A Trestle Table with Modern Appeal
Graceful edge highlights clean lines
Synopsis: This trestle table combines a classic design with modern details in a way that will fit into almost any home. The base is held together with mortise-and-tenon joints and lap joints, cut before the parts are shaped. The top, with its distinctive gently curved edges, looks complex but is quite simple to make. You create it by combining two simple edge treatments, a bevel and an arc. Size: 36 in. wide by 72 in. long by 30 in. tall
Several years ago, I wrote an article about a bench with clean, contemporary lines that I’ve made many times (“A bench that Fits Every room,” FWW #207). In the article the benches were photographed alongside one of my tables, which they often accompany. Since then, many readers have asked about the table, requesting a follow-up article on how to build it. I’m flattered, and happy to oblige. Like the bench, the table has traditional roots with a modern feel. Its most distinctive feature is the top’s gently curved edges, which seem to vary in thickness. what’s surprising about the effect is that even though it looks complex, it’s very easy to create. I’ll show you how.
I’ll also demonstrate how to make the trestle base using a hollow-chisel mortiser, an invaluable tool. If you don’t have one, dig into the FWW archive for other mortising methods. I also use a sliding tablesaw and shaper, but you can use a crosscut sled (or miter gauge) and router table instead. Normally, FWW wouldn’t show commercial and industrial tools like these, but the truth is when you make furniture for a living as I do, you cannot compromise on your machinery. These machines have features (like the mortiser’s X-Y table) that allow me to work more efficiently. In terms of construction, this table is identical to the one shown in the bench article, but it is smaller. The earlier version was sized for a dining room and could fit two benches on a side; this one is the right size for a breakfast table and fits one bench per side.
Except for the stretcher, every part of the base has a curve on it. If you shape these parts first, you’ll lose the straight and square edges needed to cut the joinery. So cut the joints first. Start with the mortises, which present a few problems. First, they are all at least 7⁄8 in. wide. Second, the posts are too wide to fit between a mortiser’s fence and clamp. The solution to the first problem is to use a narrow bit (5/16 in. or 3/8 in.) and cut along the outside walls first, then go back and remove the waste in the middle. For larger parts, take off your mortiser’s clamp and replace it with a large plywood auxiliary table. Mine has two T-tracks, so I can use hold-down clamps to secure parts for mortising. If your mortiser doesn’t have a sliding table, then don’t bolt the auxiliary fence to the mortiser’s table. Instead, leave it unclamped so that you can move it between cuts and adjust the fence.
For the full article, download the PDF below:
Get the Plan
CAD-drawn plans and a cutlist for this project are available in the Fine Woodworking store.