Walnut Coffee Table

Walnut Coffee Table

Simple joinery allows time to add cool design details.

By Tim Johnson

I like traditional joinery,
and I enjoy working with hand
tools. But I also like completing a
project without having it drag on
because the joinery is labor intensive.
This table has all the earmarks
of a traditional heirloom: beautiful
hardwood, classic proportions and
solid construction. And you can
build it in a weekend.

What's the secret? Instead of using
traditional joinery to build it, I used
pocket screws, a contemporary jointmaking
method. I discovered pocket
screw joinery years ago, while designing
a coffee table project that featured
haunched mortise-and-tenon
joints,web frame structure, and dovetailed
drawers. To work out the
design details, I built a prototype
using pocket screws.The prototype
went together amazingly fast, and it
was solid as a rock.The table you see
here descends directly from that discovery.

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Pocket screw joinery is definitely
blue collar: It won't win any aesthetic
awards, but it does a good job
with minimal fuss. If you can fit a
butt joint, you can master this
method.Of course, butt joints are
notoriously weak, so reinforcing
them is nothing new—dowels,
splines, biscuits and loose tenons
serve the same purpose.To give
pocket hole joinery a go, you'll need
a pocket screw jig, a specialized drill
bit and pocket screws.

Use your best-looking boards for the top. You can save money by using #1 Common
lumber for this project, because all of the pieces are relatively short and narrow.

Click any image to see a larger version.

Make the drawer and its frame from a single
oversize board. First, rip the board into
three pieces.Next, crosscut the middle
piece to create the drawer front. Locate the
drawer ends by marking from a centerline.

Glue the board back together, using the
unglued drawer front as a spacer. Bevel-rip
this assembly to width along with the other
aprons. Measure from the centerline to
locate the ends for cutting to length..

Saw tapers on two adjacent sides of each
leg. Remove the saw marks by sanding,
jointing or hand planing.

Tilt the tablesaw blade to match the
taper. All the beveled cuts for this project
are made at this angle.

Bevel both edges when you rip the
aprons to width. Bevel one edge with the
board face side down and the other edge
with the board face side up, so both bevels
slope in the same direction.

Assemble the legs and aprons with pocket
screw joinery. A pocket screw jig positions
the workpiece and guides the drill bit,
which automatically drills a counterbored
shank hole.

Fasten the aprons so they follow the slope
of the tapered legs.Use spacers to create
the 1/8" setback. Make sure the top edges
are flush. Reinforce the joints with glue.

Install the bottom rail support with glue
and pocket screws. To fit the sloping rails,
this piece is beveled on the front edge and
both ends. Allow the glue to tack-set before
driving the screws.

Install the drawer supports with glue
and pocket screws. A special clamp holds
the joint flush while you install the screws.
Follow the same procedures to install the
top rail support and the drawer kickers.

Cut the front end of the drawer sides at an
angle, so the drawer front will slope to
match the apron, which slopes to match the
tapered leg.

Fasten the top after centering the base
and clamping it in position.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October/November 2009, issue #144.

October/November, Issue #144

Purchase this back issue.