Making a Side Table for Books

Frame and Shelves of a Teak side table

There was a time when I would photograph each stage of a project and use them in my blog. Of late, in the rush to complete projects, I find myself neglecting to document each of them properly, which is bad because I often forget what I had learnt or made a mental note of. Maintaining a blog is one way of keeping a record.

My only excuse is the myriad home improvement tasks I have had to tackle this winter. Some of them were pretty major and required working with professional welders, fitters, masons and so on.

I am also at an uncomfortable stage of my woodworking where I think have learnt a lot and yet my work always seems to be so full of imperfections.

I strive to get better but accuracy always seems to elude me and I seem to blunder so often.

I have been working on a side table made entirely of Teak - Burma for the frames and African for the shelves and top. This piece has taken me much longer than anticipated because of a series of mistakes.

My first problem was with the frame; I struggled to get my tenons right. Even a slight twist in them would skew the frame. I had to scrap two stretchers and re-make them.

The bottom shelf was not a problem as I had cut a rebate all around the inside of the stretchers. This allowed the shelf to sit on the rebates without glue or screws. It floats with a small gap of about a sixteenth of an inch all around. Although even here the reveal could have been more consistent than it actually is.

A major blunder was the middle shelf. The shelf was designed to sit inside two housings cut in the insides of the legs. I had intended to glue the front part and leave the back free to expand and contract inside the housing.

Top slab - French Polished

During the glue-up however, I clean forgot and glued the back as well as the front. That unfortunately is something I cannot fix and can only hope the frame will be strong enough to restrain the movement of the shelf.

What I did do is separate the tops and bottoms of the shelf where it sits inside the legs with a flush cut saw. The hope is that if the pressure is too much it would have much less of a glue surface to break free from. Does that make any sense? Perhaps not but it made me feel a little better.

Then, there was the matter of the top. I had laminated four lengths of one and a half inch thick Teak boards to made a slab. It had turned out fine after a lot of hand planing, sanding and French polishing.

Screwing on the top

But when I went to fit it, I found the slab had very little overhang along the sides of the frame. I had goofed up on the measurements. It covered everything but looked bad.

So, it was back to laminating, sanding and polishing. Finished all of that this morning and had the pleasure of finally screwing on the new top to the frame.

For this I had attached three quarter inch pieces to the insides of the top and made elongated holes for the screws.

The Shellac polish looks good though I think it would do better with a wipe of poly for the long term because I am going to use the top for coffee and drinks.

The side table in my study

Indranil Banerjie
6 January 2017


  1. Excellent finish and overall it came up great.Also thanks for sharing pitfalls which will be our guidance as always.

    1. Thanks Kingshuk. Still learning as always!

  2. Can you help me build a wall-mounted foldable drafting table? I live in a small govt. residential house and space constraint is a big problem.

  3. It looks amazing, bookshelf can also act as a center table, but how did u apply the The Shellac polish

    1. Thanks. I applied Shellac the traditional way with a cotton rubber.

  4. It looks fantastic, as usual you do a great job of your work, even if it is admit that you ran into trouble with the tenons. I have a built a table with ivory teak and has 8 mortise and tenons and I know the problems I ran into with sub standard tools sometimes mismatched with the actual requirement. Thankfully I had a Bosch router which cut the mortises beautifully. I had purchased an Inder marking gauge which was substandard so had to hand mark the markings with a square.

    I tend to believe that if you are making furniture with a purpose then it is different story, making furniture without any desire to listen to your work speak will not help in perfection. I am firm believer in "Work Talk."

  5. Hi ,, just wanted to know the different kinds of wood used in this project .. please help ..


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