Thursday: Notching, Relieving, and Assembly — Ethan

Only about three hours spent in the shop today, but lots of important work finished before the long process of carefully sanding down each surface to smooth, shiny, and then soft — if you can imagine “soft” wood — and applying about half a dozen coats of finish.

The main focus was on the legs today. With mortise and through-tenon joints, a wedge is usually inserted into the through-tenon in order to hold the joint in place using the force of friction in the wood instead of relying on glue. Two features in the tenon make this possible: a “notch” that is cut into the top of the tenon, usually with a bandsaw (which I used) or a coping saw; and a “relief hole” that is made at the base of the notch (with a drill press, in my case), which enables the wood fibers to take the stress of the wedge without continuing to split beyond the desired length. If you recall my previous post — in which I tapered the legs from a 2.25″ square to a 1.75″ square — that process left eight thin wedge-shaped pieces of wood that will likely be well suited as the wedges for my tenons.

The final step before sanding was to re-saw the joint for leg D on the tray that will sit under the tabletop, and make a cut across the board to line up the end with legs B and D (at the far end of the bottom picture). With that done, I began sanding the bottom face of the tray; for large surfaces such as the tray, I use the shop’s power sander, which gets the job done, but it takes a lot out of you physically, and the combined noise of the sander and the vacuum attached to it begins to grate on you after an hour or so.

IMG_0894 IMG_0882


From here, I see lots and lots and lots of sanding in the next few days, gluing and assembly(!), and after that, I’ll be spending my free periods this coming week applying coats of tung oil and polyurethane.

My next few posts will be more retrospective/reflective in focus, as I wrap up this nearly 3-week-long project — until then.



2 thoughts on “Thursday: Notching, Relieving, and Assembly — Ethan

  1. Charlotte Triefus

    I am so excited you are working on this amazing table for the tiny house. I look forward to seeing it installed.

  2. Karen Gallagher

    So awesome, Ethan! I am so impressed by this project. I need to come to the shop in person to appreciate the work you’ve done, up close. Every element–from the design to the hard work of learning by doing the joints and the tapering–has been wonderful to watch at a distance.


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