Author Topic: A coffee table for my nephew  (Read 4417 times)

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Offline derekcohen

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A coffee table for my nephew
« on: December 17, 2018, 10:56 AM »
My nephew is getting married in February, and I offered to make a piece of furniture as a gift. The offer was open-ended, and the couple decided they wanted a coffee table. Their taste runs to mid century Danish, and so I sent them a bunch of example from the Internet to get the ball rolling. They fell in love with the following design ...



There shall be a few interesting challenges along the way since I am using solid wood and, I imagine, the "model" is built of veneered ply.

The joinery will be rounded corners shaped from through dovetails, mitred at each side. The challenge is to have accurately cut and fitted dovetails in hard Jarrah (no compression) as the outside will be removed in the rounding process.

The other challenge is the splayed and angled legs which, for added strength, will be fitted to a traditional rail design, that is, the legs and stretchers will be mortice-and-tenon joinery. The legs will splay from the corners.

Lastly, the drawer will extend the full width, and be opened from either end. No handles.

Beginning the prep by resawing some really nice Fiddleback Jarrah, which will be the top and sides. The length of the coffee table is 1000mm ...



I was watching the boards come out of the blade, keeping an eye on the kerf for movement. This even kerf told me that the boards were going to be well-mannered and stable ...



Here's an example of the figure. These boards will be bookmatched to create a width of 500mm ...



The lower side of the coffee table will be made of more "common" narrower Jarrah boards (still extremely nice!). I picked up a length 4m long, and then joined three together to get the width ...





The boards were stickered for a week ..



Some may have liked to have accentuated the centre figure this way when book-matching ...



Too busy for my liking.

I preferred this ...



And this is where I left the boards at the end of last weekend ...



Regards from Perth

Derek

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Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2018, 10:57 AM »
The immediate challenge is to create the curved ends. The plan is to make dovetailed corners, round them on the outside and add a filler/filet to the inside corner, which will be hollowed to compliment the outer radius.

Complicating this is the need to mitre the insides of the dovetailed ends, since this will permit the shape to flow better than butt ends. Interesting ... as I have never made mitred dovetails to date. This is going to be a steep but quick learning curve!

I spent some time researching mitred dovetails. There is not much around. The only book I could find with directions was Ian Kirby's "The Complete Dovetail". I like Ian's work, but the writing here were not his best. There is a short video by Chris Schwarz (Google for it), which was helpful. There was also an article on the UKWorkshop forum (by Custard), which is a Pins-first method (I tend to saw Tails-first). There were one or two other articles to be found, of less assistance to someone like yours truly, who becomes easily spatially challenged. In the end I worked it out but, reflecting on the method that evolved, it does not look like those who came before. Perhaps it is a different way of doing it? I really do not know. Let me have your thoughts here. Anyway, I plan to show it for the education of those who want to learn a method.

Beginning with a tail board that has been marked and sawn (to speed up the description). Note that there is no shoulder here (which is common on butt ended dovetails). The wood is Merbau, which is hard, hard, hard. 20mm thick, as per the panels on the table ...



The aim is to saw all the tails. Forget about the mitre for now (... this is a departure from the methods I observed).

To make the removal of waste easiest, undercut the baselines (shallow cuts to avoid losing vertical) ...



Now fretsaw away the waste. Get as close to the baseline as you dare! My cuts are about 1mm ...



This enables the minimum of waste removal. You can place the chisel immediately against the chisel wall and pare/chop down halfway ...



With the waste removed, mark the mitre cuts at the sides - but do not cut them yet (this is another departure) ...





Time now to transfer the marks to the pin board.

First, here is an alternative to the "#140 trick" (the #140 trick involves creating a shallow rebate to securely connect the tail board to the pin board when transferring marks. This was popularised by Rob Cosman and Chris Schwarz, amongst others). My alternative is three layers of blue tape, which is peeled away afterwards.

Lay three layers of blue tape over the baseline. No need to be careful ...



Now use the cutting gauge (which marked the tails) to slice away the tape, leaving an edge butting against the baseline ...



This is the fence. Here it is seen with the pin board, which has a layer of blue tape on the end ...



The "fence" makes it easy to align the boards, while the blue tape on the pin board also acts as a non-slip ..



When you trace the sockets (with a knife), the outlines look like this (great for old eyes!) ...



Drop all the vertical lines, with the exception of the line on the outside at each side ...



Remove the waste in the same way as done on the tail board (undercut the baseline, fretsaw and chisel) ...



Mark out the mitre lines ...



... and drop the verticals on the reverse side...



Now saw the mitre cuts and remove the waste ...





Do this on the tail board as well - the reason it was left until now was that it would be difficult to transfer the outside tail if the mitre was sawn.

Stay about 1mm from the mitre line. Do not saw to the line. This will be more accurately shaped with a chisel.

For chiseling, use a mitre guide. This is just a 45 degree saw cut. I made a double-ended guide - to use on opposing sides ..





Take it slowly, a smidgeon at a time.



Finally ... the moment of truth arrives ... will she .. won't she ??



Looking promising as the top is pressed together with finger pressure. Then I wack it - the wood is uncompromising. The clamp is to prevent any cracking in such circumstances.



Not too shabby.

Mitres are tight ...





Now about the rounded edge ... here is the secret weapon:



After marking out, the waste is removed with a block plane, and then sanded smooth. Just lacking the inner filet ...





Enough practice. Now for the real thing. A bit more of a challenge as the panels are 500mm wide.

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline zapdafish

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2018, 11:09 AM »
wow, nice job and thanks for the howto
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Offline Tinker

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2018, 12:05 PM »
Derek, I have finally retired from snow plowing. I have had the route for 62 years and have been wondering how i could live thru the upcoming winter. I can now see many a snowstorm where i will be studying your excellent description of this coffee table. My son just got married and I promised them to do something for their family room addition to their house. I will definitely give your table some serious thought. You are always so informative with your projects. Even if beyond my skills, I always learn something of value. Thanks for all that you have done and will continue for all of our enlightenment.
Tinker
Wayne H. Tinker

Offline HarveyWildes

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2018, 12:26 PM »

I hope your nephew appreciates your skill, dedication, and giving spirit.

I love the step-by-step descriptions.  Nice work for a practice piece!  The miter guide is a great idea.

Offline Koamolly

  • Posts: 75
Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2018, 01:20 PM »
It would be nice to include the step-by-step directions, photos and documentation of the build with the table.  It would make a cool coffee table book.

Offline Bert Vanderveen

  • Posts: 509
Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2018, 01:53 PM »
Very nice. Interesting to see that your technique is almost identical to the one Japanese furniture makers use. They of course have the advantage of working with softer woods.

Can’t wait to see what happens next!
Cheers, Bert Vanderveen

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Offline Sparktrician

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2018, 05:57 PM »
SWEET!!!  And thanks for documenting the build so well.  I admire your workmanship.   [smile]
- Willy -

 "Remember, a chip on the shoulder is a sure sign of wood higher up." - Brigham Young

Offline neilc

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2018, 07:43 PM »
Fantastic method, Derek!  Look forward to seeing this progress.  Really appreciate the detailed photos showing your work. 

neil

Offline NL-mikkla

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2018, 05:00 AM »
Hello Derek,

Very interesting build and I'm so wondered about the resemblance.
I have offered the same gift to my best friend years ago and they choose a kinda danish design looking coffetable too.
I will definatley follow your thread as I see quiet some challenges along the way, but I know you are very skilled and excellent in documenting this, so all in all very fun and interesting to read.
One question, how are you going to do the inside curves? There will be too little material compared to the rest or am I missing something here?

Here's is what I came up with years ago, It was an exacty copy of an original picture the couple found somewhere.
Anyway, good luck with your build
« Last Edit: December 18, 2018, 06:17 AM by NL-mikkla »

Offline ear3

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2018, 08:00 AM »
Fantastic work so far, and thanks so much for the step by step.
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Offline Billedis

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2018, 10:42 AM »
Beautiful job, looking forward to more.  Bill

Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2018, 11:47 AM »
Quote
One question, how are you going to do the inside curves? There will be too little material compared to the rest or am I missing something here?

That is an impressive build. What is the core below the veneer? I assume that you laminated the bends?

The inside curve is easy to do - I shall glue a triangular filet into the inside corner, and then simply hollow it (with a hand plane) to compliment the outside curve.

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline NL-mikkla

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2018, 09:34 AM »
Hi Dereck,

The core is furniture grade beach ply and the veneer on the sides is oak.
I did not laminated the bends, I made a template and routed out the ring's in one piece and than glued them together

I understand your inside technique and think it will work out fine.
Good luck with the rest of the build and thank you for excellent documentation of the project!

Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2018, 12:06 PM »
A few progress shots.

The main focus is to complete the carcase. However, to do the carcase, it is important to plan ahead for the drawer case.

The drawer case (at 10mm) is half the thickness of the carcase (20mm). The (eventual) drawer fronts (one for each side) will be the same Fiddleback Jarrah as the top and sides, and will be inset (rather than lipped). The purpose of the thinner sides is simply aesthetic - I want it to look lighter, to subtly separate it from the carcase. The drawer front will be the same thickness as the carcase, and the drawer sides the same thickness as the drawer case.

Before beginning on dovetailing the ends, stopped dados were marked out for the drawer case. The lower- and upper panels were clamped together and a MDF template of the drawer case set in position...



Marked out, chisel walls made ...



... to guide the saw cut ...



Then chiseled ..



... and routered out ...



Following the method outlined previously, the two ends and the top were joined with mitred through dovetails ...



One edge ...



.. and the other side ...



The plan now is to size the drawer case sides before dovetailing and joining the lower panel. Why the templates and sizing at this stage?

When the two ends of the lower panel have been dovetailed, the two sides of the drawer case must be fitted before the panel can be attached. In other words, these three pieces are fitted together at the same time.

Now, as the sides of the drawer case run in a stopped dado, they need to be sized beforehand. This fitting is different and far more exacting that in the typical carcase which as a stopped dado on one side only, and the dividing panels (which I term the drawer case) are slid in, allowing one to mark where the front rebates will go. In the present build, the front and rear rebates need to be determined beforehand, and cut before the parts are brought together.

The MDF template is to aid in measuring up the sides for the drawer case. This is one of the (number of) surprises of this build: it looks so simple from the outside, but when it comes to constructing ...

In the photo below, the dados are checked for size with a 10mm wide template ...



An MDF template checks the case sides are parallel ...



At the far end is another MDF template to size the drawer case sides ...



That's it for now.

Regards from Perth

Derek
« Last Edit: December 27, 2018, 09:59 PM by derekcohen »

Offline Michael Kellough

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #15 on: December 27, 2018, 01:17 PM »
You are certainly doing justice to that beautiful wood!

Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #16 on: December 27, 2018, 08:42 PM »
I was asked two questions on WC, which are relevant to add here:


1. Curious why the interior partitions that define the drawer opening were made thinner than ends of case. Will a lipped drawer hide this partition, or non-lipped drawer?

2. Followed along clearly until the end...."At the far end is another MDF template to size the drawer case sides ". What is being sized, which is to say what is a drawer case side, a drawer side? Either this piece of mdf is simulating a drawer side, in which case I don' t understand its necessity, or I don't understand this operation.


Good questions to clarify the design and build process, Bill.

1.  The drawer case (at 10mm)  is half the thickness of the carcase (20mm). The drawer front will be the same Fiddleback Jarrah as the top and sides, and will be inset (rather than lipped). The purpose of the thinner sides is simply aesthetic - I want it to look lighter, to subtly separate it from the carcase. The drawer front will be the same thickness as the carcase, and the drawer sides the same thickness as the drawer case.

2.  When the two ends of the lower panel have been dovetailed, the two sides of the drawer case must be fitted before the panel can be attached. In other words, these three pieces are fitted together at the same time.

Now, as the sides of the drawer case run in a stopped dado, they need to be sized beforehand. This fitting is different and far more exacting that in the typical carcase which as a stopped dado on one side only, and the dividing panels (which I term the drawer case) are slid in, allowing one to mark where the front rebates will go. In the present build, the front and rear rebates need to be determined beforehand, and cut before the parts are brought together.

The MDF template is to aid in measuring up the sides for the drawer case.

I assumed that the above was understood, and did not think to explain it before. This is one of the (number of) surprises of this build: it looks so simple from the outside, but when it comes to constructing ...

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2018, 11:57 AM »
I assembled the carcase today. This began with glueing the one end and, while that dried, fitting the sides of the drawer box ...





Someone predicted that this glue up would be interesting. Was it ever.

I had this plan to glue the ends, attach the drawer box, and then simply drop the top side into place. What could be easier?

Except ... I realised as I positioned the drawer box dividers in their stopped dados -  and was just about to glue in the other end - that the ends were tails and the top section had pins ... and they needed to be slid in horizontally, not vertically! The order of assembly should have been: fit drawer box to open base, add top section, now add one end and then the other.

I removed the drawer box parts, and attached the top panel to the already glued end. Lifting the top at an angle, the drawer box dividers were wiggled in. And then I discovered that they were 10mm too high!

Oh heck (or some other descriptive) .. I propped up the top panel, quickly calculated how much needed to be removed on the table saw, did both dividers, rebated the ends again ...



... it fits ... (phew)

.. up ended the monster (which weighed a bloody ton, but I was now a demon possessed of desperation strength!), glued in the last side, and squared the carcase ....



And everything is square ...



I'll clean it up tomorrow, and then start on rounding the ends.

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline Retired Chippy

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2018, 11:02 PM »
Very nice piece and work, Derek!  Thanks for sharing!

Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2019, 09:29 AM »
When we left off, it was with the carcase together ...



Step 1: clean up the carcase

Low angle plane for the end grain and cross grain ends ..



Then the face grain top and bottom ..



And I had a chance to use a small BU infill smoother I made several years ago on the edges. Perfect for one-handed smoothing ...




Step 2: Time to round the ends.

In the test piece, it looked like this ..



This lacked the inside hollowed filet. The build today starts with the making of the filet.

The first decision was that this had to be made of end grain. If it was made of side grain, the sides of the filet would be end grain, which would clash - darken - with the side grain of the carcase when a finish is applied. Fortunately, I had this one last offcut. Just enough ...



The filet is triangular with a hollow on the outside. I first tried shaping this with a hollow plane on a sticking board, having sliced off a triangular section on the table saw. It was impossible to do. No way to hold the wood and plane it. I tried a number of variations. I won't go there. They were all impossible. You do it, you're a better man - or woman - than me. You're probably better anyway :)

Finally I came up with this. Start with ripping a 45 degree bevel on the table saw (slider here, with board held in a Fritz and Franz jig) ...



The router table is set up with a round nose bit ...



The mitre can be run past this and the bit will shape a round hollow ..



Now saw this off on the table saw ...





I made a bunch of them (as they are a little fragile) ...



Before glueing them in, each was sanded - 80/120/240 grit on a dowel, with the filet held on the sticking board ..



The filets were then glued in (Titebond hide glue for everything). A dowel was used to place pressure evenly on the corners ...




Step 3: shape the ends

I used a larger washer than this one this time to mark out the curve (as the radius needed to be reduced) ...



Then began planing ...





Refined with a block plane ...





... and finished with sandpaper.







That's it for today. Next I begin the tapered and splayed legs.

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline neilc

  • Posts: 2625
Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #20 on: January 02, 2019, 02:57 PM »
Thanks for those details! 

Order of Assembly!  I've had that issue as well!

Nice save on getting it to work out with glue drying.  Going to be a beautiful table.


Offline travisj

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2019, 07:19 PM »
Beautiful work


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Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2019, 12:43 PM »
We are at the stage where the base - rail with tapered and splayed legs - is to be done next. This is the photo of the model ...



I like this base, and have chosen to replicate it. The two relevant items are the angle of the splay (which I estimated as 10 degrees), and the positioning of the ends of the legs (these appear to end in line with the carcase).

I get my Jarrah these days from an urban salvage yard, but some of it is ex-roofing beams, like this ...



It is a wonderful moment when it comes out the other end ...



I planed up a couple of these to find 4 blanks that would make the legs. Each is 450mm long. The legs will taper in the round from 40mm at the top to 25mm at the bottom.

The mortices were marked out ...



... and routed out (I have a great jig for this - just made for hard, hard woods) ..



.. leaving ...



The ends of the mortices are squared up ...



.. and then onto the lathe ...



A little tinted epoxy is needed to repair some of the resin holes ...





Next step is to determine the length of the rails. This is a no-math process that simply involves laying out the parts, with the legs at 10 degrees ...





Sawing the tenons is easy enough. The rails are 19mm (3/4") and the tenon/mortice is 1/4" wide ..



The tenon shoulder needs to be fitted flush with the leg ...



The easiest way is to use blue tape to mark the shoulders ...





The shoulder of the mortice is levelled with a chisel and rasp ..



... until each is a good fit ..



Finally, the glue up begins ...





I pulled off the clamps a short while ago ...



I'll clean it up in the morning.

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline neilc

  • Posts: 2625
Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #23 on: January 05, 2019, 02:45 PM »
Like the way you insert the shoulder cuts in the legs.  I was thinking you would do the reverse, but that is much easier.

Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #24 on: January 07, 2019, 10:53 AM »
Finishing the base ..

Splayed legs leave their tops angled with the rails, and they need to be flushed ...



... to be coplanar on both sides ...





The next step was to add corner reinforcing blocks. These were glued and screwed ...



You can see they follow the angled rails (created by the splayed legs).

The under side ..



The final stage was to level the legs. Measure the height at each corner, and use wedges under each leg until the height is the same for all ...







Hot glue the wedges so they do not move ...



Once done, scribe the bottom of each leg ...



Electrician's tape is great for marking at an angle ...



Saw off the waste, and we are done ...



I checked the result with a digital angle box. All good. Sanded to 240 grit ...



The drawer and finishing is left to do.

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2019, 08:33 AM »
It is now beginning to look like something familiar ....



The legs appear pretty strong and solid. No flex.

Regards from Perth

Derek

Offline neilc

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #26 on: January 08, 2019, 10:31 PM »
Fantastic work, Derek!  Really like how this is coming together.

Offline mattbyington

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #27 on: January 09, 2019, 01:01 AM »
To echo what others have said - gorgeous work!!

Matt

Offline simonh

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #28 on: January 09, 2019, 05:14 AM »
Very nice and inspirational.

I recently made a cabinet from MDF with curved corners. I used the same technique for the inner radius, but I cheated and used the router with a massive roundover bit for the outside radius! I first tried a hand plane but my skills just aren't up to your level.  Guess they never will be if I don't persist and just crack out the power tools everytime :)

Offline derekcohen

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Re: A coffee table for my nephew
« Reply #29 on: January 11, 2019, 12:16 PM »
Last time the base was completed, and we had a quick look at the parts together. It is not fully sanded yet, and no finish obviously. It feels very solid in the legs - I know there were some that were concerned about the 10 degree splay ....



The - almost - last lap is here, the building of the drawer. I do not want to bore the pants off all with yet another dovetailing, so rather here are some pictures of the decisions and tasks that need to take place for a well-fitted drawer.

The first decision was to choose the wood for the drawer front, and the panel at the other side (the drawer will open on one side of the coffee table, and the other side will be a fixed panel similar to the drawer front).

There is just enough of the Fiddleback Jarrah for these panels. The orientation of the figure needs to be chosen, otherwise it will look like a dog's breakfast ...





It is beautiful wood, but very interlocked. The double iron works its wonders ..



The length is short enough to joint on a shooting board ..



Mark the width ..



... and shoot to the line.

The ends are squared ...



I frequently read how important it is to have a backing board when shooting end grain to prevent spelching. This is not important at all. The best strategy is to score the line you will plane to, and then add a chamfer at the end. Use the shooting plane for this ...



Now plane until the chamfer disappears ...



No spelching ...



The fitted drawer front ...



... is tight to the sides and has about 1mm gap at the top.

The back board of the drawer, and the rear panel ...



These are the drawer parts: the front is 19mm thick, the quarter sawn Tasmanian Oak sides are 10mm (slightly thicker than my usual 8mm as it needs to be a little beefier) and the rear is 12mm ...



A peek at the drawer ...



All the details in the last chapter next time.

Regards from Perth

Derek