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AW Extra 10/25/12 - Limbert Table


Limbert Table

A slick bandsaw jig makes it straightforward to build.

By Jon Stumbras and Tom Caspar

Bold design, strong joints and graceful cutouts.These are hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts furniture made by the Charles P. Limbert Company of Holland, Michigan. In 1910, Limbert designed a large oval library table that’s become an icon of American design.

Here’s a smaller round version that’s more practical for today’s homes. All the parts fit together with four different kinds of half-lap joints made on a bandsaw. Follow along with us as we turn the bandsaw into a precision joint-making machine by adding one simple shop-made jig.


Tools and materials

You’ll need a jointer, planer, bandsaw, router, router table and jigsaw to build the table. We recommend using a 1/2- in. 4-tpi blade in your bandsaw. You’ll use two special router bits; a 1/2-in. bottom-bearing flush-trim bit ($18) and a 1/8-in. roundover ($23).You’ll also need 1-in. and 1-1/4-in. Forstner or spade bits and a 5/8-in. brad-point bit. (See Sources, below, for bandsaw blade and router bit suppliers.)

The table requires approximately 15 bd. ft. of 4/4 and 8 bd. ft. of 6/4 lumber. Our lumber cost about $100. In keeping with traditional Arts and Crafts style, we used quartersawn white oak for the top, rails and shelf. It’s hard to find quartersawn lumber thicker than 4/4, so we used carefully selected plainsawn white oak for the legs (see Choosing Wood for the Legs). You’ll also need some figureeight style desktop fasteners ($5). (See Sources, below, for quartersawn oak and the fasteners.)


Make the lower rails

Select wood for the lower rails (E). It’s better to glue up the rails from two or three narrow boards rather than use one wide board.A wide board might not stay flat while you build the table, particularly if you use plainsawn lumber, and that would spell trouble in making the rails’ half-lap joints.You’ll also need a test piece (F) for making the half-lap joints. It must be the same thickness and type of wood as the rails. Cut both rails and the test piece from one long glued-up blank. The rails will then match in color and figure.

1. Joint the faces of the boards, and plane them 7/8- in. thick. Then joint both edges.

2.Glue the boards together, and scrape off any dried glue.

3. Run the blank through the planer, alternating sides, until it’s 3/4-in. thick. Plane another piece of wood (spacer G) to exactly the same thickness.

4. Rip the blank to final width, and cut the two rails to length.


Rout openings in the rails

1. Make a router template from 1/4-in. hardboard or melamine (Fig. F, page 61). Cut it exactly the same size as both rails. Drill the three holes in the template with a 1-1/4-in.bit.Cut the opening with a jigsaw, staying 1/16- in. away from the layout lines. Clean up these rough cuts with a drum sander in a drill press or use a file and sandpaper.

2.Trace the template openings on the left and right sides of each rail.Drill 1-in.-dia.holes in the corners of the cutouts. Rough cut the openings with a jigsaw (Photo 1). Avoid cutting right on the line, but cut as close as you can, leaving no more than 1/16- in.waste.

3. Rout the openings with a 1/2-in.-dia. flush-trim bit (Photo 2).

4. Flip over the template and tape it to the other half of the rail. Rout the opposite opening. Sand the cutouts, both faces of the rails, test piece F and spacer G.


Build an auxiliary bandsaw table

The extra-large half-lap joints and bridle joints in this table are safe and easy to cut on a bandsaw.You’ll need a fence on your bandsaw, however. If you don’t have a fence,we’ve devised a simple way to turn your tablesaw miter gauge into a fence by building a no-fuss auxiliary table for your bandsaw. It’s generously sized to support the large pieces of this project (see Versatile Bandsaw Table, below).


Perfect half-lap joints

Making perfect-fitting halflap joints often requires a lot of trial-and-error cutting, but we’ve devised a simple method to eliminate that extra work. Set the fence for drift with a 3/4-in.oak board (see Adjust the Fence, opposite page).

1.Make two shims equal to the width of your bandsaw blade’s kerf (Photo 3). Tape the shims together in a package.

2. Lay out the half-lap joints on both rails (Fig.C,page 61).

3.Mark one notch anywhere on test piece F.Cut the notch as described in Steps 4 through 7 and test the fit with an uncut rail.

4.Tape the shims to the end of the rail so they slide along with it.Be sure the shims are snugged up against the fence. Make the right-hand cut all the way to the bottom of the notch (Photo 4). Remove the shims and insert spacer G.

5. Make the left-hand cut (Photo 5).When cutting the actual pieces, repeat steps 4 and 5 with the second rail.

6.Move the fence away from the blade and clean out the waste between the saw cuts (Photo 6).

7.Test fit the notch on piece F. If the joint is too loose, add another paper shim. If the joint is too tight, reduce the thickness of both shims. When satisfied, cut the real joints.

8. Cut the bottom of the notch by nibbling away at it with your saw blade (Photo 7). Reset the angle on the fence so it is parallel to the blade, but don’t clamp the fence in place.With the saw turned off, advance the rail into the saw blade so the blade comes right to the bottom of the notch.Clamp a stop block to the fence against the top of the rail. Now, back the rail out a bit, turn on the saw, and nibble off the bottom of the notch by moving the fence from right to left. Make very shallow cuts. After a few passes, you’ll have a perfectly square bottom. You could finish off the notch with a chisel or file, but nibbling with a bandsaw goes much faster.


Make the legs

Select the wood for the legs (see Choosing Wood for the Legs).

1. Plane the legs (B) to thickness, saw to full width and crosscut to length. Attach a taller fence board to the miter gauge. Set the bandsaw for drift with a scrap piece that’s the same width as the legs.

2. Draw the bridle joint notches (Fig. B). Each notch must be dead center, but its precise width isn’t critical.The surefire way to center the cut is to saw the notch from both sides of the legs, without moving the fence (Photo 8). Clamp a stop block to the fence so the cut stops at the bottom of the notch. Saw the outside cuts, then remove most of the waste, as you did with the rails above.

3.Take the drift angle out of the fence. Unclamp the fence and square the bottom of the notches by sliding the fence right to left.

4. Trace a curve on the legs with a jig (Photo 9 and Fig. E). Align the straight side of the jig with the edge of the leg. Saw the legs on the bandsaw and smooth the curve with a sander, rasp or hand plane.


Fit the upper rails

1. Plane the upper rails (C) to fit the leg notches (Photo 10).Cut spacer H from a 12- in.-long board planed to the same thickness as the rails.

2. Layout notches on both rails (Fig. D). Cut the notches by a similar spacing system as above. This time you don’t need the auxiliary table, however. First, tape a shim to the right end of the rail and line up the blade with the left marking line. Clamp a stop block against the shim and make the cut. Stop at the bottom of the cut and clamp a second stop block to the table. Remove the shim, insert spacer H and make the right-hand cut (Photo 11). Remove the waste and clean out the bottom by sliding the rail right to left along the fence.

3.Angle the ends of each rail (Fig.D).

4. Drill shallow holes in the upper and lower rails (Figs.C and D) for figureeight desktop fasteners (see Sources). Install all the fasteners.


Construct the shelf and top

1.Glue up the shelf blank (D). Lay out the notches and circular edge (Fig.G,page 61).

2. Cut the notches on the bandsaw (Photo 12).You can simply reset the fence to cut both sides of each notch, rather than use shims and spacers, because the exact fit isn’t critical.

3.Cut the shelf’s circular edge using a brad as a pivot pin. Set the brad 7-1/2 in. perpendicular from the front of the bandsaw blade and snip off the head (see Versatile Bandsaw Table).Mark dead center on the underside of the shelf and drill a 1/16-in. hole for the pivot pin. Set the shelf on top of the pin, placing the blade within one of the notches (Photo 13). Rotate the shelf on the pin, and you’ll cut a perfect circle (Photo 14).

4. Glue up the top (A). Bandsaw its circular edge freehand.

5. Round over the edges of all the pieces except the upper rails. Use a 1/8-in. radius bit in a hand-held router or a router table. Round over the inside corners of the shelf ’s notches with a chisel or file. Sand all the parts to 220 grit.


Join the legs and lower rails

1. Cut biscuit slots for the lower rails and legs (Photo 15). Be sure the slots are exactly centered.

2. Glue two legs to a lower rail (Photo 16). Make sure the ends of the legs, a spacer and the rail all fit tight against a straight board clamped to your bench.Glue the other rail and the second set of legs, too.


Assemble the table

1. Glue together the lower rail and leg assemblies on a flat surface (Photo 17).

2. Slide the shelf down on top of the rails (Photo 18). If the shelf is too tight, trim the notches with a chisel or on the bandsaw. Screw the shelf to the fasteners.

3. Test the fit of both upper rails without glue. Glue the rail that has the notch facing up first (Photo 19). Once it’s positioned,glue the other rail. Sand the bottom edges of both rails.

4.Center the top and attach it to the fasteners.



Many commercial stains look good on oak, but we went a step further. We colored the raw wood with golden oak dye, sealed it with shellac and applied a glaze made of equal parts of raw sienna and raw umber pigments. Finally, we brushed on two coats of varnish.


(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Woodcraft Supply,, 800-225-1153, 1/2" 4 tpi bandsaw blades, various lengths; 1" Forstner bit, #125935; 1-1/4" Forstner bit, #125937.

West Penn Hardwoods,, 888-636-9663, Quartersawn White Oak, 4/4.

Woodworker’s Hardware,, 800-383-0130, Desktop fasteners and screws KV1547.

*** Blick Art Materials,, 800-828-4548, Raw Sienna artist’s oil, #00461-8063; Raw Umber artist’s oil, #00461-8073; Liquin glazing medium #00445-1004.

Woodworker’s Supply,, 800-645-9292, W1100 Light golden oak dye.

Cutting List

Fig. A: Exploded View

Fig. B: Leg Layout

Fig. C: Lower Rail Layout

Fig. D: Upper Rails

Fig. E: Jig for Drawing Curve on Leg

Fig. F: Lower Rail Template

Fig. G: Shelf Layout

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2003, issue #102.

September 2003, issue #102

Purchase this back issue.

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Rough cut the openings in the lower rails. Drill large holes in the corners, then connect the holes. Stay 1/16-in. off the line.

2. Cut the rail’s final shape with a template and router table. Fasten the template to the rail with doublefaced tape.Move the rail and template counterclockwise around the router bit.

3. To prepare for cutting the half-lap joints, make shims that fit exactly into the kerf of your bandsaw blade.The width of a kerf varies from blade to blade.This one equals three playing cards and one sheet of paper.

4. Saw the right side of the half-lap joint using the bandsaw table. Tape the playing-card shims to the end of the rail. Position and clamp the fence so the blade lines up with the right-hand marking line.

5. Saw the left side. Replace the shims with a spacer that’s the same thickness as the rail you’re sawing.Without moving the fence, you’ve made a perfectly fitting half-lap notch.The space between the cuts is exactly the thickness of the rail.

6. Remove the waste with several diagonal cuts. Unclamp and slide the fence out of the way. Keep cutting until all that’s left is 1/16 in. of wood above the bottom of the notch.

7. Trim the bottom of the notch by cutting sideways. Remove the clamp from the fence. The miter-gauge can now slide in its slot, so you can move the fence and rail as a unit. Nibble off about 1/64- in. per pass (see inset). The result is a perfectly straight and square bottom.

8. Saw bridle joints in the top of the legs with the bandsaw table and fence.To center the notch, saw one side first, then flip over the leg and saw the other side. Clean out the waste and trim the bottom the same way you did for the rails above.

9. Draw the curve on each leg with a bent-stick jig.Tape holds the bent stick to the jig, freeing your hands to draw a smooth curve (Fig. E).

10. Test fit the upper rails to the legs. Plane each rail until it’s one sheet of paper thinner than the notch in the leg. If the fit is too tight, you’ll have a hard time pushing the rail down into the notch at glueup time.

11. Cut notches in the upper rails. The cutting process is identical to making the joints on the lower rails, using the same shims but a new spacer.This time you use the miter gauge in the standard slot on the bandsaw table.

Choosing Wood for the Legs

12. Saw the shelf notches while the shelf blank is still square. Back on the bandsaw table, cut all the right sides with one fence setting.Then move the fence and cut all the left sides. Nibble the bottoms square.

13. Position the shelf on a pivot pin. It’s just a brad driven into the bandsaw table. Snip off the head of the brad and align it with a small hole drilled in the center of the shelf.

14. Rotate the shelf on the pivot pin to cut an exact circle. Start the cut inside one of the notches.

15. Cut biscuit slots in the legs. If you don’t have a plate joiner, you could use 3/8-in. dowels or make 1/4-in.- thick loose mortise-andtenon joints.

16. Glue together the lower rail and legs. Clamp a 1-1/2-in.-wide spacer between the rail and a long, straight board to align the joints. Check for flatness to ensure that the upper rails will fit across both notches.


17. Slide one half of the table down over the other to glue them together. Clamping is not necessary.

18. Drop the shelf down onto the rails. The notches are slightly oversize to make this easier. Screw the shelf to the rails with desktop fasteners to stiffen the whole assembly.

19. Glue one rail at a time.Apply glue to the rail that has the notch facing up and set it in the legs. Before clamping, insert the other rail without glue.This ensures the first rail is properly aligned.

Versatile Bandsaw Table

In less than an hour, you can upgrade your bandsaw with a larger work surface, a rip fence and a circlecutting jig.All it takes is three pieces of wood.


Make the Table

This is really easy. Cut a piece of MDF or plywood to size. Use a router or tablesaw to dado one groove on the top and one on the bottom. Glue a runner into the bottom groove (you can use an offcut from the top).Turn on your bandsaw and slide the table into the blade, stopping about in the center. Install two screws under the runner to act as stops, keeping the table from moving.To remove the table, tilt up the far end and pull back.


Adjust the Fence

Attach any straight board to the face of your miter gauge, and you’re set to go.The fence has to be angled a little bit to compensate for the “drift” of the blade, and that angle varies with each blade and thickness of wood you’re cutting.

To adjust the miter gauge fence for drift, draw a straight line on a board parallel to one edge. Saw freehand, angling the board to stay on the line. Stop halfway, turn off the saw and clamp the board. Loosen the miter gauge and push the fence up against the board.Tighten the miter gauge, remove the board and you’re ready to saw.