Table Project 6 - Shaping the Top


Hello again, today I will be flatting and showing how to curve the top. I’ll use a few different methods to cut the curved edge, showing how you can use different tools to get the same end results. First I needed to plane the two boards. It’s a large surface to flatten, especially on my small bench. So first I checked the surface to get a rough idea how to approach the face. Using winding sticks and a straight edge, start removing any twist, cupping or high spots on the top. Its much the same as before, just on a larger scale. I clamped the board from side to side with two bench dogs, one in the top and one in the vise, and to provide support on the long end I clamped a small clamp on the bench top (above). Planing this piece went well, I used my low angle jack plane (above right). On a wood like this, I found that starting out with a medium cut to do the bulk of the work, and a light cut near the end, as this helps reduce tear out. I followed the jack up with my jointer, which gave me a nice flat smooth surface (below left). It is critical to keep this one sharp, this way it leaves a nice surface, not one all chewed up. Now I have a near finished surface, I normally would follow up with my soothing plane, but I’m going to save that for the end. I then found my thinest part of the board, and using my marking gauge, I mark a thickness slightly thiner then these part of the board, that keeps the line are visible. After marking the thickness, I planed the back, just as the front was done, To get a smooth surface. 


Once the top is flat it was time to square up the ends and mark the curve. I wanted a straight edge to mark my ends and to aid with marking the curve. One of the halves had some live edge on its side. I measured to find the maximum width on this edge from the glue line. 

Then with this amount, I marked the other side at a few points from the glue line and drew a straight line parallel to the centre line. This gave me a new edge to measure from. I planed down to this edge with my jointer, making it straight and square to the face. Using a large square, both ends were marked to give me maximum length. Now it was time to saw them to length. I used my crosscut saw, and cut right to this line. I always try to cut right to the line, sometime you will screw up, but you’ll get better at sawing and spend less time planing in time. The cut ends were a snap to square up with my block plane. I then used my panel gauge to mark the other long edge (above right). Now I check that the board is square by measuring corners, and then got ready to mark the curve. 


First, I needed to find centre of the board. I used my dividers to walk across the length till I find my spot, then centre is marked with a square and knife. The plans called for a longer length table, so I changed the curvature of the top to more suit my length. I then determined the distance from each edge that the ends of the long edge will be and marked them on the end grain. To mark the curve, A drawing bow was required. They are very simple to make, a thin equal thickness board and some string will get you started. I opted to buy one, Im going on a trip and wanted to save some time and to get the project to a certain point before I leave. I marked centre of the bow with tape, and then adjusted the tension till the ends looked close to the marked points. The bow is a bit shorter then needed, so I extended it with rulers, and keeping centre with the tape and marked line (above). I then traced the curve with a pencil. I Then repeated this on the other side of the board, and on the other edge as well.


Now I will show a few different ways of cutting the curved edge. I frequently use all these methods while woodworking, it helps build and keep skills as well as keeping things interesting. First, I will use a small broad axe to chop down close to the line. I am not the worlds best broad axe user, but I love to use my axes. It is a skill that every time I use, there is noticeable improvement. I also like to use an axe given the opportunity. First, I started out with ladder cuts. These are cross grain cuts given at less then ninety degrees, Though I normally do them at that angle, this hard maple liked a lot lower of an angle (above right). After you use the ladder cuts you cut parallel along the grain to remove the areas you just cut the the ladder cuts. I did the first section in this method, and it works well in softer woods. The dry hard maple was not fun to cut, but it is still a viable method to cut it. 


The next method I decided upon was using my bow saw (right). I built this saw a while back using the kit available here from Gramercy Tools. I used the ten tooth per inch blade. I found this method worked well, and was fairly quick to accomplish. 

The last method is just using a plane ol’ crosscut saw (bottom right). The curve on this table isn’t anything that a hand saw can’t handle. I simply steered the saw as I went along to follow the curve. This went very well and was the fastest method of the three. I sometimes take a little longer try methods to build skills with different tools. This benefits you further down the road and sometimes you may find something you have not realized you enjoy along the way. I used this method for last remaining whole last side. 

Now that all the sides are cut (below), it was time to smooth the edges. I used my block plane. It was easy to plane a simple curve like this with the block plane. 


Now that the edges are cut and square, its time to do a round over on the edges. To mark the round over, I set my marking gauge to the thickness of the top and marked a line on the surface that was rounded over. After all the edges were marked, I determined how I wanted the round over to look. I used my scraper to figure out the desired round over and marked the spots with masking tape (right). This curve was drawn on the edges (below).


 Now to cut the edges. I did ninety-nine precent of this work with a block plane. I keep it quite sharp and ready to go. First, I cut a chamfer to quickly get the bulk of waste removed (left). I kept planing and occasionally took some of the edges down slowly.


After the bulk of the waste was removed, I started removing the corners of the chamfer and rounded it over with my block plane. Any localized areas that needed help  were cleaned up with my spokeshave. I continued to round over the edge till I reached the lines the lines I had marked (left). I did the same process on the other side.

Next it was time to mark the curve on the end grain on the top surface of the top. I once again used the scraper template and marking gauge to lay out the lines. It was tricky marking the curve on the already curved side. I used a square and just kept the pencil straight as I marked the line. If the line doesn’t look right, just try again. I sharpened up my low angle block plane and started in from each side to the middle, cutting a chamfered edge as before, then rounded over (below right). The directions are the same as on the sides, just only let the plane cut half way. A full cut will result in bursting out the end grain, which you don’t want to do. Cutting large amounts of ends grain is tough on the blade, so it needs to be sharpened often. 


 Now all the various curved parts are cut and shaped, That will be the end of this posting. I am leaving for a trip that includes a course at The Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and I will be marrying my love Jessica as well. I will be building a spring pole lathe in the class and will be doing a posting on the experience when I return in a few weeks. Stay tuned in September for the rest of this table, and a posting and section on my Foley Saw Filer that I’ve been cleaning up, as well as other exciting announcements.

© Shane Larson 2017