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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Folding Card Table Resurrected

Chris Schwarz clued me in to a cool folding card table on his Popular Woodworking blog.  Here is the post in question.  The table appears in John C. Hodges' book English Furniture.

I like the table in question so much that I hit the series of tubes in my computer that lead to Amazon and purchased a copy.  I got the book in my grubby little hands and promptly found the table on page 90 of my edition.  My first thought was, 'dang, Chris has a really good scanner'.  My second thought was 'that's it?'.  I expected to find build plans in the book.  Unfortunately, English Furniture is more a treatise on furniture in time than a how to build reference.  But I am not daunted.

I wrote previously about George Walker and Tim Tolpin's By Hand And Eye.  The book is an introduction to designing stuff; ostensibly furniture, but the principles apply to any structure.  I put what I learned from Walker and Tolpin together with my own experience to come up with a design.  Also, it's just a table.

I guess I have tables on the brain lately.  I just finished building the Civil War Folding table from Woodworker's Journal.  Barely hours after sinking the last fastener I read about a folding card table in volume 3, page 836 of The Practical Woodworker.  The TPW table top pivots on a narrow base to support the bisected top when open; when closed the whole top is rotated to cover a nice side table.  On the heels of the first two tables came the Schwarz post on this table.

I don't have a nice scanner, so here is a photo of my copy of the folding card table:
Folding Card Table From English Furniture

Below here is my theorized design of the table.  Things will probably change when I actually build it.  The next task toward an actual assembled piece is to locate the brass fixtures; leave suggestions in the comments below.  Please.  Pretty please?

The base of the table is a 28" square broken down as follows (letters refer to graphic above):

A.  Fixed panel, 9 10 inches long UPDATE: panel should be 10" long with a one inch overlap with B.
B. and C.  Folding hinge panels 8 inches long
D.  Leg, 29 inches long, 1.5 inch square.  I have not decided on the taper yet, but there will be one.
E.  Fixed panel 25 inches long

Parts A, B, C, and E are 4 1/4" wide and 3/4" thick.  I would prefer a 5/8" depth on the skirt, but the sliding groove prevents it.

The top is not shown in English Furniture, but there is a description:

"The corners of the top, instead of being square, were formed as projecting segments of a circle, and circles in walnut were slightly sunk on the surface as positions for candlesticks.  On all four sides an elliptical sinking was provided for money or counters".

Here is where George and Jim's book helped me out.  The top is generally a 30 inch square.  However, each corner actually projects three fourths of a circle outside the square.  The projecting circle has a five inch diameter.  I arrived at 5 inches because it is an even proportion of the overall top (30 inches).  I originally tried a six inch circle, but after actually cutting one out and laying on a similar table it was obviously overkill.  A five inch circle looks nice and is plenty of room for the base of a small candelabra.  Here is a crude rendering if you can't picture the corner of the table.
Table Corner Mock Up
I don't have any idea how to manufacture the top, yet, but I haven't given it much thought either.

I can imagine sitting in a dark room with nothing but candles on each corner of the table for light.  Beyond the ample opportunity for cheating, the surreal ambiance would make for a pretty intense game.

The folding card table should be a very fun build.  Hopefully my skill level won't ruin what should be a striking piece of furniture.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pictorial Tour Of Civil War Folding Table Build

This one is more self explanatory than anything else.  Without further adieu...

First Cut
Skirt Pieces

Glue Up Of Top
Dovetail Preparation

Completed (Sloppy) Dovetails On Skirt

Trim The Edges After Glue Up

Application Of Skirt

Completed End

First Set Of Legs (Skirt Too Low For Lock)

Second Set Of Legs
Create Notch For Brace

Hinged Legs Applied

Locking Mechanism In Place

Ready For Finishing

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

That'll Do, Pig. That'll Do.

I finished the construction of my Civil War reproduction folding table from the October 2013 issue of Woodworker's Journal .  I'm glad to be done, but like the porcine star in the movie "Babe", I did something notable, but I still feel like a pig.  As stated in a previous blog entry, I made a major league screw up on one of the legs.  I decided to keep the screw up as a reminder to be more careful in the future.

Without further adieu:

Here is the bottom:
The cross brace is made from poplar instead of white oak like most of the table.  I found poplar to be more bendy.

Further commentary is a tad silly if you aren't familiar with the plan to begin with.

The purpose of this post is to ask for finishing suggestions.  Currently I'm thinking Watco oil in 'natural' color with several coats of bleached shellac.  The top will be further refined with rubbed in wax.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor

Sometimes you just have to put your back toward the shop and turn off the lights.

My last forays into the shop did not go well.  In less than 30 minutes of work time I made two major mistakes on the replica Civil War folding table I'm building from the September 2013 issue of Woodworker's Journal.

The first was a measurement error.  I usually measure one piece against another to ensure a good fit and to speed things up.  Since the piece was 'only' a straight leg assembly--two legs joined by a single stretcher.  I ran the tape across the gap between the skirts and then across the leg assembly.  It looked good so I glued the leg assembly.  I clamped it up and called it a night.  The next night in the shop I picked up where I left off.  Well, that 'perfect' leg assembly was off by a 1/8th of an inch and could not fit between the table skirts.  How?  Why?  When?  All are questions yelled at the tide.  The answer is complete simplicity.  One measurement was inside, and the other outside.  Just how much play is in the metal hook tab of a standard tape measure?

The fix was easy, run each leg down the saw to remove a sixteenth from each side.  The square portion at the top of the leg is bigger than the rest of the turning; an obvious benefit of turning things from a uniform blank.  However, both legs were glued to the stretcher.

Sample of legs from a bad experiment
In the course of removing the leg assembly from the table saw, I dropped one end on the powered off, but still spinning blade.  The guard was off because the dado blade was still on the arbor.  A facet of one of the leg squares is gouged pretty deep.

The photo at the left is from the other set of legs I purchased for this project.  As a design choice, I wanted the stretchers to show completely below the skirts on the table.  Unfortunately the locking mechanism won't work at such an extreme angle between the center block and the retention slot cut in the stretcher.  You have to read the plan to fully understand what I'm talking about. The real take away is that I already used all the extra legs for this table.  I can fix the problem, but it will cost me a pretty penny.  I'm going to move forward and complete the table.  The screwed up leg will be a constant reminder to be in the right frame of mind when in the shop.

The ultimate reason for the recent screw ups is mental distraction.  A hospitalized family member and a thorny issue at work have kept the mental hamster wheels turning in directions away from woodworking.  I have resolved to stay away from the powered machines until I'm in the right frame of mind.

A close cousin (brother?) of the table I'm working on is featured on Chris Schwarz's blog on  I posted a comment on their site about how much I liked the table and how the picture gave enough information to actually build one.  I guess I offended somebody's editorial sensibilities because the comment is now gone.  I still like the table.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Promise Fulfilled

I talked about my Powermatic mortiser here.  Using the 701 instead of the pig sticker mortise chisels is a no-brainer on flat and square milled stock.  I accomplished the below mortises in about 25 minutes of actual handle time.  Another 20 minutes were consumed by laying out lines on the stock and adjusting the mortiser.  I'm also including a CD change in the player and a phone call.  The 701 is addicting and has a well deserved reputation for quality.

The Wide Highland Woodworking sourced Narex chisel to the right is perfect for cleaning up the walls of the mortise.  Next up is to mill the tenons on the table saw.

I've documented the build of this small table fairly well.  Unfortunately, since it is based on a copyrighted plan from Woodworker's Journal, I won't be posting a full build account.  I am considering sending a short write up with some photos to the rag in case they want to do any kind of follow up content.

That reminds me.  I promised to post an account of the train table build.  The SD card from the digital camera used to document the build had a royal meltdown, thus losing all the photos.  So, no photos, no point in writing it up.  I do have the hand drawn plans I started the work with; maybe those can be scanned in and for thought.