Arts Crafts Occasional Table: As soon as I saw Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott’s occasional table from 1901 on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I realized that I had to create one.
Baillie Scott (1865-1945) was an avant-garde architect of the Arts & Crafts movement in England. Its small and elegant table is unusual for the often substantial and earthy decor of the Arts & Crafts style.
Conquer some fun carpentry challenges with this geometric construction by Baillie Scott.
The lightness and movement of the table, which come from a game between positive and negative space, make it a true piece of sculpture that seems different from every perspective.
Although composed of only seven parts, this coffee table presents several challenges. First of all, there is not a single right angle in sight. The three legs are stretched out and joined with the curved stretchers tilted upwards from left to right, which lead to the upper round part. As if all this was not demanding enough, the legs are tapered and hexagonal.
If you like the problem solving aspect of making furniture as much as I do, this project is for you. Read on to find out how to face each challenge.
The three legs are joined to the stretchers using floating tenons. The legs and the upper part are joined by wedged passing tenons. Understanding where the joints go is the goal of a life-size drawing.
Start with life-size drawings
This project requires accurate designs that can be used to define angles and locate carpentry. The best way to get close to this table is to create full size designs on a piece of plywood. On one side of the plywood, you will draw the plan view of the table. On the other side, you will draw the elevation. These two designs work together to give you all the angles and dimensions of the parts you need.
The other positive thing to know is that you won’t need to cut tenons at a compound angle. The three hexagonal legs offer carpentry surfaces parallel to each other (very clever, Mr. Baillie Scott).
Start by drawing the top like a 22 “x 22” square on one face of the plywood. Establish a center point on the circular top and draw a vertical line through it. Mark one leg (we will call it the rear leg) on this center line which is 31/2“From the back edge of the top. Then trace the lines at 120 ° to locate the other two legs (we will call them front legs). Mark the marks on these three lines 63/4“From the center. These are the mortuary positions.
Now we will pull some of the important lines on the other side of the plywood for the elevated view. Pull the positions of the two front legs up to the edge of the plywood and wrap them around the edge. Turn the plywood upside down. Working from the edge that has your marks, measure 1 ″ from that edge and hit two horizontal lines to establish the table top, which is 5/8“Often, in elevated view. (The additional 1” of space gives you room to draw reference lines.)
Draw the center lines for the two front legs with an inclination of 4.5 °. Then draw the inner faces of the legs. The legs taper from 1 “thick at the top and end at 1”3/4“X 2” on the floor. In the elevated view of your plywood, the 2 “width is facing you. So the inside face of the leg should taper 1/2“From the center line at the top of the leg to 1” from the center line on the floor.
Draw the top line of the empty spaces of the stretcher inclined at 45 ° from the parallel and intersecting the internal face of the right front leg 3 ″ downwards from the bottom of the table top. The upper line establishes the angles where the stretchers meet the legs.
You should also draw on the bottom row of 3 1/4“- wide stretcher and serpentine edges. Use the grid pattern to arrange the subtle curves on the stretchers.
A complicated thing is that the mortises for the legs are perforated in the lower part of the upper part, therefore it is necessary to take into account the distortion of the legs on the full-size drawing by writing a perpendicular line from the edge of the plywood to where the The central line of the leg meets the line that represents the lower part of the upper part on the plywood design. Transfer this line to the top design on the other side of the plywood.
List of occasional table cuts of arts and crafts
No.Item size (inches) MaterialComments
t w l
❏ 3 legs 1 3/4 x 2 x 30 Maple too long
❏ 3 stretchers 1/2 x 3 1/4 x 22 1/2Maple tree
❏ 1 At the top 5/8 x 20 1/4 dia.Maple
❏ 6 wedges 1/8 x 3/4 x 3/4
Tapered indexed mask
TTo solve the riddle of how to cut tapered and hexagonal legs, I designed a conical mask that cuts the facets in six steps on my table saw. It works much like the indexing head on a lathe. The mask holds the leg on its axis so that it can be rotated to predetermined angles and adapted to different taper and leg length. It also holds the leg in place for mortise and sanding.
The mask is a simple frame. At one end is a movable trolley that has a hole and a threaded insert for a mounting bolt that goes to the top of the leg. At the other end is the mounting hole plus a 1/4“Indexing hole that will lock at a particular angle of rotation.
The rotation of the leg is controlled by a “cartridge” of 3/4“Thin plywood. The cartridge has a threaded insert in the center which is surrounded by six equidistant holes (one hole for each face of the six-sided leg). The cartridge is screwed onto the bottom of each leg. To lock a rotation angle, you will pass a bolt through the mask’s index hole and into one of the cartridge holes.
The mask frame is attached to a second fence with a door hinge at the end which allows you to adjust the taper angle. A particular cone is blocked by wedging a dowel between the frame and the fence and locking it in place with a bolt that grabs a T-track in the second fence.
To cut the conics, screw the cartridge onto the foot of the leg. Screw the top and bottom of the leg to the mask, lock the trolley, then insert a 1/4“Bolt in one of the six holes in the cartridge. Make the cut and loosen the carriage bolt. Remove the 1/4“Bolt partially, then rotate the leg by pressing on the bolt. When the next hole aligns, press the 1/4“Bolt and tighten the mask to make the next cut.
Create tapered legs
With the empty spaces of the legs milled according to the dimensions in the cutting list, draw a 3/4“-Diameter circle on the top to define tenons. Using a cross slide on the table saw, cut the shoulders for tenons because it is easier with the empty spaces still squared. Cut off the shoulders 11/2“From the top of each leg.
Drill a 5/16“X 3/8“-Deep hole in the upper end of each leg to mount it on the indexed conical mask.
On the foot of the leg, secure the cartridge created for the tapered mask with two # 6 x 1 ″ screws. Attach a test leg on the mask.
Rotate the leg and insert the 1/4“ indexing bolt through the template and in the cartridge to lock the leg at the correct angle to the bench saw blade. Tighten the mounting bolt for the cartridge.
To achieve the correct taper, the best method is to spread the taper on the test leg, then sneak on the correct pitch, using the layout lines as a guide.
With the mask firmly against the fence of the table saw, cut a facet of the leg. Loosen the mounting bolt, rotate the leg to the next position and retighten the bolt. I stopped cutting just before the blade reached the cartridge, then pulled the mask back. The waste will still be attached near the cartridge, but it can be easily broken.
After tapering all three legs, set them aside without cutting them to size. Put them back in the mask later for mortalization and sanding.
Make the stretchers
Block the straight lines along the lines for the inner faces of the legs on the drawing and use a digital protractor to measure the angles where the stretchers meet the legs. I created a dedicated slide for my circular saw to cut these corners, but if you are just preparing a table, a precision meter or circular saw will suffice.
On the drawing, mark the centers of the mortises so as to avoid short grain in the stretchers. Cut these mortises with a router at the end of the stretchers, using your design as a guide.
Mortises should be 3/16“Largo, 15/8“Long and 3/4” deep.
Cut the curves on the stretcher using a router table, a plywood template and a cutting tip.
More work on the legs
Create a texture to transfer the mortise positions from your design to the three legs.
Put one leg back in the tapered mask and turn the veneer accepting the mortise upwards. It’s easy to confuse the top and bottom mortises, so I marked them with a blue ribbon.
To cut these mortises, I made a simple plywood box that encloses the leg to provide a larger support surface for the router base. Using your plywood model to determine the locations, mark the mortise centers on the mask. Cut the mortises for the legs using the same depth setting and side stops that you used with the stretcher mortisers. Regarding the positions of the mortises: for the front right leg, the center of the mortise is 51/2“Down from the bottom of the top on the inside face. The center of the mortise on the left front leg is 167/8“Down from the bottom of the top of the inner face. Sand your legs while they’re still in the tapered mask.
Create the 3/4“- Tenon round diameter on the legs. Dry assemble the legs and stretchers together with the floating tenons to make sure everything fits well, then cut the legs to length.
Time for the top
Paste a 5/8“- Thin panel and cut it into a 22” x 22 “square, establish the center and draw lines at 120 ° angles to mark the positions of the legs. Get the positions for the legs from the design, remembering to mark the positions on the side bottom of the top. I used a circular cut mask with a router to cut the round top with a diameter of 201/4“.
Put them all together
Use a piece of scrap plywood with the reference lines transferred from the plywood design for a test run to drill the holes for the legs.
To pierce the mortises, I used a mask similar to a circular cutting mask that is crossed with a pin mask. Cut a piece of 1/2Waste plywood up to 3 “wide and 20” long. Mark a line across the face and edge at 10 “and drill a hole to accommodate the central pin used with a circular cutting mask.
Draw a center line along the length of the plywood and bring this line around the edges.
On the top of the scrap, drill a firm hole on the bottom to accept the pin. It now had a 4.5 ° angled hole in a hardwood block measuring 2 “thick, 3” wide and 7 “long. This block will act as a bushing or guide for the drill bit. Mark a line up 63/4“Away from the center hole on the mask. Secure the block of wood to the plywood with screws (not glue) so that the center line of the hole is aligned with the center line on the mask.
Place the mask on the bottom of the table top with the pin in the hole. Rotate the mask until it aligns with one of the three lines on the table top. Secure the mask in place and bore the 3/4“Hole with a hand drill on your plywood dummy.
Dry mount the legs and stretchers in the fictitious top. If the dry assembly has empty spaces, unscrew the wooden block, move it and reconnect it. Drill holes on new lines on plywood until perfect adherence is obtained.
When everything fits, it bores the mortises in the real top. Patience will pay off here. Repeat until you have an exact measurement. Cut slits in the top of the tenons of the legs to accept the wedges.
The glue for this table can be a challenge because of the angles, so I created some carvings to give the vises some slightly parallel surfaces to work with. Insert the tenons during the glue and cut the tenons flush upwards when the glue is dry. I used crossed wedges in homage to the original.
I finished this table with a simple cleaning varnish, sanding in my hands until I got a nice build and shine.
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