Mission end table

Build end tables that would make Stickley proud

By Dave Boulton

side table

Photo by Roger Yip

When I designed this project, I took advantage of the benefits of custom woodworking. My house is always in need of more storage, so I included two drawers in this end table. If you’d like to make a matching set, you’ll find this is a companion piece to my Mission-style coffee table. If you decide to make two end tables, I recommend making them at the same time. With the same set-ups for your machinery and tools, you will save a lot of time in the long run.

Before you start, lay out all of your parts in rough. Take a good look at the grain when you choose your boards. Tastefully matching grain patterns across parts makes a big difference in the beauty of the finished project.





A Place to Start

Rough-cut your pieces to approximate size so you can joint and plane them all with the same machine settings. When the 3/4"-thick material is complete, reset your planer and bring the frame facings to 7/8" width. Orient them so the oak's ray flecks show on the 7/8" face. Plane the drawer faces and tabletop to 7/8" thick.

Prepare more wood, this time for the legs. Make each of your legs a little longer and wider than necessary at first. I laminated mine from three pieces of oak per leg, followed by a 1/8"-thick layer of quarter-cut oak veneer glued on top to hide the lamination lines. Just be sure to use strips of scrap wood under your clamp jaws to spread pressure over the 1/8" strips. Trim and plane them to final size, using the same machine settings for each.

All panels in this project are 1/4" thick. If you don't have boards wide enough, you'll have to glue up the panels, but this is actually an advantage. It gives you the opportunity to bookmatch your panels. (See next page for the how-to.) Find the best final size for the panels later, by dry-fitting them after you've completed the frame assembly. To allow for seasonal expansion and contraction, make your panels a little undersized.

Outer Framing

Joint and trim all the rails and the kickplate to final width. Square up one end of each part. With a 1/4" dado set in your tablesaw, cut the panel grooves in the rails. They need to end up being 3/8" deep. I took three passes to achieve this, making each pass 1/8" deeper than the previous one.

The legs require grooves since they act as stiles supporting the panel edges. But since these grooves don't travel the entire length of the leg, you'll need to stop them 2 3/4" from the bottom ends. A table-mounted router with a 1/4" spiral bit works well for this application. Set up a fence and a stop block to keep you from going too far. White oak is quite hard, so limit yourself to no more than 3/8"-deep cuts in multiple passes.

Mission Joints

The Mortises come next. Most are located within the grooves you have already cut in the legs. Refer to the plans for height and depth figures. (See “Making Mortises” on next page for details on this technique.) Regardless of the mortising method you choose, it's important to test your machine set-ups with scrap before moving on to your chosen lumber. Note that the kickplate stands alone in its mortise and doesn't sit in a panel groove.

Prepare to cut the matching tenons by reading “Tenon Technique” on page 45. For this project, you need to cut 1/4"-wide x 1"-long tenons on your rail ends, leaving a 1/4" shoulder on each side. Once again, use scrap pieces to test, checking tenon fit in the mortises you cut earlier.

Once you've cut the sides of the tenons on all the rails and the kickplate, raise the blade to a height of 3/8" and cut the bottom shoulders on all tenons. You can cut the top shoulders of the lower rails and kickplate as well, but leave the top edges of the top rails for now.

The top rails have a haunched tenon to accommodate the slot in the legs. Mark your tenons 3/8" in from the shoulder and 3/8" down from the top. Remove the waste with a fine-tooth handsaw.

Finally, add a groove in the side top rails to accept the metal clips that will hold the tabletop in place.

Sanding and Assembly

Once you're satisfied that your mortise-and-tenon joints fit, sand all parts up through the grits from 120 to 220. Sanding your project parts before assembly is much easier than if you wait until after they have been joined, screwed and glued; with an assembled project, you have corners and cross-grain to contend with. File and sand a small bevel on the bottom edges of the legs to prevent splintering if the table is dragged across the floor.

Start assembling the sides. The tenon-and-mortise surfaces should all be coated with glue, but panels must be allowed to float in their grooves glue-free. Check for square corners as you clamp up the assembly. Once the sides are dry, bring them together with the back components and front kickplate.

Build a Web

There are three web frames to build-one to support the lower drawer, one to support the upper drawer, and the third to act as a stop, preventing the upper drawer from tipping down as you pull it out. Use paint-grade hardwood, such as poplar, for these hidden parts. The frames are separated by uprights that are the same height as the drawers. You'll need to drill and counterbore the uprights to accept #8 x 2" screws to attach the assembly to the legs.

Before bringing the web frame parts together, set up and cut a groove in all upper frame pieces to accept metal tabletop clips. Once you're done, bring all the parts together with #10 biscuits.

As you assemble each frame, take the time to ensure it's square- successful drawer fit depends on it. Keep all web-frame joints flush, so the drawers don't snag. After each frame is assembled, use a portable belt sander to smooth over any raised edges or protruding biscuits.

Next, join the completed web frames with the uprights. Attach the top frame to the uprights using #8 x 2" wood screws for strength. Put one in each upright in place of biscuits.

Set the drawer guides on the runners between the uprights. They only need to be 1/2" x 1/2", but you can make them bigger if you wish. Be sure that there's a smooth transition between the guides and uprights. If not, it will be hard to coax the drawers to fit.

Attach your outer frames to the front face of the web framing. They need to be sanded through all the same grits as the rest of the project for even staining and colour. Again, it's easiest to do this step before you glue them in place. Sand only exposed surfaces, not those that will be glued.

Next, drop the web frames in place. The top frame should be flush with the top of the cabinet, and the lower piece should fit behind the kickplate. Drill pilot holes and install eight #8 x 2" screws to join the uprights to the legs.

Tip Top

You'll be extremely lucky if you can find a single board wide enough for the 18 1/4" x 18 1/4" top, and even if you did, you might want to consider resawing and laminating the board to boost seasonal stability.

Glue and trim the top to size, sand it completely, including the edges and at least the first inch of the perimeter of the underside. Set the top upside down on your bench, centre the table upside down on it, then position your tabletop clips. I used 10 of them, spaced evenly around. Mark the screw hole locations and predrill, but be careful not to bore right through the top. I used #10 x 5/8"-long screws.

Double Drawers

As with any handmade project, your actual drawer opening dimensions will vary from mine. That's why you need to custom-cut the drawer parts. I used hand-cut, half-blind dovetails to attach the sides to the fronts, with the backs and bottoms held in dado slots.

Begin by trimming the drawer front to fit. Trim your sides to a height that matches your opening, and cut them to length. Join the drawer fronts and sides. Cut 1/4"-deep x 1/2"-wide dados in the sides for the backs on your tablesaw.

Next, without changing the blade height, set your fence for the bottom slot. This should be about 1/4" from the bottom edge, but, more important, it must also be centred on the lower dovetail pin. This way, when the drawer is assembled, the bottom won't peek out at the corner-the tail will cover it. Cut this dado in both sides and the front. The drawer back rests on the bottom panel, so it doesn't need a groove.

Test both drawers for fit, then assemble with glue. Glue isn't required for the bottom panel-it simply slides into position. You can pin the bottom to the back with a small finishing nail later. Clamp your assembly and confirm that it's square. Take some time with this, as an out-of-square drawer won't slide well and it will look crooked on the face of the cabinet. I usually clamp a shopmade wooden square into each corner before finally tightening the clamps to make sure the drawers are true.

Once the drawers are dry, test-fit them in their openings and adjust them as necessary. When the drawers slide to your satisfaction, rub paste wax on the runners, guides and drawer bottoms for even smoother travel. Be sure not to get wax on any surfaces that will be finished, though-it will affect the finish.

When it comes time to mount your drawer hardware, you may have to cut the mounting bolts. Many knobs and drawer pulls come with 1"-long bolts for use on drawers with separate faces. Traditional drawers such as the ones for this project require shorter bolts.

You'll find the drawers about 1 1/2" shorter than their openings, so they'll sit recessed into the frame. To keep the drawers from sliding too far into the cabinet, glue small stop blocks to the back rails. These stops are drilled and fitted with 1 1/4"-long wood screws for adjustment purposes. Turn them in or out until the drawer faces sit perfectly flush with the surrounding face frame.

Finishing Up

Remove the drawer hardware, then sand down the drawer fronts through the various grits to 220. Before you put the sandpaper away for good, check all surfaces for clamp marks or other blemishes caused during handling and assembly. Repair or resand these areas. I always do a final hand-sanding with 220-grit paper, just to be sure everything looks its best.

I finished the table with two coats of Minwax Early American stain, followed by five light coats of wipe-on satin poly. I rubbed down the project lightly between coats with #0000 steel wool, wiping afterward with a tack cloth.

When your end table is ready, carry it into place. If you haven't built the matching coffee table yet, you'd better dig out that September 2006 issue. It won't be long before that project makes it onto your to-build list.

Tools & Materials

Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.

Main body

Legs white oak 2" x 2" x 19 1/8" 4
Top white oak 7/8" x 18 1/4" x 18 1/4" 1
Back rails white oak 3/4" x 3" x 14 3/4" 2
Kickplate white oak 3/4" x 3" x 14 3/4" 1
Side rails white oak 3/4" x 3" x 14 3/4" 4
Short drawer frame stiles white oak 3/4" x 7/8" x 4" 2
Long drawer frame stiles white oak 3/4" x 7/8" x 8" 2
Drawer frame rails white oak 3/4" x 7/8" x 12 3/4" 2
Panels white oak 1/4" x 13 1/2" x 11 1/2" 3
Tabletop clips LV #13K01.01 10

Web frame

Rails hardwood 7/8" x 1 1/2" x 12 3/4" 6
Drawer runners hardwood 7/8" x 1 1/2" x 12 3/4" 4
Tip stop hardwood 7/8" x 1 1/2" x 11 3/4" 1
Short uprights hardwood 7/8" x 1 1/2" x 4" 4
Long uprights hardwood 7/8" x 1 1/2" x 8" 4
Drawer guides hardwood 1/2" x 1/2" x 11 3/4" 4
Stop blocks hardwood 3/4" x 1 1/2" x 3" 2


Large front white oak 7/8" 8" x 11 3/4" 1
Small front white oak 7/8" x 4" x 11 3/4" 1
Small sides maple 7/8" x 4" x 11 3/4" 2
Large sides maple 1/2" x 4" x 13 5/8" 2
Small back maple 1/2" x 8" x 13 5/8" 1
Large back maple 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 10 1/2" 1
Bottoms Baltic birch ply 1/4" x 10 1/2" 13 1/4" 2
Small handle LV #01W32.11 1
Large handle LV # 01W32.10 1

* Length indicates grain direction

Recommended Tools


Mission end table

Illustration by Len Churchill

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