The drawer face is cut to match the shape of the sides and overlaps the top shelf, which serves as a drawer stop. Screw the face to the drawer box from the inside.
Topping Things Off
The top is a simple slab of wood that is attached to the sides by dowels. I carefully drilled dowel locations in the tops of the assembled sides, I then used dowel centers placed in the holes to locate the mating locations on the underside of the top piece. With the top fit, disassemble the stand again and sand all the pieces through 220 grit. As a finish for the piece I first applied a coat of brown mahogany gel stain. When the stain was dry, I applied a coat of clear lacquer, sanded and then applied a coat of warm, brown glaze. After the glaze had dried overnight, I added two more coats of lacquer. Assemble the stand as you did during the dry fit, tapping the wedges in place to hold the stand tightly together. If you plan on ever disassembling the piece, use a couple of screws to attach the back to the lower shelf and to the two center shelves for support. Then slip the top into place over the dowels. If you won’t be disassembling the piece, use brads to attach the back and add some glue to the dowels to secure the top. PW
A Word About Wedges
The wedged through-mortises are the joints that hold the whole stand together. The diagram above gives the details of how they should look when completed. The mortises are chopped through the tenons with a chisel, but to make things a little more complicated, they should be hand cut on a 3-degree angle to follow the angle of the sides. The tusk should be left a little oversized until they can be test fit. In the old days different manufacturers used different styles of wedges. It’s one of the ways collectors can quickly identify a piece. Some made the wedges with a round top. Others used half an octagon. A few even carved the wedges, which gives the piece a more medieval look.
David Thiel is a senior editor at Popular Woodworking.