Projects - An Occasional Table of Ash and Neem

An occasional table of Ash and Neem

Our family doctor asked me when I last visited him to make a table for an antique gramophone player he had acquired. He said he would pay for the thing.

This was good but had my brains working overtime to work out what sort of table would impress my doctor. I hadn't built a table before but I knew there were a wide variety of styles and purposes.

I settled on a simple design with dramatic contrast - the legs and stretcher would be of White Ash while the top would be stained a rich red (Cabernet as it turned out eventually).

I had some Ash lying around which I had roughly milled at the timber shop as well as some Neem boards I had acquired during a previous wood hunting trip (see blog on "In Search of Sheesham").

Ash stretchers: Ash is a strong, pleasant looking wood with distinctive figure

The Ash was in good shape and just required some planing to remove the mill marks and smoothen.

The Neem had stabilised but had a few rather deep streaks. It need quite a bit of planing and even then I could not entirely remove the many surface imperfections. Yet I stuck with it because the wood was strong and had subtle but interesting figure.

The table was made with Ash for the legs and stretchers, and Neem for the top

The top was made by gluing three pieces of Neem and then slightly rounding its front and back edges. I knew I would have to work extra to fill in the natural ridges and strips of porous cross grain in the top.

I hit a bit of a road block with the legs because I wanted to taper them slightly - tapered legs look a little more elegant than straight chunky ones. The question was how to taper the legs.

At first I tried the traditional method of sawing and planing, which worked but was rather time consuming. I then built a rudimentary tapering jig which I could use on my table saw.

Simple Tapering Jig

The jig is nothing but a solid one-inch thick flat piece of wood which serves as a base with a thin baton attached with screws at the angle at which I wanted the taper; to hold down the leg I screwed on a strip of wood with toggle clamps on it. 

The other strip of wood with smaller toggle clamps was meant to hold down larger pieces of wood for straightening edges and is redundant for tapering jobs.

Tapered Legs

The tapering jig allowed me to make the eight cuts (one for each inside face of the legs) quickly, easily and accurately. The legs were then mortised to take the stretchers.

Gluing up one side

I also cut grooves on the front faces of two legs and inlaid them with 1/8th strips of Rosewood. This was an experiment but the results were satisfying.

Mortising slots for turn buttons

I used turn buttons to attach the top; these are easy to make and go into slots mortised into the insides of the stretchers. This method of attaching table tops is recommended because it allows for the seasonal contraction and expansion of the wooden table top.

The Neem top had to be carefully filled, stained and polished

The table was finished with Shellac.

I hope it is just the thing the good doctor ordered.

Completed table

Indranil Banerjie
16 July 2016


  1. The end result looks awesome sir. The top neem piece looks wonderful with the shellac finishing.
    Regarding the vertical black lines running through the legs, is that inlay work or simply a shallow dado which is differently stained?

    1. Thanks, Sid. The vertical lines are actually dark red (rosewood with blackish streeks). It was inlaid into a 1/8 th inch groove. The inlay is also a little wider and thicker than 1/8th inch. It is glued in and then planed flush.

    2. can i have email id Indranil


  2. Neem is looked down upon down here.One should see this to realize what a good workmanship will do to wood. Can you give the Stalin's name, brand. I am not sure I can replicate the finish. Rosewood inlay is genius. Doctor will be very happy.

    1. Thanks Shuja. The stain actually is in two parts - first a deep red aniline dye (water soluble), followed by a brownish/red stain (oil based).

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Bala. Good to hear from you after so long!

  4. Congratulations on your first project for any client, which is completely beautiful and fabulous ! Ash has gorgeous textures.

  5. Where do you get shellac in India?


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