Blacker House Serving Table – Construction

I came across an image of this table on the web a while back, and I knew it had to go on my list of projects.  I blogged in the past about going through the process to model it in CAD, and I think I got pretty close.  I made one change intentionally, adding the leg indent that was found on other pieces in the Blacker house.

Blacker House Serving Table

Blacker House Serving Table

There will be several challenges in building this table, and I’ve already tripped over the first one.

I started by milling six legs out of 8/4 full-sawn Sapele.  Rough cut, this is about 2.125″ thick, I machined it down to slightly over the 1.875″ I called out in my model so I had stock for smoothing.  I had really bad tear out with this stock, so I’ll probably have to scrape and then sand through several grits to get this smooth.  On the other hand, all of the grain reversals should make it pretty.

Rough Stock

Rough Stock

I rough cut the stock into six 2.125″ square blanks, slightly overlong, and mocked them up with a bit of scrap to simulate the proportions of the table.  It’s too early to have a clear picture from the mock up, but al least it looks reasonable so far.

Everything has to start somewhere...

Everything has to start somewhere…

Then I milled everything to size and started laying out the ebony plug locations, and mortises.  I mentioned that there are several likely problem spots, the first is the mortises.  The layout is fairly complex, there is a wide stub tenon, and two full tenons on each skirt end.  The tenons on the sides bypass the tenons on the front and back, and there is a 1/2″ of solid material in the leg between the two adjacent mortises for strength.  That is, none of the mortices holes intersect.

I went over my CAD model, and laid out the mortises carefully, both the shallow mortise for the stub, the deeper sections for the full tenons and the mortises for the stretchers.  Then I immediately proceeded to cut one of the mortises in the wrong place.  Crud.  That sort of thing really takes the wind out of my sails.  I guess this is why I cut six legs.  I also put a ding in one of the other legs, but I think I can repair it, it should be all but invisible.  Greg Merritt has been using a Japanese ink pot to mark in where the waste is, that seems like an awfully good ides right now…

Dimensioned legs, starting to mortise for joinery and ebony pegs.

Dimensioned legs, starting to mortise for joinery and ebony pegs.  The blue tape is something new, to help me keep my orientation.

I’ll add a couple pictures of the first completed mortise, I think you’ll see what I mean about the layout in the pictures.  If the layout anywhere on the four legs is wrong the table won’t go together.

Mortise for the front and back skirts

Mortise for the  left and right side skirts


Mortise for the front and back skirts

Once I make it past the mortises I’ll rough in the skirts.  The most scary part of the project is the silver and abalone inlay in the legs and top.  I won’t do that until late in the project, and if it goes badly it will be kind of a problem.  I’ll do a practice run on my scrap leg as a confidence builder.  One step at a time I guess.

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4 thoughts on “Blacker House Serving Table – Construction

  1. See…my methods don’t seam so crazy now. Do they? LOL A brush tipped marker works great if all you want to do is mark the waste.

    I hate that you had the error but I’m glad to see that you are building this table. I think its going to be something really special with the addition of the inlay work.


  2. I’m amazed how you blitz through projects. I’ve been using a fat, dark pencil and marking waste furiously. It’s working for me. BTW – picked up craigslist rough sawn oak for Roubo build. I’ve prepped 2 boards by hand (necessity)… I’m wishing I’d paid up for S4S material. Ok though, my hand plane skills should rapidly advance.

  3. Paul K. Murphy

    How do you plan to do the inlay Joe? I’ll be interested to see that. I’ll pick your brain sometime soon.

    • That’s the scary bit. I’ll cut out the leaves with fret saw and trace around them, then excavate the cavity with a tiny router bit and a knife. The stems will be a single routed groove that will get silver wire pressed in. I usually finish sapele with a water based dye, and I’m concerned about how that will work around the inlay. First I have to get the construction done, then I’ll start adding in the details.

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