Introduction: Parsons Style Coffee Table

About: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check out my site @

Modern, clean lines and solid hardwood is what makes up this Parsons style coffee table. It features a pretty simple design, and I'm using mortise and tenon joinery for the construction. I wanted to create a real heirloom piece that I could keep in my home for years to come! Make sure to watch the video where I go over all the parts of the build.

Step 1: Rough Sawn Lumber

For the wood I"m using some rough sawn white oak boards. I don't have any fancy milling equipment, no joiner, not a big planer, so the majority of the work will be done by hand, using some hand planes.

I began with cutting this big and heavy piece into more manageable sections with the circular saw, and I had to finish the cut with the jig saw because the wood was just a little thick. Then I could cut further separate these with the cross cut sled, and I'm going to be working and milling up each of these three sections - so the piece for the legs, the rails and the top.

Step 2: Flattening

Once I had smaller sections to work with, the first goal was to flattening the pieces. Obviously these pieces are quite out of level, just like all rough sawn wood is when you first start working with it. I'm using a jointing plane to start with, then a smoothing plane for other sections and my goal is to flatten the piece enough, where there is no rocking at all, and it's nice and flat so that I can cut it up into smaller pieces on the table saw.

In addition to a flat board, I also need a flat side, so I can run it against the fence.

Step 3: Cutting It Up

Once the boards were flattened I cut them into sections using the table saw first.

For this build, I need 3x3 inch legs, and rails, as well as a top (22x22 inches).

Step 4: Gluing the Legs

Because the wood was about 2 1/4 inches, and I wanted 3x3 inch legs, I had to do a glue up to accomplish the right size. So after cutting up the legs, I glued them up, and then trimmed to size on the table saw, and then sanded each leg.

Step 5: Railings & Top Piece

Once the legs were done, I repeated the first milling steps with two more pieces of oak for the railings and the top. This time I also used a power planer to remove more material, once I had gotten the board to a flat side. To achieve the table top, I cut two pieces together and glued together.

Step 6: Tenons

To create the tenons of the rails I used a dado stack to get them nice and crisp. I also chamfered the ends of the tenons with a block plane to make sure the edges weren't too sharp.

Step 7: Squaring Up the Top

Once the top was glued up, I marked out the final size (22 inches). I had one good side so I cut a sliver first off with the table saw. Then I cut the perpendicular side with a circular saw. At this point I could do the final cut with the table saw. Once it was cut to size, I did a lot of sanding to get it nice and smooth.

Step 8: Mortises

To create the mortises, I built a jig for each leg to fit into that set the borders for where the router could cut. When using the router, I carved it out in stages, a little bit at a time, and just made sure I removed the dust periodically, so it didn't get in the way of the routing.

I used an eight inch spiral up cut bit, and when doing it this way, you're left with roundish mortises on the corner. First I was going to square them all up using a chisel, but then I figured I could simply round the tenons on the edges a little bit instead, which was much faster, plus that way the tenons fit in any mortise, and nothing is too precise . I'm also using a shoulder plane here to thin out the tenon just a touch, to make it fit perfectly. And this kind of plane is really nice to have when doing this type of fitting, because you want a tight fit, but not a super tight fit, you know just right, and it took me a couple of back and forths to get them perfect.

Step 9: Glue Up

And then finally, gluing the legs and the rails together, and this is the most fun moment I think, because all the work you've done, everything is coming together. Once I had everything together I added some clamps to let it set up while drying.

Step 10: Cutting the Corners

So for this design, the legs stick up through the top and becomes part of the top. In order to do this, I needed to create some holes for the legs inside the top. I didn't quite trust myself when it came to cutting the corners with the jigsaw so I set up a stop block, because I figured just one 16th of an inch too much, and it won't look that great.

Step 11: Securing the Top

I didn't want to glue the top down, but I figured if I added some screws from underneath the rails, then it would account for any expansion and contraction over time.

Step 12: Finishing

And for a finish I wanted to use something oil based, since this table will get a lot of use, a lot of coffee cups, tea cups, bowls of ice cream, lots of things, so I wanted something pretty durable, and rich feeling.

Step 13: Conclusion - Watch the Video!

For a much better perspective, make sure to check out the video where I go over each step of the build, and show the final result!