When we first moved into our home, it had a foyer. While that might be important in a larger home, in a smaller home, it simply wastes space in the living room. The foyer had a different flooring from the rest of the home as shown in this photo. To improve the appearance and perhaps to give it more separation from the living room, we decided to build a narrow Foyer or Entrance Table with a mirror that had a matching frame.
We have since remodeled our home, so it no longer has a foyer, so we didn’t want the table there. It’s a nice table, so we gave it to a good friend who now has it in her foyer. The matching framed mirror we moved to our bathroom where it was for many years until we remodeled it and the mirror no longer fit in. Now the mirror is on the back wall of my office. It may remain there for a while.
These instructions are just for the table. The framed mirror is a separate project, but I left it in this photo because it was part of the overall design. Well-made projects last for many years and fit in various locations.
Let’s start with the main drawings for the foyer table below and there are other drawings as part of the instructions to help you understand the construction of the table. Except for the table top, this project is built using solid wood. I used red oak because I had plenty of it on hand but you can use any other hardwood or even white pine.
Remember you aren’t stuck with the size of this table. In this case, I built a foyer table which is what I needed at the time. However, you can use the same basic construction to make an end table or a coffee table simply by altering the dimensions. For example, you could make the legs only 18 inches high instead of 29 ¼” and make the top 24 inches wide instead of 12 inches and wind up with a nice coffee table. In another example, you could make the legs the best height to fit next to a sofa and change the length of the table, and it would make a fine end table. As a final example, you could keep the leg height and change the size of the table to make it a neat but small dining table that would be perfect for a small apartment.
There are many possibilities so don’t limit yourself thinking that you can only follow my plans to the letter. With just a few minor changes you can make exactly the table you want or need.
Let’s start with the list of materials. Below is listed everything you need to have and cut for this project. To change the design, just change the dimensions in this list.
This project is built mostly of hardwood with the only plywood used on the table top, and the apron angles and these angles can be made from hardwood scraps if you prefer. The project also involves making a jig to cut the tapered legs. The jig is essential to cut the tapered legs safely on a table saw. Remember, there are no safe freehand cuts on a table saw. If you are cutting anything freehand on a table saw your hands and your body are in danger of injury.
As part of this project, I’m also going to discuss the advantages of using a thickness planer. It isn’t an absolute necessity for this job, but it can make things easier. How much the thickness planer is needed will depend on where and how you purchase the hardwood for the project.
Since the legs are the most difficult part of this project, we will start with them. To build my table, I purchased 2-inch thick red oak and wasn’t planed. I then ripped this into 2 inch wide pieces and planed those pieces on all sides until they were 1 ¾ inch. Unless you have a hardwood dealer nearby, you may be stuck with using hardwood purchased from a home improvement store. They probably will not have hardwood in the rough or 2 inch thick hardwood.
Rough hardwood sizes are called 8/4 for 2 inches thick, 6/4 for 1 ½ inch thick, and 4/4 for 1 inch thick. Most home improvement stores handle wood and hardwoods in nominal sizes. These are the sizes after planning. So, 8/4 or 2-inch wood will nominally be 1 ½“ thick and 4/4 or 1 inch wood will nominally be ¾ inch thick. Normally home improvement stores carry ¾ inch thick wood and hardwoods and you may have to do with that if these stores are your only source of wood. If you can’t get the thicker wood for the legs, you can glue pieces together. If you are using ¾ inch wood two pieces will give you an adequate 1 ½ inch thickness instead of 1 5/8 inch. When gluing two pieces together, spread the glue thinly and evenly on one of the pieces and then clamp them both together with clamps at least every 6 inches. You need for this to be a tight joint so that it will be nearly invisible. Also, remember to use a thin strip of wood or plywood to protect the leg from clamp marks if the clamps don’t have rubber protectors. At 1 ½ inch, the legs are already thin enough, and you don’t need to plane or sand them down to get rid of clamp marks.
Once the glue is slightly dry, use a putty knife to remove excess glue from the joint. While the glue is stiff but still soft, it cleans up easily. Lacking a thickness planer, the best tool to smooth out the legs is a belt sander. However, belt sanders can be difficult to handle, and careless handling could cause poor shaping of the leg. The most important thing to remember with a belt sander is to keep fresh belts installed and let the weight of the sander do the work. Applying pressure on the sander will make it difficult to maintain a flat surface.
If you can get full 2-inch thick material, I suggest that you make the legs 1 ¾ inch thick to give a bulkier, and I believe more attractive, appearance to the legs. Just rip the 2-inch thick rough material to 2 inches wide and then use the thickness planer to plane the legs down to 1 ¾ inches by 1 ¾ inches.
Once the legs are ripped to the correct size and cut to the length you are ready to set up for the tapers. If the legs are planed with a thickness planer, they are ready for the taper jig. If the legs are glued together, they should be sanded until the saw marks disappear and the glue line is almost invisible. Now you are ready to cut the tapers.
Cutting The Tapers
The first step for this is to create a taper cutting jig as shown in the drawing. The tapering jig is a simple one built on a ½ inch or ¾ inch thick piece of plywood that is 12 inches wide by 40 inches long. All you need is 4 pieces of scrap wood the sizes described on the materials list to be fastened to the plywood using nails or screws as shown in the drawing.
The most important dimensions are those at each end of the leg holder. The bottom side will be 7/8 inch no matter what thickness of leg you choose but the top side will vary depending on the thickness of the leg. Normally, this size will be ¼ inch larger than the width of the leg. So, if the leg is 1 ¾ inch thick, then the width of this section will be 2 inches. This measurement is important because the taper doesn’t go all the way to the top of the leg. It must begin below where the apron bottom edge meets the leg.
Once you have fastened each piece according to the drawing, then drill a hole on each end into the space that will hold the leg. This hold should be a little smaller than the diameter of a 2-inch screw. Once you have drilled the holes, drive a 2-inch screw into each hole from outside of the location of the leg. Don’t drive them all the way through because these screws will hold the leg in place while you are cutting the tapers.
Each leg will require 2 taper cuts. To make the cuts, place the leg in the jig and hold it tightly against the long support while tightening the two screws at the top and bottom to hold it in place. Once it is held tightly, set the table saw fence to 12 inches from the blade and set the blade high enough to cut through the leg to form the taper.
Turn on the table saw and feed the jig slowly through holding it carefully against the fence. The blade will cut the first taper. After cutting the first taper, loosen the two screws and turn the leg over, so the cut taper is up. Hold it tightly against the support and tighten the two screws again. Then run the jig through the table saw holding it tightly against the fence and cut the second taper.
Repeat those steps for all four of the legs. Then you can use the same jig to sand down the tapers lightly with a belt sander to take out the saw marks. You can save a little time by doing this sanding as you cut each taper. Since the leg is already fastened to the jig, just move it to a workbench immediately after each cut and sand the taper before taking the leg loose to turn it or replace it with the next leg to be cut.
After tapering and sanding the last leg, cut the aprons. If you purchased the wood for the aprons from a home improvement store, the material will already be ¾ inch thick and ready to rip and cut to size. If you are fortunate enough to have a hardwood store available the wood may be either rough or thicker that what is considered nominal. I often found that the hardwood I purchased was almost 7/8 inch thick. Once again you have decisions to make. If the material is ¾ inch, cut it to the sizes in the materials list. If it’s rough, plane it down with the thickness planer, the fastest and easiest way. If the material was purchased already planed and it is 7/8 inch thick, you can either plane it down ¾ inch or use it as it is. There is no reason why the aprons have to be ¾ inch thick like the materials list. It’s your project, and you can change it to suit yourself.
Once the aprons are the correct width, you must cross cut them to the correct length. It’s critical that these cuts be square. That may seem obvious to you but sometimes the importance of squareness is not realized, and that has a negative impact on the project.
I use a sliding compound miter saw to make these cuts. A standard miter saw will also work. There are other ways to make these cuts, but the important thing is that the end result is square. After cutting the aprons to size, sand the top and bottom edges. Do not sand the ends.
After cutting the legs and aprons, you are ready to cut the slots for the joinery. Since I use biscuit joinery, the slots are cut with a biscuit joiner. Since the aprons are set back ¼ inch from the corner of the legs, it would seem that using the biscuit joiner fence would be the best method. In spite of that, I still prefer to avoid using the biscuit joiner fence whenever possible.
The first step is to cut the biscuit slots on both ends of all the aprons. To start this, choose the outside surface of each of the four apron pieces and then mark the inside with a pencil. Then place the apron pieces with the pencil mark up and mark the center of each end of the apron for the center of the biscuit slot cut. Clamp the first apron down to your work bench and use the biscuit joiner to cut the biscuit slot. Be sure that the biscuit joiner is set for the correct depth for a #20 biscuit. You may want to test the first cut to make certain it is deep enough. Make the biscuit slot cut on the other end of the first apron piece and then repeat those steps on the other three aprons.
Now you must cut the biscuit slots in the legs. Cut the slots on the same side of the legs that have the tapers. Clamp the first leg on the workbench with one taper facing you and the other facing up away from the workbench. The top of the leg should be to your left and the bottom to your right. Now mark the location of the biscuit slot by measuring from the top of the leg the same distance as you measured to the center of the apron.
The next step is critically important. Place a small piece of ¼ plywood on the workbench against the leg where the biscuit slot will be cut. Place the biscuit joiner on the ¼ inch plywood, align it carefully with the mark on the leg and then cut the biscuit slot. Then, unclamp and flip the leg over so the top is now to your right side and the bottom end is to your left side. The biscuit slot you already cut should be facing up and the second taper should be facing you. Now mark the location of the second biscuit slot as you did before, place the ¼ inch plywood piece on the workbench and then cut the slot with the biscuit joiner. Repeat those same exact steps for the other three legs, and you are ready to assemble the table.
Assembly requires glue up and clamping of the table parts. One of the two most important things to remember is to avoid using too much glue. That is a common mistake causing large amounts of glue to ooze out of the joints and making a mess. The other one is to make certain your table is completely square and sits flat on a level floor. Check both of these things before beginning assembly and while the glue is still wet. Once the glue sets, there is nothing you can do to correct squareness problems.
Once the glue has dried, you can install the corner pieces and drill the holes to fasten the top to the table. The corner pieces go fastened as shown in the corner photo above. It takes 2 – 1 5/8 inch screws to go into the legs and 4 – 1 ¼ inch screws to go into the aprons. I suggest that you glue these in place in addition to the screws, but it’s not essential. Be sure to countersink the screw heads for a neater job. These corner pieces reinforce the corners.
Now you are ready to make the table top. The first step after cutting the plywood for the top is to laminate it. Find laminating instructions in another blog page HERE.
The next step is to make and attach the edge moldings on the table. When you rip solid wood, the edges will always be a little rough. Before assembly, the edges should be smoothed in some way. I like to use a thickness planer to smooth the edges whenever possible. Not everyone has a thickness planer, but it is a valuable tool. Another power tool to smooth edges is the belt sander.
Applying the edges is done with the biscuit joiner. After making the edge trim for the table, you must cut each piece to make an accurate miter cut at each corner of the table. These corners may be rounded after the edges are glued on or left square. You can use the biscuit joiner to cut the biscuit slots in the same way to make the table and edge cuts as you did for everything else. Again a good flat worktable is important.
Now you use a router to rout the table edges. Routers are great tools capable of many woodworking tasks, and they are especially good at routing decorative table edges. Contact me with questions about using the router.
Once everything is sanded smooth, you are ready to apply the finish. You have to decide if you want to stain the wood to change the color or just leave the wood natural. If you built the table using cheaper wood like white pine, painting works well. The options are yours to choose.