Shaker Sewing Table

~SewingTable copyWhen I began building furniture, I was, as are many new-to-woodworking furniture makers, into Shaker pieces. I enjoyed the simplistic designs and straight lines the Shakers put into each piece. If you sent me into the shop to build anything I wanted, it would be a Shaker project.

One of my first furniture books was John Kassay’s “The Book of Shaker Furniture” (University of Massachusetts Press). I thumbed through that book for countless hours trying to find a project to build. Not that there were not enough choices, I was working to whittle down the number of pieces until I arrived at “the one.”

On one of those searches, I found a three-drawer sewing table that became the last project standing at the end – it was the one. I’ve since built that design many times. While snooping around an antique Shaker furniture auction recently, I discovered a similar two-drawer version. The two-drawer sewing table presents a cleaner line, and is more table-like. Plus, it fits into many more areas in today’s homes.

As is most often the case, work on a table-like project begins with the legs. The tools we use to work on projects sometimes guide our building processes. Because I’m going to plunge-rout the mortises for this project, I’ll leave the legs square until after I get all the mortises cut. Tapering afterward allows more support for my router as I work. Plus, after the mortises are plowed, it’s easy to determine just which faces of the legs need to be tapered.

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6 thoughts on “Shaker Sewing Table

  1. That dado/saw blade combo for the top clips is genius! What a great idea and overall project.
    Quick question, do the drawer bottoms really need to be 3/4″ thick? I’m new to period furniture, is this a standard thickness traditionally used for strength or just a matter of convenience for milling?
    Thanks, can’t wait for more!
    Justin in Nashville

    1. Justin,
      I thought the same things when I first learned the blade/dado stack for wooden clips. The bottoms on this piece are 5/8″ set into a groove that’s up 3/4″ – that allows a 1/8″ of room for the drawer to wear before anything becomes a problem. This is my usual MO, but you could have easily used a 1/2″-thick bottom slid into a groove up 5/8″. I consider the size of the drawer boxes (not so much the depth, though). For any drawer that reaches around 30″ in width, I’d move to the thicker bottom.

  2. Very nice presentation, I really like the way the work is presented. I was curious what aniline dye color this was on the flamed birch? Also, was the shellac just blonde or was it a colored shellac? Great looking finish.
    Bob

    1. Bob,

      Thank you. I think this table is a great representation of Shaker work and it’s a project that both beginners and experienced woodworkers will enjoy. In the article I wrote that the dyes used were Golden Amber Maple and Brown Walnut (in a 50/50 mixture), but I failed to write that the shellac was Zinnser’s clear, right off the store shelf.

      1. Ooops, I missed that dye colors in the articles. I must be blind. Thanks and also for the shellac tone. I really like this form of dispersing information and tips. Keep up the good work.

        Bob

  3. Great explanation on the grain patterns for the legs. I enjoyed the tip manipulation of the rift grain to get a better grain pattern for the legs.

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