Canadian Woodworking

Small Stickley Table

Author: Derreck Bryans
Illustration: James Provost; Lead illustration by Mike Del Rizzo
Published: February March 2008

Small tables are sensible around the house. They fit unobtrusively in almost any space, and they are easily moved about.


This small table is based on the Stickley #658 table from the 1912 Gustav Stickley Craftsman Furniture Catalogue. While it is often referred to as a child’s table, it will do just as nicely beside your favorite easy chair, or as a hall table.

To maintain the connection with the Stickley heritage, I made the table out of white oak, but cherry, walnut, or mahogany would look just as nice. The half lap and mortise and tenon joints are not overly difficult and will make for good practice for the novice and intermediate woodworker. I used 5/4″ stock for my material. If you choose to use 3/4″ stock you will have to make some adjustment to the dimensions in the materials list.

Slat cutting sequence

Leg assembly

Prepare the Stock

• Choose your widest and best-grained boards and mark them for the top (A), and then select stock for the legs (B), and stretcher (C).

• Rough cut all pieces to about 2″ longer and ½” wider than finished dimensions.

• Joint and thickness plane the stock to just over ⅛” final thickness.

• Stack and sticker all of the stock for about one week. This will acclimatize the freshly milled lumber to the shop environment and prevent the wood from cupping.

• Once the stock has stabilized mill it to within 1⁄32″ of finished thickness. This will leave room for final smoothing of the surfaces.

Begin at the Top

Mill and glue the stock for the top (A). A top looks more balanced if the boards are all approximately the same width. Match the grain as close as possible and use a ‘cabinet-maker’s triangle’ to note the sequence of the boards. Take a practice run clamping the top up to make sure everything fits well. It is always better to discover problems now as opposed to when the glue is starting to set.

• Once the glue has dried place the tabletop face down on your bench. Mark the center with a pencil.

• Hammer a 3/4″ nail through a scrap piece of 2″ x 12″ plywood. Drill a hole just big enough for a pencil lead about 9 ¾” from the nail. This will give a tabletop diameter of 19 ½”.

• Tap the nail into the pencil mark on the tabletop and draw a circle.

• Cut out the top with the band saw or a jig saw, making sure to stay about 1⁄16″ from the line.

• Smooth the edge. I used a Stanley #113 circular plane and a low angle block plane to clean up the cut. You could also use a belt or disc sander or a circle cutting jig and a router with a straight bit.

Mill and Assemble the Legs

In order to get four matching faces on the legs, I used a technique called quadralinear construction. This entails taking four slats, ripping the sides at 45º, and gluing them back together. For this operation you’ll get best results using a high hook angle, alternate top bevel 40 tooth or higher blade, such as the Freud Premier Fusion. For safety use a push block and feather boards. If you are uncomfortable cutting the leg slats on a table saw, mill them on a router table using a lock mitre bit.

• Use pencil or chalk to mark all of the ‘good’ faces on the leg slats (B).You will need sixteen slats plus a few extras for test cuts.

• Tilt the table saw blade to 45º. You only need to extend the saw blade 1 ½” or so above the table top. Set the rip fence so you will remove only the smallest amount of waste. Rip an edge off two of the test slats. Fold them together to form a 90º corner. If you see any daylight around the square at all, readjust the angle of the blade until the corner is perfectly square.

• Rip one edge on all 16 of the leg slats.

• Measure 2 ¼” across the good face of a test piece. With a sharp pencil mark a 45º angle across the end of the board. Use this mark to establish the fence position on your table saw for the width of the leg slats.

• Rip the second edge on all 16 leg slats.

• Lightly clean up the sawn edges with a hand plane or on a jointer.

• On your bench, place sticky side up, two pieces of ¾” x 16″ masking tape. The pieces of tape should be about 12″ apart.

• Brush glue on the bevels of the first leg slat. I like to use a slower setting glue, like Titebond III, as assembly takes a bit of time.

• Lay the slat on the tape, perpendicular to it, with about 2″ of the tape ends showing on the left side of the leg.

• Spread glue on three other leg slats.

• Butt them side-by-side on the tape.

• Roll the slats together to form the leg.

• Wrap the leg tightly four or five more times with additional masking tape, making sure that the corners are square. Using the masking tape is great because there is no need for any clamps. I don’t use splines or biscuits because a long grain glue joint is stronger than the wood. As well, if you butt the slats up tightly, alignment is not an issue. You could also use surgical tubing available from Lee Valley to clamp the legs.

• Repeat this for the other three sets of slats to form four table legs. Allow the legs to dry overnight, and then remove the tape.

Mill the Stretchers

• Rip the stretchers (C) to width. I like to clean up all of the sawn edges with a hand plane.

• Crosscut the stretchers to finish length.

• Mill a half lap joint centered on the stretchers. I cut the sides of the joint on the table saw, and then use a mallet and chisel to cut out the waste. Take your time cutting the half lap joint, as you want the pairs of stretchers to fit together snugly. If the top edges of the two stretchers are at different heights (the top stretcher is higher), chisel the bottom of each lap slightly until they are flush. If the top stretcher is lower, insert a thin shim to bring them flush. Set them aside for the time being.

Cut the Through Mortises First and Then the Tenons

When doing any type of mortise and tenon joint, I find it best to start with the mortises. You can always trim a tenon to fit a mortise, but it is a pain to try to fit a mortise to a tenon.

• Crosscut the legs to final length.

• Mark out the mortises on both the face and back of each leg. The mortises are ½” x 1 ½”. You can use a mortise gauge or a ruler and marking knife to lay out the mortises. A knifed line will register a chisel much better than a pencil line.

• Cut out the mortises. I don’t have a mortise machine, so I used a combination of drill press and chisels for the job. I drilled out the majority of the mortise at the drill press, drilling from both sides so that I didn’t blow out the grain on the opposite face. I then used a wide chisel (for the sides of the mortise), and a ½” chisel (to square up the ends).

• Use a mortise gauge or a marking gauge to lay out the tenons on the ends of the stretchers. The tenons are ½” x 2 ½”.

• Using your preferred method (table saw, band saw, or hand saw) cut out the tenons. I like to cut them slightly ‘fat’ so that I can do some hand fitting with a rabbet or shoulder plane to give them a perfect fit. They should fit into the mortises with moderate hand pressure.

• After all of the tenons have been fitted, mark a line ⅛” from the very end of the tenon all the way around. Use a chisel or disc sander to cut a decorative chamfer on the end of each tenon.

Finishing and Assembly

It is usually much easier to apply your finish on as much of the project as possible before assembly. This reduces the likelihood of vertical runs and eliminates hard-to-reach corners.

• Sand or plane the legs and top smooth.

• Use a block plane or 180 grit sandpaper to break all of the edges. As well, put a ⅛” chamfer on the bottom of the legs. This will keep them from splintering if the table gets dragged across the floor.

• Tape off the tenons except for the first ½”, which will be exposed on the outside of the leg mortises.

• Apply a stain if you want to use one. I used a combination of roofing tar and mineral spirits to stain the table. I think it really brings out the grain of the white oak.

• Apply a topcoat. For Mission style projects other than dining or kitchen tables, I like to use orange shellac as a topcoat. I lay on about 12 coats while lightly scuff sanding with 320 grit between coats. Shellac dries very quickly so don’t linger too long in one spot. Any marks will be dissolved with the next coat.

• Join the two pairs of stretchers together.

• Put a light skim of glue on the tenon only. Do not put any glue on the first ½” of the tenon.

• Place two legs on opposite ends of the stretchers and pull them together. If any resistance is met, use clamps to pull the legs onto the tenons. Repeat the process for the other two legs.

• Fasten the top to the upper stretchers with figure eight fasteners (available from Lee Valley). They will allow the top to expand and contract with seasonal changes.

When all of the assembly is done, I like to give my furniture a coat of wax. It brings out the depth, protects from small scratches, and makes dusting easier. Now that the table is done, sit back with a cup of tea and your latest copy of Canadian Woodworking Magazine and admire your craftsmanship.

Saw Blades That Make a Difference

There are dozens of different kinds of table saw blades on the market. While the professional woodworker may need to have half a dozen or more diverse types of blades on hand, the home hobbyist or woodworking enthusiast can get by with one or two blades. The most practical blade for the home workshop is a combination blade – it does double duty ripping and crosscutting stock. If your woodworking budget is a bit more flexible, then consider purchasing a second combination blade, such as the Freud Premier Fusion, with a Hi-ATB tooth configuration and a high hook angle, and use it for your finishing cuts. These blades give a superior crosscut finish and a noticeably better rip finish. They also significantly reduce chipping on sheet stock and veneers. The teeth on a Hi-ATB blade have a high bevel angle that increases the knife-like action at the edge of the blade, while a high hook angle allows for a fast feed rate, particularly when ripping wood along the grain. Having two combo blades means you’ll go a longer time between sharpening, and your finish cuts will look much better.

Freud saw blade

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