In this Instructable video project, I show you how to build a pair of mid-century modern end tables using solid Walnut and Walnut veneered plywood. I used a technique called "kerfing" to allow me to bend the corners of the end table's carcass into the smooth radius you see in the final piece. Let's get started!
Don't miss the build video above for a lot more detail!
Step 1: Gather Tools and Materials
This is definitely a more tool-intensive build, as you'll ideally want a table saw, router, and drill at the very least. If you don't have a table saw, you can make a circular saw work in a pinch.
Materials Used On Mid-Century Modern Walnut End Table:
Some of the links used below are affiliate links, for which I get a small percentage of the sales. Thanks for your support!
- Waterlox Tung Oil Wood Finish : http://bit.ly/waterloxcrafted
- Purebond Plywood : http://bit.ly/purebond
- Hairpin Table Legs : http://amzn.to/2q0V2rm
- 16-Inch Bottom Mount Drawer Slide : http://amzn.to/2q12a7c
- Brass Drawer Pulls : http://amzn.to/2phspHv
Tools Used On Mid-Century Modern Walnut End Table:
- SawStop PCS 1.75-HP Professional Cabinet Saw : http://amzn.to/2aqqRyn
- DEWALT FLEXVOLT 12" Compound Sliding Miter Saw : http://amzn.to/2ah20gS
- Powermatic PJ-882HH 8-Inch Jointer : http://amzn.to/2phphdg
- Powermatic 15HH 15-Inch Planer : http://amzn.to/2phKqE9
- Festool Domino XL : http://bit.ly/festooldealers
- MIRKA DEROS Sander : http://amzn.to/2oz4QIN
- Whiteside Ultimate Flush Trim Bit : http://bit.ly/whitesideultimate
Step 2: Rip Plywood to Size & Cut Kerfing Cuts
Before cutting the kerf cuts, rip your plywood to its final width on the table saw. I built my table to a width of 17", not including the face frame I will add later.
Next is the part of this project that really makes it shine: kerfing. To accomplish kerfing, you cut through almost the entire piece, leaving just enough for the wood to keep from breaking. In the case of the ¾" plywood I was using, I cut about 9/16" deep.
Cutting away this material allows the wood to flex where these kerf cuts are made. The amount and the angle at which it bends depends on the spacing of the kerf cuts as well as the number of cuts made.
To end up with square corners, I made 8 kerf cuts per corner, with four corners total. I spaced my kerf cuts ⅛" apart by moving the table saw fence over ¼" between cuts. The blade kerf is ⅛", which gets cut away, leaving an ⅛" strip of wood. Watch the video at the top of the Instructable for a better explanation of this process.
Step 3: Cut Plywood Strip & Add Dominos
I wanted my end table to be taller than the 2 foot by 4 foot piece of plywood would allow, so I cut an extra strip at 6" wide and cut Domino mortises using my Domino XL. This strip could be attached with dowels or pocket screws as well.
Step 4: Glue Up End Table Carcass
The glue up on this piece was especially tricky. I added glue to each kerf cut and then started to bend the piece to its final shape. I wiped on warm water on the outside of the corners to help the wood keep from cracking.
I just took my time, adding clamps to keep things in place, and eventually got the whole thing clamped up. Make sure to check for square once the clamps are added. If it's out of square, you can clamp from corner to corner to bring it into square.
Step 5: Build Face Frame & Glue to Front of Carcass
To cover up the plywood edge and the kerf cuts, I made a quick face frame out of solid Walnut. I cut my pieces at 1" wide to leave plenty of overhang to cover the radiused corners. I cut the 45 degree miters on my miter saw and glued the face frame onto the carcass after gluing up the face frame.
Step 6: Trim Face Frame Flush With Flush Trim Bit
Using my massive flush trim bit, I trimmed the face frame flush with the carcass. If you are using a smaller bit, you will need to make multiple passes to avoid tearout and burning.
Step 7: Mill & Shape Drawer Fronts
With the face frame done, I could trace the outline of the radiused corners onto a piece of wood to create the drawer front. I used my oscillating belt sander to sand to the line I traced and kept checking the fit until I was happy with the way it looked.
Step 8: Install Plywood Back on to Carcass & Roundover Edges
For the back, I kept it simple and just cut an oversized piece of ¼" plywood, glued and brad nailed it onto the back of the carcass, trimmed it flush on the router table, then added a heavy chamfer to keep the edge from being visible from the side of the piece.
I also rounded over the edges of the drawer fronts and face frame with an ⅛" radius roundover bit while I was at it.
Step 9: Cut Drawer Parts & Assemble Drawer
I made the drawers from ¾" plywood for the sides and ¼" plywood for the bottom. I ripped the drawer sides to width on the table saw, cut them to length on the miter saw, then cut the drawer bottom on the table saw.
To assemble, I added glue and tacked the sides together with a brad nailer. I then tacked the bottom onto the sides, making sure the drawer was square.
Once everything was tacked in place, I went back and reinforced all of the corners and the bottom with 1 ¼" screws.
Step 10: Apply Finish to Mid-Century Modern Walnut End Table
Step 11: Install the Drawers & Drawer Fronts
Next, I installed bottom mount drawer slides and then installed the drawer front. To get equal spacing around all sides of the drawer front, I used playing cards as shims, then temporarily attached the drawer front with double sided tape before adding 1 ¼" screws from the inside of the drawer.
Step 12: Install Drawer Pulls & Hairpin Legs
Finally, I installed the hairpin legs, which are definitely the easiest legs you can use on a piece of furniture. These particular legs come already painted, which is nice. With that, the table is done!
Step 13: Enjoy Your Beautiful New End Tables!
If you'd like to see more Mid-Century Modern woodworking projects, check out the archives here. To see my other woodworking projects, check them out here. Thanks for reading, and until next time, happy building!