Introduction: Nesting Table With V-Carve Inlay
The tops of the two nesting tables fold using butler-tray spring hinges. For storage they slide into a track under the top of the main table.
The main table is 18 ½” x 18 ½” x 24 1/2”. The two nesting tables are 15” x 15” x 23” when extended.
The gingko inlay was made using a Shopbot Desktop CNC machine with a 90 degree “V” bit. All the mortise joinery and the hinge mortises were cut using the CNC machine.
This project requires basic woodworking skills and access to woodworking machines. Woodworking machines have sharp cutting edges and are NOT forgiving. You should be properly trained in the use of these machines. Ensure that you wear safety glasses and hearing protection, use push sticks, hold-downs , clamps and a cutting sled to cut the project parts safely.
On a scale of 1-10, 10 being very difficult, this project is a “8“.
- Approximately 8 board feet of 2” thick rough sawn cherry for the legs of the main table.
- Approximately 8 board feet of 1 ½” thick rough sawn cherry for the legs of the two nesting tables
- Approximately 14 board feet of 1 ¼” thick rough sawn cherry for the top, aprons and stretchers for the main table and the tops of the two nesting tables
- 150 to 220 grit sandpaper and 0000 steel wool.
- 4 @ 3/8” bullet catches
- 8 spring loaded butler tray hinges
Tools & Equipment Utilized:
- CNC machine with 90 degree “V” bit and 1/8” & ¼” up-cut end mill bits
- Table saw with a crosscut sled
- Router table and router bits
- Band saw
- Horizontal mortising machine
- Drill press
- 8” jointer
- Planner and/or drum sander
- Block and jointer planes
- Bar, pipe and toggle clamps
Step 1: Stock Preparation
Select the stock that you will need for all the component parts and cut them to a manageable size for milling.
Select 1” to 1 ¼” thick boards for the top, apron and stretchers s of the main table and for the tops of the two nesting tables.
The legs for the main table require 1 ¾” to 2” thick rough sawn lumber. The legs for the nesting tables require 1 ¼” to 1 ½” thick rough sawn lumber.
Make sure that you cut the boards slightly oversized.
Use a jointer to make one face of each board flat.
Use a planner to make the other face parallel.
Use the jointer to make one edge square to the faces.
Use a table saw to cut the parts to a rough width.
Use a chop saw to cut the parts to a rough length.
Step 2: Stock Preparation: Table Tops
Select the best lumber for the table tops.
For the two folding table tops I selected a highly figured piece of 2” thick lumber. I used the bandsaw and re-sawed the wood in order to make the two tables tops.
For the main table top I selected a piece of lumber that required a bias cut to get the grain to orientate in the right direction. I marked the piece accordingly and then used the bandsaw to cut the piece I wanted rectangular.
I then milled all the pieces to rough size.
The six boards that would comprise the tops of the two nesting tables were oversized so I could mount them on the CNC with screws. This allowed me to cut the hinge mortises, rabbets and the final shapes.
The three boards that were milled for the main table top were glued together.
Step 3: Stock Preparation: Legs
Diagonal grain will provide you with a consistent grain pattern on all four sides of the legs.
You can usually find this grain pattern on the edges of wide pieces of flat sawn wood.
The legs for the main table require 1 ¾” to 2” thick rough sawn lumber. The finished size will be 1 ½” square at the top and taper to 1” at the bottom.
The legs for the nesting tables require 1 ¼” to 1 ½” thick rough sawn lumber. The finished size will be 1 1/8 square at the top and taper to ¾” at the bottom.
Mill the wood accordingly.
Match milled lumber to achieve the best visual impact.
Mark the front and back faces of the legs for each of the three tables.
Step 4: Main Table Apron & Stretchers
The aprons and stretchers for the main table are ¾” thick. The aprons are 4” wide and the stretchers are 1 ½” wide. Both are 13 ½” long.
Mill the stock and cut to length using a table saw cross-cut sled. A stop (arrow) will ensure that all the pieces are the cut to the same length.
The aprons and stretchers are attached to the legs with loose tenons. I used the horizontal router with a 3/8” end mill router bit to cut the mortises in the ends of both the aprons and stretchers.
The aprons have a ½” shoulder at the top and bottom. The stretches have a ¼” shoulder top and bottom.
Step 5: Nesting Table Leg Assemblies
The nesting tables leg assemblies have offset stretchers.
The positioning of the mortises are critical for these leg assemblies to fit together accurately. Notice on the photo of the two sets of legs that the mortises are NOT in the same position relative to the ends of the legs.
The right front leg is attached to the left back leg and the left front leg is attached to the right back leg.
The right front leg assembly fits inside the left front leg assembly.
Step 6: Leg Mortises
The mortises in all the legs were cut on the Shopbot Desktop CNC machine.
I used wedges to hold the legs in place on the CNC sacrificial base.
The mortises for all the table legs were cut before the leg tapers were cut.
The mortises for the aprons and stretchers for the main table are 3/8” wide and ¾” deep. A ¼” up-cut end mill bit is used to cut them.
The mortises on the nesting tables are ¼” wide, ½” long and ½” deep. A 1/8” up-cut end mill bit is used for these mortises.
Vectric’s V-Carve Pro CNC software was used to create the layouts and tool paths for the mortises.
Step 7: Leg Tapers
The legs for the main table are tapered only on the two inside faces. The taper for the main table leg starts at 4” from the top of the legs and tapers to 1” when both tapers are cut.
The legs for the nesting tables are tapered on the three outside faces. The inside faces where the stretchers attach are NOT tapered. The tapers for the nesting tables start 3” from the top of the legs and tapers to ¾” when all three tapers are cut.
Mark the ends of the legs with the appropriate dimensions.
The leg tapers are cut on the table saw using a jig. The jig rides in the table saw miter gauge slot and is aligned with the table saw blade. Toggle hold-downs secure the leg in the jig.
The jig’s fence is adjusted to the angled so the saw blade starts cutting at the top end of the leg at the point the taper starts. The far end of the jig is set for the end of the taper. The edge of the jig is where the saw blade will cut.
Step 8: Main Table Top Hold-Downs
The table top is secured to the aprons by screws. The back and side aprons have two mounting holes spaced 2” from the ends .
The mounting holes for the front apron are placed 1 ½” from the ends. It will eventually be cut in two short pieces. Since the front apron was milled and mortised along with the other aprons, it was also easier to cut the mounting holes in the full length apron.
The mounting holes need to be drilled prior to assembly.
Drill a ½” hole, 1’ deep with a Forstner bit. This will create a flat bottom hole that the screw head will sit.
Drill a 9/64” hole centered in the ½” hole through the apron. The screw holes are oversized to allow for seasonal wood movement in the top.
2 ½” long #10 screws are used to secure the top to the table base.
Step 9: Cutting the Main Table Stretcher Angles
Clamp the back apron to the back legs and tighten. Make sure the joint is tight and square.
The aprons attach to the legs at a 90 degree angle, however, the stretchers attach to the legs at a slightly different angle because of the tapers.
Mark the location of the stretcher mortises on each leg and draw a line. Place a stretcher across the legs on the mortise line you just drew.
In order to determine the exact angle, use a bevel gauge placed at the intersection of the stretcher and the leg.
Position the bevel gauge on the stretcher and move the blade of the bevel gauge flush to the leg. Tighten the bevel gauge in order to set the angle.
Place the bevel gauge on the end of the stretcher and mark the angle.
Set the miter saw to that angle. Use a sacrificial piece of wood underneath the stretcher . This will ensure a clean cut on the underside of the stretcher.
Cut one end of each stretcher. Align the stretcher back onto the back assembly and carefully mark the length of the stretcher. Cut the other end at the same angle. Make sure the direction of the cut is correct. Repeat for the other two stretchers.
Step 10: Main Table Assembly
The main table is glued up in sections.
Use a hand plane to remove all the saw marks left from the tapering process. Ensure that the top square portion, where the apron attach.
Sand the legs, aprons and stretchers. Start with 150 grit sandpaper and finish with 180 grit sandpaper.
A gluing jig helps ensure that the side sub-assembly is square and that the apron and stretchers are consistently placed. Cleats are attached to an MDF base and positioned for the apron and stretchers.
Glue up the sides of the main table. Use small clamps to hold the apron and stretcher in position. Pipe clamps are used to bring the joints together.
Repeat the process for the other leg sub-assembly.
Glue the two leg sub-assemblies together by attaching the back apron and stretchers. Use the same gluing jig.
Corner braces (arrows) are used to ensure the assembly is square.
Step 11: Nesting Table Stretchers
The nesting table stretchers are ¾” square.
The ends of the stretchers need to be cut at a 7 degree angle to match the leg taper. Use the miter saw set at 7 degrees to cut the stretchers.
The ¼” mortise needs to be 90 degrees to the legs so a 7 degree fixture needs to be constructed to fit the horizontal router.
A ¾” groove in the top of the fixture positions the stretcher. A toggle clamp holds the stretcher in place for mortising. The mortises are ¼” wide and ¾” deep.
A loose tenon is glued into the ends of the stretchers. Leave the tenons a little long. After the glue dries, trim the tenons to fit the mortises in the legs.
The stretchers also have a 9/64” hole drilled in the center for the connecting bolts. Setup the drill press to drill these holes.
The 7 degree angle makes the glue-up more difficult so a gluing jig is required to ensure that the nesting table leg assemblies are glued square and that the joints are clamped tight. 7 degree ramps are made to hold the stretchers at the correct angle. The leg is squared to the jigs fence.
Apply glue in the leg mortises, set the stretchers in the legs and position the leg assembly on the jig. Apply clamps and hold-downs. Ensure that all the joints are tight.
Step 12: CNC V-Carve Inlay
I used a Shopbot Desktop CNC machine to carve the inlay.
The process for this type of carving was developed by Randy Johnson, former editor of American Woodworker magazine . Randy is now working for Shopbot.
I scanned a group of gingko leaves and manipulated them using Vectric’s V-Carve Pro software. I then created the tool paths for both the negative and positive images.
A 90 degree v-bit and a 1/8” up-cut end mill bit was used to carve the inlay. The “V” bit was used first and then the 1/8” end mill to clean out the flat area.
The finished size of the main table top is 18 ½” square but I oversized the top for mounting on the CNC machine.
Step 13: CNC V-Carve Inlay
The positive image of the gingko design was created with slightly different tool path parameters.
The inlay was cut from ½” thick curly maple hardwood. I wanted to take advantage of the figured grain of the wood so I used a transparent film overlay of the gingko leaves to position the inlay.
A 90 degree V-bit and a 1/8” up-cut end mill bit was used to carve the inlay. The V- bit was used first and the 1/8” end mill was used to remove the background.
Step 14: Gluing the V-Carve Inlay
I wanted to create an outline of the leaves and hopefully create a slight bleed into the wood grain to create a subtle shadow.
I used aniline dye to paint the back of the positive image of the gingko leaves.
The aniline dye was alcohol based. I used Titebond III water based glued to secure the inlay.
Since the inlay was placed in the middle of the 18 ½” top (20” prior to trimming) I needed a method of clamping the inlay in order to exert even pressure so I constructed a clamping press.
I spread glue on both boards.
I let the glue dry overnight before removing the excess wood.
Step 15: Leveling the Inlay
Once the inlay was dry, I mounted the top back onto the CNC machine.
Using a ½” straight end mill bit, I removed the excess wood in 1/16” increments until it was slightly above the level of the top.
I then used a low angle block plane to finish leveling the inlay.
The top was sanded with a random orbit sander before the finish was applied.
Step 16: Cutting the Nesting Table Top With CNC Machine
The butler tray hinges are spring loaded and require a multiple level mortise.
The hinge and table top shapes were created using Vectric’s V-Carve Pro software.
The hinge mortises and the nesting table shapes were cut using the Shopbot Desktop CNC machine.
Step 17: Securing the Nesting Tops to the Leg Assemblies
The legs of the nesting table scissor together when folded. The flat head bolts are ¼” x 20 TPI. The bolt for the top screws into a threaded insert in the top’s center panel.
The bolt that secures the bottom stretchers is a two piece male/female bolt.
The hole for the insert was programmed into the V-Carve Pro CNC software with the hinge mortises. The hole is 7/16” wide and ½” deep.
Step 18: Bullet Catches to Position Legs
I inserted bullet catches in order to position the legs at a 90 degree angle to each other.
With the legs attached to the top of each nesting table, spread the legs so they are evenly spaced across the width of the table top and are 90 degrees to each other.
Use a pencil to outline the position of the front legs.
Use a ruler and locate the center of the leg’s position.
Use a 3/8” Forstner bit and drill a hole ½” deep.
Insert the bullet catch.
On the top end of the front legs of each nesting table, center and drill a 9/64” hole ¼” deep to accept the bullet catch.
Step 19: Tracks for Hanging the Nesting Tables
The two nesting tables slide into a track screwed to the bottom of the main table top.
The cleats are made from 7/8” stock and are 1 ½” wide. The center track is rabbeted on both edges. The rabbets are 3/8” wide and ¼” thick.
The two end cleats have a rabbet on the inside edge.
The tracks are screwed to the table with 1 ¼” screws. The two front holes in the cleat are slightly enlarged to account for seasonal wood movement.