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This Mission Style Coffee Table is attractive and functional, and can be put together in your workshop over a weekend.
When a new couch and loveseat for our living room dictated a new coffee table to fit the L-shaped arrangement, she knew what was important. Click here for the exploded view of the coffee table project and the material list in PDF format.
Clearly a light-looking turned-leg Shaker table or an airy Danish Modern design was not going to cut it.
Mortise and tenon joints like this one on the table's rails are hallmarks of the classic Arts & Crafts furniture making style. To prevent the table from looking too imposing, the author used subtle alterations like these tenon wedges that are purely decorative.
To keep the trestles from looking monolithic, I decided to use setbacks and shadow lines to break up the visual mass and give the eye something to play with.
Choosing wood is important for any project, for this table the author used white oak, finishes, and unique cuts to give each part an interesting look.
Now, designing with these thicknesses is easy enough; sourcing the stock is another matter, especially with the added consideration of using quartersawn white oak with its distinctive ray flake figure. Likewise, I wanted 1" quartersawn stock for the rails, and this is not a common finished size either. After jointing and cutting the legs to finished size and sanding them to 100-grit, I moved to the mortising machine to cut the mortises for the bottom rails. To achieve absolute uniformity from leg to leg, I marked the mortise location carefully on one test leg, set the machine up for the first plunge cut and clamped a stop to the fence.
After laminating the stock together, plow the rails on a table saw so you can put the slats and spacers together. The next step is plowing the grooves that hold the slats in the inner faces of the legs and the rails. Using the table saw, make a stopped cut on your slats, giving yourself some room to finish making the curved part of the slat. While the dado blade was on the saw, I used it to cut the exposed tenons on the lower rails and the stub tenons on the upper rails in multiple passes. Finish making the curved portion of the slats on a band saw, this allows you to have full-width slats without ruining the curve. When I orignally considered the slats, I thought about the spacing between them and how it impacted the layout of the mortises for the stretchers, which are centered on the two spaces adjacent to the center slat. Use a simple C-Clamp to secure this rip fence sliding jig to your table saw to ensure consistently angled cuts on your coffee table beams. After you've made your cuts on the table saw, you will have well structured and attractive coffee table beams and are ready for assembly.
With the dry-fitting done, I disassembled the trestles and laid out the mortises for the stretchers.
These wedges through the stretcher tenons are purely decorative, but add a bit of visual flair to the coffee table project.
In the last steps before final assembly, I sanded everything to 220-grit and routed the bevels on the edges and bottoms of the legs and on the ends of the exposed tenons on the bottom rails and stretchers. I started by gluing the lower rails into the legs, carefully brushing glue on only the 2" of the tenons that would be buried in the legs’ mortises. Then I added the top rail and did the same process over again on top (the outer filler pieces on the top are, of course, narrower than those on the bottom) and clamped the whole thing up.
Making the top was a straightforward job of planing, jointing, ripping, gluing and crosscutting.
This coffee table was finished using General Finishes' Antique Walnut and a liberal coating of dark Briwax, giving it an attractive sheen.


To finish the piece, I took a page from a previous Woodworker’s Journal and mimicked the traditional fumed Arts and Crafts finish with General Finishes wipeon gel stain in Antique Walnut, followed by a satin polyurethane topcoat. The piece has been in service for about a month now, and my wife reports that not only is it a beautiful looking coffee table, but a solid footrest as well. Whether you need a double, queen, or king, this bed fills the bill, and does so in grand style. These Cherry wall units were designed in the Arts and Crafts style, with faux leaded glass above.
These are some Mission Arts and Crafts style plate rack shelves that I make for one of my customers, a local Arts and Crafts Furniture store here in Salt Lake. The living room and the dining rool had a plate rail all around the rooms about 5’ above the floor. DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. She often watches TV from that vantage point and wanted to be able to rest her legs on the table, in lieu of a vetoed recliner. This piece had to be physically and visually substantial — it needed to support at least two pairs of feet and not move under the load — as well as not look so delicate as to discourage informal kick-back comfort. The top could be thick enough to be substantive and the substructure could be constructed to suggest rock-solidity.
The legs, for instance, needed to be 2" thick and show quartersawn faces on all four sides; however, a quartersawn piece of oak will only show ray flake on two sides. I sawed four pieces from my 1-3?4"-thick lumber, 15" long and 2-1?16" wide, allowing extra length to square up the ends and a little extra width to clean up the glue lines on the jointer after laminating the veneers onto the plainsawn faces.
I then made a test cut and, when everything was accurate, I made the first cut in all the legs, butting them against the stop before repositioning the marked leg for the second cut and resetting the stop. The 1-1?4" spacing resulted in a pleasing space between the mortises so I cut two spacer pieces to that length, centered the middle slat in the space, fit the filler pieces on either side and made reference marks from the center of each spacer for laying out the stretchers’ mortises. I had enough 1-3?4" stock remaining to make them (again with the quartersawn faces on the thickness), and I milled them down to 1-1?2" thick. I then glued the outer edges of the outer slats (but not the tops and bottoms) into the grooves on the legs.
The trestles are linked together only at the bottom by the stretchers and will likely move a bit at the top when driving the pocket-hole screws home because they go in at an angle, no matter how firmly you clamp the top to the stretchers.
The self leveling wipe-on topcoat is especially convenient on a piece with this many surface planes, reveals and exposed tenons and wedges.
By simply changing the dimensions of a few parts and the quantity of spindles, as specified in the Materials List, you can build the bed in double, queen, or king size. Modern, Shaker, Scandinavian, Arts and Crafts designs — all with a minimum of ornamentation - share our space and aesthetic. Since a thick slab of plainsawn oak will show ray flake on its thickness, I didn’t need to find thick quartersawn oak — a thick plainsawn piece would provide quartersawn surfaces along its edges. While I was at it, I sawed a couple of extra “test legs” exactly 2" wide to use for setting up the mortises and the grooves for the slats.
Two tips for accurate mortises with a mortiser: first, make the two end cuts first and then make the intermediate cuts in between them (to avoid drift that might move the final end cut out of position) and second, clamp the workpiece solidly to the fence for every cut with a C-clamp (the hold-down on the machine does not always hold securely, making the bit difficult to withdraw and possibly causing slop). I made test cuts in my test pieces and the real cuts in the rails when the fit was accurate. This way the visible top of the slat would be full-width and the filler pieces there would not have to be cut to an angle.
I centered the middle slat in the groove but did not glue it, but I did glue my 1-1?4"-long spacers into the grooves on either side — making sure they were centered over the mortises below.
When they were dry and finish-sanded to 220-grit, I cut the shelf to final length, placed it on top of the stretchers, centered it so it hit just inside the outer edges of the 2nd and 4th slats in the trestles and clamped it in place. Use a couple of 36" bar clamps bridging the top rails to keep them in alignment while driving the screws.


You can rest easy about installing the spindles because there's no need for repetitive drilling and chiseling of mortises.
I believe that the beauty of the wood is more prominent when the style of construction is not so ornate. Because the groove is full length until it joins the through mortise, I could simply start the cut at the upper end and look down into the mortise as the blade entered it, stopping the cut once the groove fully intersected the mortise. I added the next two slats, again without glue, and finally I could measure and cut the remaining spacer lengths exactly.
They are flush with the legs and present an even overhang on both sides (pocket holes to the inside).
I then flipped the assembly over, cut two shelf blocks to the width of the space between the stretchers (with the grain running the same direction as the shelf), spread glue on one end of each (keeping the glue in the center so it wouldn’t squeeze out and stick the blocks to the stretchers or the bottom rails) and dropped them into the space, tight against the inside faces of the bottom rails. Also possibly revealed will be knots, voids, cracks, splits, whorls and other impediments to clear lengths and widths that go into a top that will be the star attraction of a piece like this. Instead, thanks to a simple indexing jig, into the grooves in the footboard and headboard rails, ensuring consistent spindle fit and perfect alignment. Luckily, a better solution presented itself: I found some nice surfaced, 1-3?4"- thick plainsawn lumber. I cut them vertically on the table saw, clamping them to a purpose-built jig that rides on the fence. As is standard practice, mortises extend just a hair inside the thickness of the lower rails, so the wedges pull the stretchers tight. I clamped them tight, drilled countersunk screw holes centered on each leg and screwed the beams down to the legs. Once the glue set, I took the shelf off and drilled countersunk holes to screw the blocking to the shelf on from the bottom.
So it’s important to get stock as wide as possible, consistent with the final dimensions of the top (I needed four 6"-wide by 40"-long boards) to allow for piecing the top together. In my opinion, that is a job best done with a straight bit in a router run along a clamped straightedge. The top would be 1-1?4" thick, plenty massive for doubling as a footstool, but perfectly proportionate to the rest of the piece. Since the slats were less than 10" long and 2" wide, I had plenty of area within my stock from which to select the best grain figure. At this point, I began to think about how to attach the top and decided that pocket-hole screws were my best option. To keep the three middle slats from rattling if they ever shrank, I shot a brad into the top and bottom of each from the back side of the top and bottom rails. By that I mean matching the grain harmoniously from board to board and working around defects.
I chose a piece for the four curved outer slats that had a slope to the figure that complemented the curve. Finally, I glued the stretchers into the mortises on the bottom rails and clamped the assembly overnight.
If one plank winds up narrower than ideal, it’s good to have another that’s wider to compensate. I then went back and drilled oversize holes for the screws centered in the pockets — it allows for seasonal movement in the top. In this case, to make the grain match, I settled on two 6-1?2" inner planks and two 5-1?2" outers, and even so, there was only one way the boards went together into a pleasing composition.



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