Occasional Table Woodworking Plan

Occasional Table Woodworking Plan

No matter how fashions change, a low, neat table always makes a useful addition to the living space, and this one is a classic of its kind. With its well-proportioned, delicate frame supporting the bold, oval top, it combines clean, contemporary looks with all the best in traditional woodworking. White ash was used to make this example, and it was clear finished to bring out the honey color of the wood.

Occasional Table Woodworking Plan


• 1..6m (63 in) of 205 x 25mm(8×1 in) hardwood or tile top
• 1.25m (48 in) of 38 x 38mm (1.5×1.5 in) hardwood for the legs
• 1.4m (55 in) of 50 x 19mm (2 x 0.75 in) hardwood for the top rails
• 1.4m (55 in) of 25 x 12mm (1 x 0.5 in) hardwood for the lower rails
• 6mm (0.25 in) MDF (medium-density fiberboard) for the template
• Wood glue
• Biscuits for jointing
• 38mm (1.5 in) brass wood screws
• Panel pins (brads)


The frame for this table provides a good exercise in classic carpentry, with fine detail to the tenon joints and a slight taper to the legs to add visual balance. The shape of the top was chosen, in Part. to make the best of the attractive wood grain. Setting out the oval is simple with a neat geometrical device – a loop of string and two-panel pins (brads).



1. The size of the top determines the proportions of the frame below, so start by setting out an oval shape to suit your pieces of wood. Cut a template panel so that it is slightly larger than the overall size of the top, and insert two-panel pins on the centerline as shown. A loop of string placed over the pins will allow a pencil to describe a perfect ellipse. Practise. with the length of the string until you achieve a profile that looks right.

2. Cut two top boards to a suitable length, plane their edges square and insert biscuits in the edges prior to gluing them together. Position the biscuits in such a way that they will not be exposed when cutting the top to its final shape. Clamp the boards with sash cramps and leave them to set while you make the frame.

3. Set out the mortises for the legs by following the dimensions in the diagram. The taper begins 50mm (2 in) below the top of the leg so that the shoulders of the upper rails can be cut square. Note that the mortise for each lower rail is more of a socket, being the full size of the rail itself; no shoulders are required.


4. Pare the tenons on the upper rails with a wide beveled chisel or shoulder plane. Accuracy is vital for this assembly to ensure that all mating parts make good contact with the adhesive. Even the small shoulders at the sides of the tenons play a part in keeping the frame square and rigid.

5. The tenons intersect inside the mortise at the top of each leg. Cut a mitre on the end of each tenon and check each comer in turn so that there is a snug fit. Mark up the rails and legs in their respective positions before moving on to fashion the tapers on the legs.

6. Scribe guidelines around the foot of each leg with a marking gauge. Use a straightedge to form the outline of the taper on two opposing faces and plane carefully down to the lines. Work from the top of each leg, with the grain, down toward the tapered ends.


7. On the faces you have just planed, mark the same taper profile for the remaining two sides and repeat the operation. Note the wedge in the vice that clamps the tapered leg in position. The tapered ends should be 30mm (1.125 in)square when you have finished.

8. The two short rails are grooved to receive the rebated (rabbeted) blocks that connect the frame to the top. Use a plough (bullnose) plane to form the 9 x 9mm (3/8 x 3/8 in) housing, then fashion two fixing blocks from an offcut (scrap) of 19 x 19mm (3/4 x 3/4 in) hardwood.

9. Assemble the frame, upside-down, on a flat surface to ensure that it is square and level. Glue, cramp and leave to dry while you work on the tabletop. Cut out the oval shape of the template with a jigsaw and smooth the edges. Pin it to the underside of the top, and use a router with a template follower to transfer the shape.

10. Plane the tabletop flat, sand it smooth, and, if desired, rout a profile around the edge. Drill and countersink the small fixing blocks for 38mm (1.5 in) brass wood screws and fix the frame to the top. There is no need to use glue – this type of attachment method allows the solid top to shrink or expand slightly without disturbing the frame assembly.


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