The Dale C. Maley Family Web Site

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1909 Fern Tables

I built 2 of these back in 2014, and documented the process on my website.  Unfortunately, my photo web site went out of none of the photos show up anymore.  As people ask me, I have been republishing web pages for projects they are interested in.  I had a request to update this the update is below.  Thanks!

1909 Fern Tables Updated

I have a book which has reprints of 1909, 1910, and 1912 issues of Popular Mechanics magazine. This book has many Mission Style furniture patterns.  I liked the looks of the Fern Table design and decided to make a pair.

Here is the original pattern from the book....


I converted the design into a Google Sketchup design......


The material list calls for the tenons to be 3/4" long for the 8 horizontal rails. If you make them 3/4" long, they will hit each other in the corners.

I will probably just make them 5/8" long versus 3/4" so they do not hit each other.  The pattern also does not call out whether to use 1/4" or 3/8" wide tenons. I am going to choose 1/4" wide.  Otherwise, my Sketchup design is identical to the 1909 plans.

Wood Selection

The plans call for quarter-sawn white oak, which is tough for me to get. I'm going to make mine from red oak.  Menard's has 1.5x1.5x72 inch red oak, which you need to make 4 square legs. 

Jig for Sawing Legs to 30 Inch Length

I made a temporary jig to try to saw each of the legs to the same length.....

Ripping Legs

It is about my old 1967 sears table saw can do to rip 1.5" thick red oak. I assumed I would get burn marks from ripping the oak. So, I ripped the 3.5" wide boards into 2 equal halves, then I ran them through my planer to remove the table saw burn marks.

After planning, the legs were exactly 1.5 inch square, as called for in the design, with no burn marks :)

Drill Press Mortise Attachment

I blew the dust off my old AMT mortise attachment and installed it on the drill press. It takes quite a bit of time to get the fence set correctly, so the square chisel exactly is in the center of the board.  But once you get it set up, you can pound out the mortises pretty quickly. I used 1/4" mortises for this project.

I labeled each leg with masking tape, because it is easy to get the mortise on the wrong side of the leg if you are not paying attention.  Old brown masking tape worked better than blue, it was easier to see the black marker on  the light brown tape.

Making the Tenons

I first set up the router table with a 1/4" bit, but I got way too much tear-out. I got out the table saw tenon attachment and set it up.  It also takes a long time to set up and get the tenon thickness just right. But once it is set up, you can crank out tenons.  I first sawed the inner cuts on both sides of the tenon.  Then it took 2 more rounds for each piece, to saw out the remaining stock.

I could have set up a dado blade so I cut each side in 1 pass.......but I was worried I would get more tear-out with the wider dado blades.

Rough Fit-Up of the Base Table

Here I am checking the basic fit-up of one table..........

Router Table for Grooves in Horizontal Stiles

I used a 3/8" straight bit and went about 7/16" deep. I temporarily clamped a guide board to keep the pieces from slipping away from the fence. I did it in 2 depth passes.

Diamond Panels

I planed 3/4" red oak down to 3/8" thickness. I used the scroll saw to cut out the diamond shapes. I put in a coarser blade to saw the 3/8" thick oak without burning it.

Assembly of the Diamond Panels

My panel width is about 1/8" less than the plans. I trimmed equal amounts from the 2 end pieces so they all fit ok with a little clearance.

Lots of Saw Dust

Planing the 3/8" thick panels from 3/4" stock created a lot of red oak sawdust!

Kreg Fixture

I used the Kreg fixture to make the 2 shelves and 2 tops......

Belt Sanding Shelves and Tops

I like the pencil method of marking the low side of the joint where 2 boards are glued together....then you belt sand until the pencil marks are gone.  Without the pencil marks, it is easy to miss a spot where the joint is not flat. Cleaning the belt with the gum stick often helps to speed up the sanding process.

45 Degree Leg Tops

I used the miter saw to make these. It worked well and had no burn marks either.

Cutting the Corners

I used the scroll saw with a pin end coarse blade to cut out the square corners. It is time consuming to lay these out to get a very good fit to the legs.

Lots of Pieces on This Project

I dis-assembled the tables on the floor, to keep the pieces matched I could table saw the grooves required for the steel clamps.

Better Method of Marking the 4 corners to saw

On the 2nd table, I just set the table on the shelf, then marked the cut-out areas around the legs as shown in the picture below........


I chose Spanish oak stain for these two fern tables.....

Special Jigs for Holding stained & varnished pieces

Behlen Grain Filler

I used Behlen's grain filler on the 4 legs, the shelf, and the top. The steps I used were:

1. Mark all pieces for easy final assembly. Used steel stamp set to mark (A, B, C, D).

2. sand to 220 grit

3. Stain

4. Stir up Behlen's grain filler in the can using paint stirrer and slowest speed on drill press

5. Apply Behlen's using finger. Let dry for 10 minutes, then scrape across the grain with Behlen's plastic knife. Wipe across the grain with burlap from McMaster-Carr.

6. After grain filler dries, sand to 220 grit.

7. Re-stain the pieces

8. Three or 4 rounds of 220 grit sanding and polyurethane

Final Assembly of Gluing and Clamping

I assembled using the stamped ID's on the pieces. Then I glued and clamped up everything. Last I installed the Rockwell steel brackets to hold the top and shelf (which allow the top and shelf to expand and contract separately from the rest of the table frame).

Finished Fern Tables

Sketchup Warehouse

I uploaded the design to the Sketchup Warehouse, where anyone can access this design. You can use this link to get the design.

Concluding Thoughts

On the first table, I measured the leg spacings, then transferred the measurements to both the shelf and top. This was very time consuming and prone to error. On the 2nd table, I simply set the table on top of the shelf, got the legs lined up with the corners of the shelf, and marked around legs with a pencil...then scroll sawed. This was much faster and more accurate than transferring measurements.  I'm going to do the same method to mark the 4 corners to saw on the top, but you can not put on the 45 degree angles on the legs until after you get the top done (because you can not mark accurately with the 45 degrees in place).

The cheaper red oak I bought at Lowes turned out to have some plane marks that showed up on the table tops and shelves. Next time, I should run these through my planer to remove them. The boards are a hair thicker than 3/4, so I should be able to fine plane them to 3/4" finished thickness.

LumberJocks Comment:

I posted this project on  I got an interesting comment from a person on this web site:

It has now been 7 years since I built my 2 tables. There have been no issues on either table with respect to expansion and contraction.  I think the little bit of clearance I allowed between the 4  corner posts and the top and shelf has allowed the table tops and shelves to expand and contract fine.