I decided that I was going to build a coffee table as I have been doing a bit of woodwork for the past year, mainly jewelry boxes and some basic shelves, and thought this would be a good project to further my skills. I had originally envisaged the table being made from waney edge pippy oak, as I had made a couple of shelves out of this wood, but having looked on the internet to price my project up I noticed a page called selected woods.....there I saw some lovely yew boards which would be great to make an unusual piece out of. I had not come across yew before so looked around on the internet for ideas for my coffee table as the boards came with waney (natural) edges and had quite a few splits and cracks. It looked like the best way to deal with the cracks would be to fill the bigger ones with resin or something similar just to stabalise the large top. I decided to make the four legs out of one board and use the other board for two bottom shelves. To join the legs to the table top I will be using mortise and tenon joints and attach the bottom shelves to the legs with pegged through tenons. Hopefully this will give enough lateral stability to resist racking forces and create a not very wobbly table.

For the table top I used a 940mm x 400mm x 50mm single piece of yew
For the legs I used a single 200mm x 1680mm x 27mm board cut into four
For the lower shelves I used a single 150mm x 2080mm x 25mm board cut in to two.
Wood glue
Epoxy resin to fill the cracks

Table saw
Router + straight bit
Safety glass
Ear defenders

Step 1: Legs

My first step was to deal with the legs. I took my board I selected for the legs and cut it in to four equal sections on the table saw. As the wood is waney edged you have no straight edge to reference to as you normally would with regular timber boards. I therefore marked the cut positions on the board beforehand and orientated it in line with the saw blade. I do have a crosscut sled with integral clamp slots so this made this step pretty easy and safe too.

The next step was to cut the mortises in to the underside of the table top board with a hand held router. As the board was not square and the ends not parallel I marked the first set of leg mortises parallel to one end and the other set parallel to the first ones, this would at least make all the legs square and parallel which would help with bottom shelves later on.

I had originally intended to cut the mortises using a chisel but after cutting part of one there was just too much movement due to the cracks throughout the board which created quite a bit of breakout, so i moved to using the router instead. This did mean that the width of the mortises was set to the width of the chisel so I would have to route in two passes as my chisel was wider than my straight router bit. I used a clamp as a straight edge for my router to follow and marked the position of the base for the start and end points of each slot. For each slot I only cut around 3-5mm depth at a time so to not stress the router bit, each slot was finished to around 25mm deep, I then cut the ends square with a mortise chisel.

Next step was to cut the tenons to the top of the legs. I used my router now mounted in to a table with a fence set to cut the very end of the board to set the bit height correctly. To do this I set the height to less than it needed to be and cut both sides of the board, tested the final width in the mortise and gradually increased the height until the tenon gave a tight fit. Once the height was set it was just a case of cutting the rest of the tenon by adjusting the fence to the correct position to give me a 25mm deep tenon.

As I was using a through mortise and tenon for the shelves I cut a slot 100mm by 25mm around 300mm up from the bottom of the legs. I used the same router and chisel technique as I did for table top but went all the way through. Just make sure you have a waste piece underneath, I used a thin bit of ply, maybe too thin as I did go a little deep for one slot and routed a bit of my workbench!
<p>Ha ha.. the title sounds very ethnic...</p><p>Hey Gyuiseppe!! Whar are yu doing dere? Building a yew coffee table?</p><p>Nah...eetsa coffee table for a surea....but I'm a make a for my mama.</p>
<p>Do you realize you just messed up a great piece of wood to make an ancient longbow?! I should have extracted the bow-piece and reduced the table size ;)</p><p>But yeah, me is me. Nice work, by the way!</p>
I've seen tables sell for near $1K that weren't that nice. Great job!
<p>great job! i love the natural wood look to it :)</p>
<p>awesome work!</p>
<p>Very nice! </p><p>Regarding finish, I really like shellac. It supposedly doesn't provide as much protection as polyurethane though, but I think it makes the grain pop a little more if you do a few layers, sanding in between, plus a coat of wax on top of that.</p><p>I like your cross cut sled too. I've been planning to make one, and the slots for hold-downs is something I had never seen on a sled. That's a great idea!</p>
<p>Hi</p><p>Thanks for your comments I have looked a little in to shellac but still not sure, I don't think I'll go for PU as I've read that it can look a little 'fake' or like varnish which I don't really want.</p><p>A cross cut sled is something you really should make I use mine nearly all the time and the hold-down slots are extra useful and super safe! They are just not too good for dust extraction so I need to add some kind of hood that runs along the line of the blade.</p>

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Bio: I am a software engineer with a background in bridge engineering. After working in a design office and on site for 6 years I saw ... More »
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