Federal Work Table I [ stock prep]

1780 to 1820 is considered the Federal Period in the US. It is heavily influenced by European Neoclassicism and the work of Robert Adam, George Hepplewhite, and Thomas Sheraton. During this period a new form was developed, the ”Work Table”.

Work table

Work table

These two tables are sewing tables as indicated by the cloth bags under the case which was for storing the sewing projects. Typically the bag would slide out the side or front of the case either separately or with the bottom drawer. Some of these work tables without the bags appear to have been designed as writing tables and sometimes dual purpose. Most of these tables are veneered, some are not and some are painted.

The common wisdom today is that it is necessary to veneer both sides of anything that is veneered to protect against wood movement due to veneer pull, however the majority of period work is only veneered on the show side. Most all of the veneer work I have done in the past has been repair work, this project will actually be the first piece of new veneer work I have done, as such it will be a somewhat of an experiment and a simplified version of a work table.

Stock and Preparation

Because I intend to hammer veneer this piece only on the show side I choose to build the carcass out of quarter sawn material for extra stability. A few years ago I acquired about 225 board feet of quarter or near quarter sawn recycled fir it was actually part of the roof deck on a grocery store the was torn down. In this picture we see some of the fir, it is all 5 “x 2” after I cut off the tung and grove.

recycled fir

Here you see the stock for the table has been resawn on the band saw.

resawn stock

Here you can see the stock for the top and the two sides have been glued with hide glue and rub joints.

rubbed panels

This is the drawer divider and support being rubbed together, notice that it is plain sawn white pine because it does not get veneered.

drawer support

I next turned the legs. I turned them out of a 4×4 of some unknown south American wood that came strapped under a load of lumber, it was there so the fork lift could pick up the load. I have one more of the 4x4s, it looks a lot like mahogany but I’m not sure what it is.


Here we see the carcass parts with the joinery cut and ready for assembly. If you look closely at the two sides you can see that one corner of each side appears wet. This area in front of the dovetail for the cross piece is inherently weak so I soaked it with cyanoacrylate glue to try and reinforce it. You also see the cleats for the side hung bottom drawer.

carcass parts

In this picture we see the carcass assembled. The center drawer support [dust board] is held to the sides with a sliding half dovetail. The top cross brace is dovetailed to the sides, this is not the strongest joint in the world but will work.

carcass assembled

The back is plain sawn poplar and held to the sides with half blind dovetails.

back view

Here we see the assembled carcass with the shaped top in place but not attached. All the show surfaces will need to be cleaned up with a toothing plane prior to veneering.

top shaped

In the next post I will cover building the drawers.

About millcrek

This entry was posted in Tables and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s