Weekend Projects – Occasional Side Table

Monday 9 July 2018

One of the items I regularly make for furniture and cabinetmakers are table columns.

These vary in form but they are all normally made to have bracket legs fitted, which creates a classic tripod table. Recently I was commissioned to make a base for a dining table that was one piece and very substantial.

I started considering why occasional tables had tripod feet. Consequently, I have developed a design that could be made using the lathe alone, however, it will require some basic woodworking skills for the timber preparation.

This design should fit onto most home workshop lathes. I have provided an alternative design for those of you who want to make this table to a much larger scale.

Tools used:

32mm spindle roughing gouge

12mm spindle gouge

12mm skewchigouge

12mm flat skew chisel

12mm round skew chisel

6mm parting tool

10mm point tool

10mm square-grind bowl gouge

10mm long-grind bowl gouge

Timber requirements:

English oak (Quercus robur)

Table base: 76 x 305 x 305mm

Table spindle: 540 x 100 x 100mm – this may need to be laminated

Table top: 340 x 340 x 25mm


[s>STEP 1Start by selecting the timber. If needed, laminate several sections together using simple rubbed joints to obtain the dimensions required. Accurate dimensioning prior to assembly is essential. Table tops are rarely made from one piece of timber and will usually be glued d together from narrow boards. This is done as it can be difficult to obtain timber of large enough dimensions, but it also minimises any distortion that may occur as the table is made. When gluing timber, plane the joints first then glue together and leave to dry overnight or as per the manufacturer's instructions



Begin by centring and accurately drilling the base for a screw chuck. Mount on the lathe using a screw chuck, true the base and create a dovetail recess, then start to sand


You can now begin to true the outside of the blank


With the blank reverse-chucked you can mark 25mm from the bottom. This is the end closest to the headstock


Mark an 80mm diameter circle on the top face then, using a long-grind bowl gouge, make a pull cut to remove the waste timber. This is just like roughing down the outside of a bowl blank


Refine the shape and create a bead at the outer edge of the blank


Drill a 60mm hole in the centre which is 55mm deep using a sawtooth bit – make sure the opening is angled slightly towards the hole from the outside. You can now sand



Mount the blank between centres, then make round using a large spindle roughing gouge. If your blank is laminated together then work at a slower speed than when it is not. Turn the 60mm diameter spigots at each end: 25mm long for the top and 50mm long for the bottom – this is how the table will eventually be put together. Use a skew chisel to create a slight undercut, which will help the piece come together whenit is assembled


Create the top details as per the drawing using a parting tool and spindle gouge and refine the cove using a skewchigouge. Now repeat at the bottom, again following instructions on the drawing


With the details turned at the bottom mark 140mm from the bottom of the bead at the base of the spindle – this is the widest point of the spindle. Now create the bottom curve using a spindle gouge then refine using a 10mm round skew chisel


Measure 60mm from the bottom of the top bead and reduce to a diameter of around 50mm using a 6mm parting tool


Now, using a spindle roughing gouge, remove the material that is not required. This will leave you with your desired shape. You can now sand



You can now begin to turn the table cap. Start by mounting an MDF disc onto a faceplate then centre and mount the blank using double-sided tape. Using the tailstock for centring and added security, turn a half bead at the edge, then sand


Next, you need to carefully drill another 60mm hole to the entire depth of the blank. You will hear when the drill breaks through the blank at the back before it hits the backing board


With your blank prepared and sanded flat on both sides mark the centre and scribe a circle using dividers on the back/underside of the table top. This needs to be very slightly larger than the table cap to allow you to centre it accurately


Divide and drill six holes through the table cap then countersink them to allow the screws to sit just below the surface – you can use a drill press for this. Centre and test fit the cap then drill the holes through the cap and into the table top. These MUST NOT be any deeper than 12.5mm in depth. Glue and screw, remove any excess glue then allow to dry


When the glue is dry, mount the table top onto the lathe. You can do this using a set of long-nose jaws that go into the 60mm hole in the table cap. For security, you can then add a MDF faceplate to the tailstock and trap the table top and faceplate between centres. You can carefully turn the outside edge, then you can sand the edge


Now sand the top with the grain. Remember, this is what will be seen the most, so take your time and get it right


Apply a stain to all parts as per the manufacturer's instructions. Application instructions vary depending on which stain is used. To assemble the table, insert the spindle to the base, turn over and then drill a hole through the hole made in the blank that was drilled at the beginning of this project. Remember to countersink this and then with glue applied, insert the screw


Apply glue to the top joint and with the table assembled, make sure all excess glue is removed from the joints before allowing to dry. When fully dry, all that is required is a coat of wax and the table is ready for use