Mark ( on January 17th, 2009

All of the table components were completed so, it was now time to tackle milling and installing the string inlay.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this table is going into a house with very dark wood floors. Because of this, I chose Hard Maple for the main wood to provide contrast with the floors. However, the Maple alone was too bland for my liking and I wanted to give this table a bit of a contemporary flair. So, I decided to add some Cherry string inlay along the arched aprons as well as bordering the entire top. I felt that this would provide some visual interest along with a more modern look while not being too overbearing.  Just a subtle design element.

The first task was to lay out the inlay lines on the parts to be embellished. On the aprons this was just a simple arch parallel with the bottom of each apron. On the top things were a bit more complex. I wanted the inlay to border the top at a fixed distance from the edges. To mark this, I layed out and marked the intersecting points at the corners.  Then I connected the points with a straight edge and compass set at the desired offset distance for the inlay.   The compass was used on the curved sections running the point along the curve while tracing out a line with the pencil side.

routing-channel-in-apronrouting-channel-in-topchiseling-corners-of-channelThe trick to routing the channel for the inlay was to keep the router bit running parallel with all of the edges of the parts – this included running along the straight sides of the top, the concave edges of the aprons and also along the convex edges of the ends of the top.  To do this I used my Bosch Colt router with an edge guide. I milled two small arched blocks.  One block had a convex curve and the other a concave curve – these curves were made slightly sharper than those of the table to allow me to maneuver the router to track the inlay lines .  I (separately) double-stick taped these blocks to the edge guide.  The convex block was used on the aprons and the concave block was used on the ends of the top – as I routed, I concentrated on keeping the center of the guide block against the edge of the part while tracking my lines.  At the intersection points on the top I stopped short of each intersection with the router and finished the corner with a small chisel.

cherry-stringingThe next task was to rip some Cherry stringing at about 3/16″ wide by an 1/8″ high. I did this by ripping a few 1/8″ pieces from a 3/4″ Cherry board. I then placed these pieces flat on their wide sides and set up the band saw to rip strips slightly wider than 3/16″ – leaving room to clean them up with a hand plane.  I used double-stick tape to hold the pieces of stringing to my bench and dressed the edges with my plane until they just fit into the routed channels.

gluing-the-stringingleveling-the-stringingFor the aprons, fitting and gluing the stringing was straight forward. I applied a bit of glue into each channel and pressed the inlay into position leaving the ends a bit long for trimming later. With a bit of waxed paper in between the pieces, I butted the aprons face to face and clamped them together to dry. The top was a bit more challenging because four pieces of stringing had to be cut to fit.  I contemplated mitering the corners but finally opted on a slightly different technique.  I first cut and fit the shorter arched end pieces. With these pieces temporarily and lightly in place, I marked one end of each long piece to match the angle where they met the end pieces.  I made those cuts with a sharp chisel. With those ends temporarily set in place, I then marked the opposite ends where they met the arched pieces on the opposite ends of the top. Again, I cut the pieces with a chisel, however, I initially stayed away from my line and gradually trimmed away the ends until I had a good fit. With these pieces fit, I again put glue into the channels and set the stringing in place.  I clamped on waxed paper and cauls over the stringing and left it to dry. Once the glued stringing had dried I leveled it all with the surface of the parts using a block plane and card scraper.

table-glue-uptable-ready-for-finishWith all of the stringing glued in place and leveled I did a some sanding on all of the parts and then moved on to the the glue up of the table.  In the pictures you can see the table being clamped during the glue up as well as after a final hand sanding and ready for finish.  In the next post I’ll cover the finishing process and show the completed table.

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6 Responses to “Modern Shaker Table: String Inlay and Glue Up”

  1. Mark,

    I love the inlay! It definitely provides a nice touch, and modernizes the Shaker table.

  2. Thanks Al!

    I wanted to do something for the plain Maple. I thought that a contrasting inlay would do that and also modernize the look a bit. My only concern was to not add too much ornamentation that would take away from the basic lines of the design. Hopefully I accomplished that.

    I’ll be posting on the finished product soon.


  3. Nice job. Gives me incentive to give string inlay a try. I have a bunch of short inlay pieces that I inherited from a “Grand Master” Russell Kasnick, father in law. He was always pushing me to try things way beyond what I thought were my limits. I sure miss his expertise.

  4. Thanks. I’d say to go for it. Your father-in-law gave good advice. Pushing beyond your comfort zone is how you grow – I’m sure that is how he gained much of his expertise.


  5. Mark,

    There’s a simple elegance about the design of your table that is quite understated. For me it evokes a curiosity. It makes me want to look further to discover the refined beauty of the piece. Thanks for sharing! It’s very inspiring.

  6. Bob,

    Thank you for the nice comments on the table (by the way the completed table is shown in a more recent post).

    Simple elegance is exactly what I was shooting for with this design! It’s good to know that I hit the mark and that it was inspiing to you in some way.

    Please continue to visit the blog and share your comments.


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