A Square Deal (34)

Post 34 in a continuing series describing the design and construction of a pair of living room tables in bubinga.


Have the distinct feeling of rounding the last turn and heading into the straightaway with the side table at least. The last couple of days have been largely occupied with fabricating the double hammerhead keys for the corner joints on the table top, where they serve to lock the breadboard ends in place while allowing the slab top to move with seasonal changes in humidity.

I chose Gabon ebony for the keys. I know it is not the most PC choice out there, but I wanted a wood which was black, somewhat slippery, and extremely hard – it’s the perfect choice. It’s also extremely expensive these days, and though not as irreplaceable as the table top slab, gave be reason to be fairly cautious in my work. not that I am normally running roughshod over the work mind you.

The keys were rough cut several weeks back. Here they are after being brought to finish dimension and cut to length (slightly over length actually):

I made five keys as it gave me a little bit of breathing room in the cut out sequence.

After one day of work I had cut three of the four keys, and today’s work saw me through completion of the 4th key and the fitting of the keys to each corner. I was extremely pleased the way there came together. I’d venture to say I was elated as I assembled the joints and saw that they had come out well. Not every day in the shop is like that – it was a fine day.

So let’s take a look at the four corners, starting with #1:

The short end of the key is long by about 1/16″ at this point. I can see in the photo a little space above the hammerhead on the left, however I have yet to plane the breadboard edge surface down and I suspect a good portion of that will come out in the wash. I think the entry points on some of the mortises were left a tiny bit rough by the cutter, so by removing material from the face the fit will hopefully tighten up a little bit.

Number 2:


The other end:

Number 3:


Other end:

And number 4:


Again, a little space there above the hammerhead on one side, but I can live with it, considering the difficulty in fitting these up. I feel like I’m showing the world my underwear in pics like these! Nothing to hide here folks.

Another detail:

I was so glad to get through this stage with success. The fits were mechanically excellent all around, with just the two small gaps above two of the keys in just those two spots shown. I may aim for perfection but I never get it – and that’s okay. It’s all about how far you try to reach.

The extra fifth key did get munched in the cut out, so I was glad to have it there for the sacrifice play.

I know some readers are wondering just how these joints work – don’t worry, I’ll reveal all when we wrap up this build thread.

The rest of the day seemed somewhat anticlimactic after the keys were in place, however I got some useful stuff done. I trimmed the legs to final length, fitted the backstops to the posts for the demountable panels, and shortened the drawer slightly. No pics, so you’ll just have to take my word for it :^)

Also did some work on my dust collection system -more on that in an upcoming post – and received some bronze stock for the leveler feet along with this book:

Some reading ahead. I’ve been emailing the esteemed Ford Hallam and plying him with questions about wrought iron patination as well.

All for now – have a happy Halloween, if you celebrate it.

8 Replies to “A Square Deal (34)”

  1. Paul,

    Good to receive your comment.

    You might recall from the earliest posts in this thread that I was originally thinking of double mitered breadboard ends, then I changed to a design with one end mitered, one not, and then settled on the current arrangement. I'm glad things evolved as they did.

    I borrowed an idea from Greene and Greene a little bit, with their protruding spline arrangement to disguise movement at the junction between slab and breadboard, but came up with something which I feel is a bit stronger and more directly conveys visual interlock, without recourse to fake pegs.

    I'm a Ford Hallam fan too! I'm hoping to take a class with him sometime next year. An inspiring and accomplished craftsman.


  2. Tico,

    nope, you did not miss that – I haven't shown it. I will soon though.

    Thanks for your interest in that detail, which is, despite appearances, quite possible.


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