In my last post, I went through the process of designing a kitchen table that will actually fit in our kitchen and still allow room for two adults to walk around one another. The material that I selected for the table was some sassafras that I had milled about three years ago.
Sassafras is a gorgeous wood for hand tool woodworking. It works like a dream and smells like dessert. The sweet-spicy aroma has permeated my shop for a couple of weeks now. I had one wide slab 3″ thick, which I sawed up for the legs, and just enough clear 4/4 material to make the top.
At this point in the build, the legs are roughly planed and square. Since the half-lap joinery demands that the legs be at their finished dimension, I went ahead and made the final passes with my smoothing plane.
After planing to the finished size, the next step is to lay out the half-lap joinery. Curiously, to have the tops and bottoms of the legs fall along the same perimeter, you don’t cut the joints in the middle of the legs, but off-center by half the width of the legs. First, I mark out the proper width on the face with a try square and a marking knife.
Then I mark halfway through the legs along the edges with a marking gauge, and bring the marks from the face down with the saddle square.
I deepen all of my scribed lines with a wide chisel and pare out a chip to make a “track” for my saw to ride in. It’s like training wheels for your saw!
After defining the kerf with the chisel, it’s time to get sawing. I use a carcase saw to make the “money” cuts that define the edges of the half-lap, and a box store ryoba to make a few kerfs in the waste to make it easier to chisel out.
Some quick work with a chisel gets me close to the bottom.
And then I dial that sucker in to perfection with a router plane. The router place can leave a surprisingly sweet surface if you just take a light shaving on the final pass.
A nice, snug fit. Alright, two more to go!
Three legs with the joinery complete. This was about as quick and painless as table joinery ever gets!
And the moment of truth: Will the legs go together the way my Sketchup model says they will?
I can’t complain about the fit of the joints, either.
Up next: Finishing up the top!