Install the Hinges
After tapering, sand the legs and aprons. Start with #100-grit sandpaper, move up to #150 grit, then finish with #220 grit. Next, glue up the legs and aprons and clamp. After gluing up the base, turn your attention to the top.
Install the hinges that connect the tabletop to the leaves. Use two on each side, and place them 7-1/4″ inches from the end to allow room for the leaf supports. Lay out the location of the hinges by first placing a 1/16″ spacer (I used pieces of plastic laminate) between the leaf and tabletop. Clamp the pieces together, put the hinges down and trace them with a pencil. Use a router with a straight bit to hog out most of the area. Then use a chisel to define the corners. Install the hinges and make sure they work properly.
A 4″ radius on the outside corners of the leaves on the original table was a nice touch. In order to recreate this, I traced the curve from the original and made a template using a piece of plywood. Cut the shape to size on a band saw and then use the template with a router and straight bit to finish the radius.
Make the Leaf Supports
To keep the leaves upright, assemble two supports for each side. These are basically two pieces of wood finger-jointed together to form a “knuckle” joint hinge. The 1/2″ knuckle joints are made on a table saw using a finger-jointing jig. Round the edges of the “fingers” with a rasp or sandpaper so the joint pivots. Then drill a 1/4″ hole through the fingers and tap a 1/4″ dowel in place. Instant wooden hinges. One note: you’ll have to cut a notch in the two supports so they’ll clear the hinge barrels on the top. Mark the location of the notch when you dry-assemble the table. The angle cuts on the supports form a triangular hole against the apron. Cut a triangular piece of mahogany to fill this space, being careful not to let the filler rub against the supports. For simplicity, you may use brass hinges instead of knuckle joints.
Sanding and Finishing
Remove the hinges from the tabletop and sand the table. Because the top will be the most visible surface, I chose to go up to #220 grit. The bottom requires only #150 grit. In order to simplify finishing, I waited to attach the supports until after finishing. This requires masking off the area where the support will be glued. For the finish, I applied a dark mahogany stain made by United Gilsonite Laboratories (P.O. Box 70, Scranton, Penn. 18501; 800-272-3235; www.ugl.com). The color is called “118 Dark Mahogany,” order number 11811, LR1294. Both the phone number and the web site can refer you to a retailer in your area. After letting the stain cure, I applied four coats of clear lacquer.
Final Construction Details
After the lacquer has dried, attach the supports and the triangle with glue and nails through the inside of the aprons. Place the top on the base and make sure the supports keep the leaves level. Now attach the top. Because of the expansion and contraction of wood, you will need to attach the aprons to the tabletop using tabletop fasteners. These fasteners are available from Rockler and are listed in the Schedule of Materials. The tabletop fasteners are installed by simply screwing the fasteners into place. Because the wood will move more in width than in length over time, be sure to leave more space on the long apron sides for the fasteners.
Overall, I was extremely pleased with the results of my project. I think my great-great-grandfather would be proud to know that I’ve continued the family tradition. PW
John Tate is a former Editorial Intern for Popular Woodworking.