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Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

author-gravatar GregRaiewski Aug 03, 2019

This is "The Fitzgerald" coffee table in walnut. I think it is my favorite thing that I've ever designed and made! There is just something about mid-century modern furniture that I love, and a lot of it has to do with the era's attention to legs. At the risk of sounding stupid, aside from the legs, everything else is just boxes, albeit beautiful "boxes" that blow my mind and inspire me to get out into the shop every single day. I hope that doesn't sound weird.

This coffee table has an asymmetric, or cantilevered (or both?) leg design that houses a drawer. I've made versions with both one and two drawers, which slightly change the internal components a bit. I've also played with variations on the angle of the drawer fronts themselves. The front legs slant backwards five degrees off of ninety, and I've made a version with a ninety degree drawer front, which creates a sort of wedge shaped reveal, as well as mitering the drawer sides to hold the drawer front at that same five degree tilt, giving the drawer front a consistent 1/8" reveal all the way up to the underside of the tabletop. I hope there is at least one other person out there who is interested in little details like that!

I think that "The Fitzgerald" coffee table is the unofficial mascot of my little woodworking business. It's the first piece that I feel is the aesthetic direction I want to take my woodworking, and I even use it as the logo for my "brand."

#walnut #midcenturymodern #coffeetable #danishdesign #taperedlegs #table 

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

The two-drawer version of The Fitzgerald was a great opportunity for continuous grain. I generally don't leave the lumber yard until I've touched just about every piece of walnut. This was actually the second set of drawer fronts I made for this table. The first ones just didn't do it for me. They were fairly straight-grained, and gorgeous in their own right, but the second board I got worked out far better.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table
Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

This back three-quarter view is my favorite angle of the coffee table. I have no idea why. I think you see a little bit of everything.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table
Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

A series of dadoes and half laps make up the internal drawer structure. You can see a little dado here peaking out. I love this little detail. I wonder if my customer has ever noticed it, but at the end of the day it's about what we notice, anyway.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table
Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

I've gotten a few messages from woodworkers on Instagram suggesting I try Blum under-mount hinges. I'd love to, but this is a shallow drawer as it is, and those slides need 1/2" of clearance on the bottom, which I'd have to sacrifice from the overall depth of the drawer. I think it's already between three and four inches, so 1/2" seems like a lot to me. I have a potential client asking for a 50" wide version of this, which lends itself to scaling up a bit. I may just have to give it a shot.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

The grain on this leg blows my mind.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

The one one the left is the two-drawer version for a customer on Etsy. The one on the right is the first one I made, which lives in my living room. It's two inches taller at 18" tall.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table
Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table
Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

Epic face-off.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

It all starts with MDF and some chalk. Chalk wipes off easily, as I have learned. This wasn't the part layout I ultimately went with.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

I make sure to keep track of "show" faces. I didn't do that on my first one (which was for me) and the grain I loved is on the inside of the table!

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

I always try to find curly and chatoyant pieces for legs.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

Fresh off of the bandsaw. When I trace the template, I use a standard sized sharpie, and try to basically cut that marker width in half on the bandsaw. That leaves me very little to do with the router. I use a Whiteside up-cut spiral flush trim bit for my template routing. It doesn't care about grain direction and I love it!

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

If you look closely, you can see the layout lines for the dominoes. I use 10mm x 50mm dominoes for 8/4 pieces like these.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

The stretcher is also connected with dominoes. I have a simple jig that helps me mark layout lines off of which to register the domino.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

It's crazy what a 1/4" round-over bit can do. These legs haven't gotten that yet, and I think they look super bulky at this point.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

I make sure to cut the back stretcher, the back of the drawer housing, and the top front stretcher all at the same time so nothing gets wonky.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

I always pre-finish the coffee table before the glue up. I use satin Arm-R-Seal. I can't imagine trying to finish this thing after the glue up! Even dried glue squeeze out practically falls right off of the pre-finished pieces.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

I make little paper towel booties for my clamps so they don't scuff the finished surfaces.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

This was a photo I sent to my client. He was stoked about the continuous grain! I was stoked to have a client that knew what continues grain meant!

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

Speaking of continuous grain, the walnut drawer bottoms are also continuous. Sure, they'll be covered in magazines, coasters, and remotes, but that's not the point.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

It's nice to work on the drawer slides without the top on.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

My favorite angle of the table. Oh man.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

I put a subtle curve around the back of the table, which I didn't do on the first version that I made. I think it complements the curvature of the legs.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

I finished everything inside my house since it was about 37 degrees out and the first coat of wipe-on Arm-R-Seal took over a day to dry. I can usually get two coats on in a single day during the summer!

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

Feathery.

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

You should have seen the other side!

Photo of Mid-Century Modern Walnut Coffee Table

5 comments

I love the attention to detail your work. The piece looks great and a nice write-up too.

I too, wish everyone was this exited about grain continuity.

Thank you for the kind words, Timmy! Grain continuity for the win!

@Timmy2Hands  said:

I love the attention to detail your work. The piece looks great and a nice write-up too.

I too, wish everyone was this exited about grain continuity.

Absolutely stunning work. Probably my favorite of your work and that's very difficult to say because I enjoy all of your work haha. Thanks for the writeup! 

Beautiful build! I really love the clean lines and gorgeous walnut. Also, great job on the photo shoot. 

Love the table, love the table, love the table. Super sweet lines and simply nice to look at. It’s got that mid century vibe done right. I’m inspired to try something like this for myself soon. Great piece!!!

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