Thorsen House Side Table

A  3/8"mortising chisel makes quick work of the apron mortises on each leg. One of the stretcher mortises is visible on the leg at the bottom of the photo.

A 3/8"mortising chisel makes quick work of the apron mortises on each leg. One of the stretcher mortises is visible on the leg at the bottom of the photo.

I’ve always appreciated the look of furniture designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene. Though often equated with the Arts & Crafts movement at the beginning of the 20th century, their furniture designs reflect an Asian influence that softens the often hard lines of Arts & Crafts furniture. While looking for a piece to build, I was talking with Robert W. Lang, senior editor for Popular Woodworking and author of the just-published “Shop Drawings for Greene & Greene Furniture” (Fox Chapel). He suggested adapting a small side table originally made for the Thorsen House in Berkeley, Calif.

The cutouts on the aprons quickly won me over, but I did make a couple modifications that lightened the look of the table. Rather than a full-width shelf captured between two straight stretchers, I opted to make the stretcher with a top-and-bottom cloudlift design and make the shelf only half the width of the original. I also added some 1/16″ quirk details to the corners of the legs and the edges of the aprons, stretchers and the shelf. These “rabbets” add a simple shadow line to a very pleasant design.

Start With the Lumber

The cloudlifts are subtle curves, not radii. Make a template (bottom) of the curve you like, then transfer that curve to your aprons and stretchers.

The cloudlifts are subtle curves, not radii. Make a template (bottom) of the curve you like, then transfer that curve to your aprons and stretchers.Selecting your lumber for this table is an important step. Because it’s such a small piece, wild grain will dramatically change the overall appearance. You want to look for mahogany that is as straight grained as possible. This will become even more critical if you’re bookmatching the top piece. And because of the high cost of mahogany, I definitely recommend bookmatching. It allows you to buy 8/4 material and resaw for the top, aprons and stretchers, while still allowing enough thickness to yield the legs and breadboards.Start by selecting the best wood for the top piece. Pay careful attention to the grain orientation as the piece is almost square and it’s easy to get the direction reversed, which will yield a funny-looking top. Resaw the top pieces, then surface and join the two boards, trimming to allow the best grain match possible. Now glue the two (hopefully no more) pieces together to form the top.The tenons are created on the saw by first defining the shoulders both on the thickness (top) and then the width (bottom) of each tenon. I then simply made repeat cuts on the tenon, nibbling away the waste.

While the glue is drying, select the next-best sections of your wood for the aprons and stretchers. Resaw the necessary pieces from your 8/4 material to yield the balance of your pieces. Then surface, plane and saw the stock to final thickness, width and length.

Mortise & Tenon Joinery
The joinery for the table should start at your mortiser. I chose a 3/8″ mortising chisel for all the mortises on this piece. Mark the locations of the mortises on the legs, paying careful attention to the location for the lower stretchers. There are only two stretchers and they will require mortises on only one inside face of each leg. Orient the legs so those faces are on the inside.

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