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Simple Coffee Table

by Lorenz Prem on April 16 2009 9:49 pm
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Simplicity-First comes to mind when looking at the woodworking required to build this table. Four Legs joined by 4 rails support a table top. Things cannot get much simpler. Yet the table looks elegant and understated.

The Legs

Begin by cutting the leg blanks to length. Mark the locations of the mortises and any decorations you are going to add to the legs.

Cut the mortises first. The maximum depth you cut the mortises to before they start intersecting is 13/16". While this depth is good enough, I like to create a stronger joint by letting the two mortises fully meet inside the leg. The tenons which fill this void have to be cut to 45 degrees. When both are inserted into the mortises they will completely fill the opening. This is a very strong joint.

The design calls for a stopped chamfer on the legs. This detail is cut at the router table or shaper. Perform a stopped or plunge cut. Be careful not to remove too much stock at a time. The work piece can bind and be launched off the table. It's safer to do multiple smaller passes.

The Rails

The tenons are cut on the table saw. This can get a bit difficult without a crosscut sledge or large miter gauge. At least two the rails are too long for the tenoning jig. Instead nibbled away the material at the tenon one blade kerf at a time. My miter gauge provided adequate support. Cutting the tenons this way takes time, but it is reliable and save.

Each rail has a slot for table top clips (on Amazon). The saw blad's kerf is wide enough for this cut. A single pass on the tablesaw creates this slot.

The Tabletop

The tabletop is a glueup of larger stock. Cut the stock a little larger than the final dimensions. Spread glue on all mating surfaces and let the assembly rest in clamps over night.

Cut the blank to size and add a profile around the edge using a handheld router.


Assembly is straight forward. Add glue and clamp the table rails into the legs. Square the assembly. Place it on a level surface such as your assembly bench. This will level all four feet.

When the glue is dry add the top. Fasten it to the rails with several tabletop clips.


This project is the starting point for building coffee tables. Use your creativity to add your personal touch. Built from good stock, however, this design is timeless.

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."