My brother asked me if I could make him a bedside table so I started to think of designs that were a little bit different. After a few sketches I came up with the idea of tapered legs that finished above the level of the table top with the full outside edge length visible but orientated so only only leg was showing to each face of the table. As the build went on I was thinking of how I was going to incorporate a shelf and came up with the idea of a rope or woven shelf. I looked for materials I already had around the house and found a some old guitar leads that I don't use any more. I had a go at weaving a lead but for a suitably large shelf I'd need a longer lead. In the end I opted for a suspended shelf using the guitar lead which I think came out pretty good.
Spalted beech slab
Step 1: Flattening the Slab - Making a Router Flattening Jig
For the table top I had a slab of spalted beech that has been lying about for a year or two so I decided to use this for the table top as it is full of character and would give the table a bit extra. I first rough cut the timber to just over 400mm x 400mm (16" x 16") on the table saw but this would mean that it wouldn't fit in my thicknesser (planer). I therefore had two options, either cut the slab in two, plane and thickness, and fix back together or make a router jig I could use for flattening. The second option was definitely the way to go so I set about making a jig.
The concept would be to get two pieces of wood, on a flat surface, either side of the slab, where a jig would sit on top of which would enable a router to move form one side to the other which would make the top surface flat in 'columns'. Once a column had been cut move the jig along and cut another column until the whole slab was flat. After the first side was flat the slab would be turned over and the process repeated which would make the whole slab a uniform thickness. Looking at the photos is probably clearer though!
I used a piece of plywood for my flat surface and screwed a couple of lengths of 36mm (1.5") MDF (2*18mm) parallel to each other, which had been cut to the same height. I had to clamp this down to my router table though as the ply was a little warped but the clamping straightened it out. I then made a pair of 'L's' out of some scrap wood which I then fixed together at each end so the internal gap was a hair wider than my router. I then added a couple of blocks under the L's which fit over the ends of the MDF to reduce any unwanted movement.
The jig worked well and I will be using it again for sure.
Step 2: Roughly Fit Table Top and Legs
I started off by cutting an angle of around 5 degrees to each side of the top on the table saw as I thought that would be pleasing to the eye. I then needed to cut some parts out of the top to accommodate the legs, so i started to make the legs so I had some dimensions I could use.
I made the table legs from oak and the dimensions were determined from the size of the planks I had available. I only had one plank that was long enough, which wasn't particularly wide, so the legs taper quite a lot!
I cut the taper on the legs by nailing a piece of timber on the cut marks that was wider than the oak and referenced this against the fence.
Now I had my legs I determined the size of slot I would need to fit the legs in to the table. To cut out the slots i used a router with a template guide, a long router bit and a jig I made from scrap. I made the jig so it would fit against the two sides of the corner so I could use it for all four legs and I knew they would be in the exact same place each time. Once they were all cut I squared off the ends with a chisel.
Now I had the cut-outs in the table top I could then cut the angle to the top of the leg so it ran parallel to the table top. I did this by eye and test fitting the leg in to the slot. I also squared off the back of the leg that would run down through the table top.
Step 3: Leg Finishing
I wanted the legs to be proud of the table top by a few millimeters so I gave the top of the legs a chamfer as I thought it would look pretty nice. I also added a small chamfer with a router all around the leg edges so they didn't have any sharp edges.
I then sanded the legs with 80, 120, 180 and 240 grit with a random orbital sander and added a coat of medium oak wax to darken the wood slightly.
Step 4: Table Top Finishing
There was a crack in the table top, not structurally bad but a crack nonetheless, so I used epoxy resin to fill the visible parts of the crack. Once that was dry I began to fit my legs. I drilled out 10mm diameter holes in the sides of the top up to about half the depth from the outside edge to the edge of the cutout, which I could then plug with some oak dowel to hide the screws. To locate the screws I drilled a pilot hole through the table top and legs, making sure to keep the legs protruding from edges of the top by a few millimeters. I then tested all of the legs to make sure they were all secure and in the correct place.
I then made some tiny adjustments to the top of the legs and sides of the top so all the legs were more consistent with each other.
I then sanded the top with 80, 120, 180 and 240 grit with a random orbital sander but didn't add the dark wax as I did with the legs.
Step 5: Prototyping the Shelf
I knew I wanted to incorporate a guitar lead in to the shelf some how so I built a small mock up of the legs out of MDF to test a couple of things. I originally wanted to make a woven shelf so had a little go on the mock up and thought it looked OK. I drilled a hole in each of the legs and added a countersink to both sides so I could thread the cable through the legs. I tried the woven shelf at first but the lead was far too short and I couldn't think of a neat and strong way to join two cables so I drilled holes at 25mm (1") centres/centers all the way round my mock up and tried suspending that from the legs. I decided that this was the option of this table.
Step 6: Making the Shelf
I looked around my workshop and found a fairly big bit of oak which was perfect for the shelf. It was fairly twisted and uneven so I used the router flattening jig again to flatten this board.
I first cut the board to size and then used a 45 degree router bit to cut a large chamfer to both faces of the shelf. i then marked out holes around the shelf at 25mm (1") centres/centers, drilled them using a drill press with a fence and added a countersink to each hole. I did mark out 9 holes to each edge but only drilled 8 as I needed an even amount for the cable to be the same to each edge.
I then sanded and waxed as before.
Step 7: Fitting It All Together
All that was left was to screw the legs in and add dowels to cover the screw openings. Once the glue was dry I cut with a flush cut saw, planed and sanded to a nice finish. I then coated everything in hardwax oil for a hard wearing finish.
I then strung up my shelf using the guitar cable and fixed the ends of the cable to the underside of the shelf using a couple of staples I cut down to size as the were slightly too long.
Step 8: Complete
It was now all finished and overall I was very pleased with the table and may give me a taste for using guitar cabling in furniture projects!