A Shaker Style Drop-Leaf Table
Turned legs with drilled-and-chiseled mortises
Synopsis: The table Greg Isaak built was inspired by several original Shaker pieces, but he modified it with Sheraton-style tapered legs. There’s nothing tricky about building it, he says; all the work can be done with a few simple tools. Components are small, so stock preparation is simple, too. He explains how he mortised and turned the legs, how he constructed the case and drawers, and how he built the top. A detailed project plan illustrates his design.
I first became interested in Shaker furniture because of some pieces my mother owned. I was drawn to the Shakers’ simple, unadorned designs, their restrained, but strong joinery, and their uncompromising insistence on quality. As I examined my family’s furniture and studied pieces presented in books and museums, I also became fascinated with the way Shaker designs had been influenced by Federal furniture built in the United States between 1782 and 1815. The ideas of designers like Duncan Phyfe, Robert Adam, Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite can be easily identified in many Shaker originals.
Since I like this diversity of design ideas, it’s not surprising that my table, shown finished on the facing page, is not an exact replica of any one piece. Rather, it incorporates the features of several New York and Massachusetts pieces. I based the overall size of the table and the shape of its legs on a New York original, but I modified the turned legs to capture the graceful look of Sheraton furniture. The single drop leaf is from a table at the Hancock Shaker Museum in Massachusetts.
Like its Shaker ancestors, my table is very functional. Its small size and two shallow drawers make it ideal as an occasional table, end table or nightstand. And there is nothing tricky about building the piece; all the…