Introduction: Federal Style Dining Room Table

This is my fist foray into Federal style furniture. What interests me about this particular style is that it still relies heavily on proportions to have a good looking table, but the amount of inlay work sets it apart from Shaker style furniture and makes it a little bit more formal, but not nearly as ostentatious as Chippendale style furniture. This build used black walnut as the primary wood with traditional mortise and tenon joinery for the aprons and legs.The legs have a slight taper on all four sides to make them look less bulky, and are set apart from the rest of the table by the inlay work. By most Federal standards, this table is fairly plain with the absence of cross banding around the border of the table, no bell flowers or paterae inlay on the legs, but a good introduction to making bandings and stringing designs.

Step 1: Making the Cuff Bandings

For the first step of this build, I made the cuff bandings that would go around the table's legs. Because black walnut is the primary wood used for the table, I wanted a banding that would provide a contrast to the dark brown of the walnut and would also be eye catching. Because of this, I selected sycamore as the core of the cuff banding with soft maple as the borders. Sycamore has an interesting interlocked grain pattern that appears as diamonds, and is light enough to remain set apart from the walnut. The maple borders serve to strengthen the banding and to draw the eye to the cuff banding.

Installation of the bandings was done by measuring the angle of the taper down near the foot of the leg, and scribing the angle across the leg to get a banding that appears to be running square across the leg. The grooves were made by chopping most of the waste out, and routing out to final depth.

Step 2: Making the Stringing

The stringing was soft maple that I ripped down to an oversized 1/16" on my bandsaw and fitted by hand using Lie-Nielsen's thicknessing gauge. The grooves for the stringing were cut by hand with a Lee Valley stringing cutter. After fitting the stringing into the grooves and gluing with white PVA, I used a chisel to trim it flush with the leg and followed up with a card scraper to get rid of any chisel marks and glue squeeze out.

Step 3: Gluing Up

After all the joinery was completed, and the stringing and cuff bandings were installed, I glued up the table in two sections. The short aprons were glued up first followed by the long aprons. After all the glue had set, I made corner braces for all four corners using off cuts and scrap wood.

Step 4: Top Glue Up

I made the tabletop by gluing up boards two at a time, flattening them, and then continuing until I had the 46" width that I wanted.

Step 5: Tabletop Banding Installation

Once the top had been flattened completely and everything squared, I used a router with a 1/4" bit to route the outside edge of the banding groove, and made minor adjustments until I got a snug fit on my inside edge. The banding was made in 14" lengths and spliced together with miters. I tried to keep the banding pattern consistent as much as possible between splices. I worked on one table edge at a time until the fit was perfect with tight miters at the corners. Once the banding had been cut and mitered for all table edges, I used hot hide glue to glue in the sections of banding, and also put a layer of hide glue on the top.

Step 6: Filling the Grain

Once the table had been assembled and everything prepped for finishing, I began applying a series of shellac washcoats and using pumice with a French polishing pad to create a filler to fill in the pores.

Step 7: French Polishing

For the last step, I brushed on a 2 pound cut of orange shellac for the table's legs and aprons, and started french polishing the top over the course of several days. French polishing is great for shops that don't have a spray booth or some kind of dust filtration system. My shop has neither, and the quick drying nature of shellac prevents most dust nibs from getting trapped within the finish. After the French polish was complete, I applied two coats of Johnson's paste wax to the top.