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A simple, sturdy Side Table

by Lorenz Prem
published on April 16 2009 8:54 pm

This side table is elegant, yet strong. The woodworking techniques required to assemble this table are within the reach of the beginning woodworker.

The Legs

The four legs are joined by two bands of rails, which are connected to the legs using mortise and tenon joinery. The top is a glueup of thinner stock. It is held in place using table top clips.

The woodworking part of the operation begins with cutting the leg blanks to length. While the blanks are still square, draw all layout lines using a sharp knife or pencil. To save time line the blanks up next to each other and them mark all at once.

The mortises are best cut with a dedicated mortiser. Both mortises meet at a 90 degree angle. They need to be cut to precise depth for the two rails not hit each other. The inside corner of the mortise wall will only be 1/2 thick. While this is strong enough for normal operation, forcing an oversize tendon into the mortise can split the wood. Make sure the mortise and tendon are both the correct size.

The design calls for a stopped chamfer on all legs. This is done at the router table or shaper. Carefully mark the length of the cut. Using a fence perform a stopped plunge cut. If the router bit cuts too aggressively, it will catch the work piece and launch it off the table. To avoid this perform multiple passed creeping up to the final cutting depth.

The Rails

The rails have identical tendons at each end, and a groove for the table clips. The tenons can be cut a number of ways. I prefer to use my table saw and a tenoning jig. The groove for the clips is cut on the table saw. The kerf of the saw blade is usually thick enough.

The Tabletop

The tabletop is a glueup of smaller stock. Take care to clamp the material properly. There should be even pressure on all points. Otherwise the panel may warp. Sand it smooth and flatten it using a sander or a sharp plane. Cut it to size and add the edge profile with a handheld router.


Before assembling the parts sand them with progressive grits of sandpaper all the way down to 220. This is much harder to do when the table is assembled. When you are done, add glue and assemble the table. While the table is still clamped place it on a flat surface such as your table saw. This will level all 4 legs and create a true table surface.

Once the clamps come off connect the table top to the legs using 8 tabletop clips.


The lower cross connections between the legs are not necessary for structural strength. They can be thinner than in the drawings, or can be omitted entirely.

The chamfer on the legs can replaced with other types of decorations. Some people like the look of bare, square legs.

The large sides of the rails are a good area to display cravings or paintings.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."