Round bistro table puts a spin on brick-laid curved aprons
You don’t have to use bent lamination when making a curved table apron. Instead, you can rely on a technique that’s been used for centuries: Make a brick-laid, circular core and veneer it.
I occasionally do repair work on antiques, which has given me the opportunity to examine up close the construction techniques used centuries ago. One that really intrigues me is the old method for making curved table aprons. These days, with modern power tools, vacuum systems, and high-tech adhesives, curved work is often accomplished using bent lamination. Without the benefit of these modern methods, the craftsmen of yesteryear used a straightforward bricklaying process to form curved aprons; then they applied beautiful veneers on the show side to hide the brick wall. I’ve used this process on circular and elliptical aprons, and it can even be used in forming compound curves. In this article, I’ll show you how I’ve modernized this traditional technique using a router and router table, plus a little MDF, to build a circular table apron. I’ll also show you how I cut the bridle joinery to attach the legs to the apron, and I’ll demonstrate a simple process for applying veneer to a curved surface. The result is a bistro table that’s a great place to sip your morning brew.
Masons typically build brick walls with a running bond, in which the bricks in each course stretch across the end joints in the course below. This layout creates more “long-grain” bonding, hence more strength. The principle holds true for wood, too.
When I brick-lay an apron, I use eastern white pine for the bricks for a few reasons. First, it’s abundant and cheap, which is good since this process generates a fair amount of waste. Second, it is very dimensionally stable, making it an ideal substrate for veneering. It is also very lightweight compared with hardwoods, so it does not add a lot of unnecessary heft to the piece.