Making a Reading Table – Part Six

The reading slope is made up of a central panel floating within a mitred frame, joined at the corners with loose tenons. Once the slope has been cleaned up, I will work a simple moulding around the edge.

The reading slope glued together.

The drawer stuff is all quartersawn oak and closely resembles the wainscot of the day. The bottom boards for the drawers are, at 3/16″ (4.8mm) thick, basically thick veneer. After sawing and planing two 30″ x 6″ x 3/16″ boards, I rubbed their edges together with some glue. The result was instantaneous and the joined boards were able to be held horizontally by one corner without fear of them falling apart. Modern adhesives are incapable of this.

Freshly glued drawer bottom board.

The grain direction of drawer bottoms of this period ran from front to back. After I have scraped the joined board clean, it will be cut into the two individual bottom boards.

The drawer construction at this date consisted of through dovetails front and back with glued-in bottom boards and runners.

The drawer sides.


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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6 Responses to Making a Reading Table – Part Six

  1. Tico Vogt says:

    How do you make the loose tenons, with a plunge router? What kind of space would you allow for wood movement in the panel?
    I’d like to see pictures of the dovetail work in progress. Perhaps your earlier posts have showed some of that?


    • Jack Plane says:

      Hello Tico, The loose tennons are simple rectangles of wood, double the length of a commensurate fixed tennon, each end of which is inserted into a conventional mortice, cut out with a mortice chisel.

      Very little allowance was made for wood movement in the top. The weather is very wet here at present and the panel is only 10-1/2 ins. wide. If any movement does occur once the table is moved indoors, then it’s all grist to the mill as far as I’m concerned as it will help to replicate the centuries of seasonal movement one normally sees in equivalent antique pieces. This is not intended to be a smooth, flawless, modern Formica-look-a-like piece of furniture.

      I take pictures of my work after the event rather than during the process for three reasons: The first is that I become so engrossed in what I’m doing that stopping every so often to take progress pictures eludes me. The second is that I don’t like keeping my expensive camera in a dusty environment and the third is that there are seemingly dozens of blogs and videos on the web illustrating the process of cutting dovetails. I will leave it to others to share the minutiae of cabinetmaking. I assume most people reading my witterings either already possess basic cabinetmaking skills, or don’t really care about them, so I prefer to concentrate on the historic aspects of the pieces of furniture I make. All I will add is that I use a sharp, non-descript saw with I-don’t-know-how-many teeth and I cut the ‘tails first.



  2. Gereon Lamers, Weimar says:

    Is it really possible to read enough about dovetails? ;-)

    But seriously, your comment: “I assume most people reading my witterings either already possess basic cabinetmaking skills, or don’t really care about them (…)” is spot on!
    However, what I find is very seldom to be found on the web is well founded information about historically appropriate construction of furniture!
    The focus on one type of joint is indeed not what I am after but rather how the pieces went together as a whole. What alternative forms of perhaps less prestigious joinery (“nails”) were used, where and how.
    That is what makes your blog so completely unique in my view and more (photos, drawings, texts, bibliography) of that would be all I still could wish for!

    Thank you very much for your effort!



    • Jack Plane says:

      Ah-ha! I’ve hit the target! There is a plethora of blogs whose writers seem obsessed with expensive boutique tools, how they sharpen them and how they arrange them in pretty racks, yet very little cabinetmaking of interest is achieved or discussed. I too crave Furniture Making with accurately researched historic content (not internet tales of ‘the old days’). Peter Follanbee’s work and blog have to be at the forefront of 17th century Furniture Making.


  3. Tim Raleigh says:

    Since I started reading your blog I have been very impressed with the quality of your pictures to illustrate your point. Since you mentioned your camera in the comments above, I have ask what your set up is.


    • Jack Plane says:

      I use a Pentax K20, tripod and remote shutter release, though admittedly, I haven’t spent as much time learning to use it as I should and as a result, I often just leave it on the Auto settings.



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