Hand Carved Walnut End Table

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About: Making (and breaking) projects in my shop every 2 weeks (or so)

This build is another project for our newly renovated nursery. We needed a simple end table to put next to the rocking chair, and my wife had a great idea of including designs by Charley Harper as carvings in the drawer front.

Here is what I used:

Step 1: Mill Lumber

Depending on what wood you are using you might be able to skip this step. In my case, I bought some rough sawn walnut from a local lumber mill. Using my planer/jointer/table saw I cut all the pieces to rough size and then checked for square.

Step 2: Cut the Taper on Legs

I wanted the legs to have a slight taper to them on the inside. I created a simple jig with toggle clamps that allowed me to hold the legs in place and cut the correct angle. My jig didn't have any rails on the bottom and just referenced off of the fence.

This is pretty much the same design as a jointer jig you can use if you don't have a jointer or your boards don't fit it's cutting size.

Step 3: Cut Twin Tenons on Wall Pieces

For the walls of the end table, I used twin mortise and tenons to attach everything. I first scribed a line roughly 3/4 in from each end and then cut away the tenon on my crosscut sled. A good rule of thumb is for your tenon to be 1/3 of the total thickness.

So that my mortises wouldn't be too long in the legs, I wanted to make double tenons. I used a cheap dovetail and coping saw the remove the waste in the middle and a chisel to clean up the sides and surface.

Step 4: Drill Mortises on the Legs

The mortises were cut out with a combination of drill press and chisel. I used a 1/2 in drill bit that matched the 1/2 in chisel I later used to square up the edges of the mortise.

Step 5: Cut a Dovetail in the Top Rail

The end table has a solid wall on all three sides, and then on the front it has a top and bottom rail. For the top rail, I wanted to make a sliding dovetail to help lock everything in place.

I used a dovetail saw and chisel to cut away the waste after marking everything out.

Step 6: Cut Dovetail Slot in Front Legs

On the top of the right and left legs, I cut out a dovetail using a chisel. My first attempt at this wasn't as tight as I wanted, but since the table top would cover it I figured I didn't need to recut everything ;)

Step 7: Cut Twin Tenons on Bottom Rail

For the bottom front rail, I went with a double mortise/tenon. If I did this again, I would only do a single mortise/tenon. Using the same general method of scribing all my lines and cutting away the waste, I wound up cutting one of the tenons entirely off.

I tried to glue this tenon back on but it snapped off again during the base assembly, and I wound up having to fill the hole in the leg that it left.

And speaking of gluing everything together...

Step 8: Glue Up Base Assembly!

I did a quick dry assembly and moved on to the glue up. I should have done this glue up in stages, attaching two legs to one panel and then attaching the two assemblies.

I got excited pretty late at night and tried to get everything together at once. It wound up being slightly out of square, and I later had to custom fit the drawer front and sides so that it would slide in and out smoothly.

Step 9: Mill Lumber for Table Top

I used the same milling process for the three panels for the table top. I played around with the grain direction to figure out the overall look before gluing the boards together.

Step 10: Glue Up Table Top

I didn't use dowels to align the panels since the top was relatively small. When doing a top glue up make sure and use a caul (a board you clamp across the top) to keep the top from bowing up (or down) as you apply clamping pressure.

Step 11: Fill Cracks and Checks on the Table Top

I had some cracks and voids in the table top. I used Starbonds Medium Thick Black CA Glue to fill the surface. They provide an activator so I could remove the excess with a block plane and palm sander a few minutes after I started.

Step 12: Cut Half Blind Dovetails for Drawer Front and Sides

For the door assembly, I wanted to give half blind dovetails a shot. This was my first attempt, and I don't get deep into the details here, but I did put together another video that outlined the process.

Step 13: Create Drawer Bottom Panel

I'm using a thin panel of maple for the drawer bottom. I used a similar process at the tabletop to mill/cut/glue it to size. On the top and bottom edges, I planed a slight taper to make it easier to slide and out.

Step 14: Cut Slots for Drawer Bottom

Using a dado stack on the table saw I cut a groove on the drawer front and sides for the bottom panel to slide.

Step 15: Cut Rabbits for Drawer Back

I created rabbits on the back of the drawer by using a crosscut sled and later cleaning up with a chisel. The back is also cut shorter in height than the front and sides. After assembly, this is to allow the bottom panel to slide and out. If the drawer bottom gets banged up, it will be straightforward to replace.

Step 16: Assemble and Glue Drawer

I assembled the drawer and glued everything together. I made sure to check for square along the way...unlike the base assembly ;)

Step 17: Attach Drawer Rails

The drawer rides along a top and bottom track. Since I wasn't using drawer slides, I needed to use the placement of the track to adjust the gap between the drawer front and frame (some people call it the reveal). A gap is created by gluing the bottom track slightly higher than the drawer front.

I also used a block plane to adjust the drawer front slightly to match the imperfections of the base assembly since it wasn't completely square.

Step 18: Adhere Design Template to Drawer Front

Our nursery has a lot of linens and stuffed animals that were made using the designs by Charley Harper. I wanted to have that same design on the drawer front. Initially, I was going to use my CNC to cut that design out, but I glued everything together before carving. As a result, I couldn't fit the drawer front underneath the CNC, so I wound up cutting this out by hand.

I took a picture of the sheets in the crib (which had the design we wanted to use) and cleaned it up in Photoshop. Then I printed it out and used spray adhesive to attach it the drawer front.

Step 19: Carve Drawer Front Design

Using a 6mm V chisel, I slowly followed all the lines on the paper and carved the design into the front. This process turned out to be pretty fun and was a lot quieter than running my CNC and dust collector.

To remove the paper design I used mineral spirits. The mineral spirits not only wet the paper but also helped to remove the adhesive underneath.

Step 20: Apply Finish

Everything was sanded up to 220 grit and finished with General's Arm-R-Seal. This has become my go-to finish, and I love the smooth surface you can get with it after 3-4 coats.

Step 21: Drill Hole for Knob

After applying masking tape to the front and back of the drawer, I found the center by drawing a straight line from each edge diagonally. Then a hole was drilled, and the knob was attached with a washer and nut from the back.

Step 22: Cut Slots for Table Top Fastners

I attached the end table top with metal fasteners. I should have cut out the grooves for this before the base glue up, but I was able to fit my router on the inside for the cut.

Step 23: Done!

And that's it! This end table has been a great addition to our nursery, and it's always fun to see my daughter run her hands across the carved drawer front.

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    15 Discussions

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    tlbambach

    4 months ago on Step 1

    Hey there! I am a HUGE charley harper fan, and I am in the market for a side table for my living room. I was wondering- would you ever make something similar and sell it? And if so, around what do you think you would charge?

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    Gadisha

    5 months ago

    I love the carvings!
    At first, when i saw the picture, I thought that the tabletop had a semi transparant lightblue color which I really liked because it reminder me of the sky.
    But in the Instructable I don' t see anything about this blue color, is it just the way that the Light reflects of the tabletop that makes it appears blue or was the color added later?

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    governordan

    5 months ago

    Yes, yes, and yes. I like the wood choice, the simple design, and especially the front door flourish! Why don't more woodworkers follow in the footsteps of the old gaurd and include a bit of carving to their work? A standout job!

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    smartrem

    5 months ago

    Beautiful job!

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    seamster

    5 months ago

    The table is beautifully done! Thank you for sharing such a great instructable - loads of great tips and ideas. Excellent work all around : )

    1 reply
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    Kink Jarfold

    5 months ago on Step 23

    Superb work on both the dovetails and the carving. Something to really be proud of. Excellent job. --Kink--

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    1 reply