Shaker Sewing Table Project - 1b

Woodturning and Woodworking - Intermediate Project

How to Build the Shaker Sewing Table Yoke,
Drawer Hangers, and Drawer

Now that you have attached the legs to the pedestal of the Shaker Sewing Table, you need
to build the yoke which is also attached to the pedestal. To begin, you will need to make a crosspiece and two uprights.

Do any sanding that is required as you go.

Remember to allow for the width of the saw blade when you are cutting your pieces for the Sewing Table so that the finished pieces will measure correctly.


The crosspiece measures 1" x 2 1/4" x 9 1/2"

Cut out the crosspiece. Then bore a 1" hole through the center of it. This is where the 1" peg at the top of the pedestal will be inserted.

Uprights (2)

The uprights measure 3/4" x 2 1/4" x 5 1/2"

Cut out the uprights.


Next, you will cut a groove (rabbet) 3/8" x 3/4" in one end of each upright to create a tenon. You can do this on the table saw by setting your blade at a height of 3/8" and then running the piece of wood back and forth along the blade to cut out the groove. This can also be done with a router and a straight bit; however, I do not recommend it because that is very hard to do with a small piece of wood like this. You could wind up wasting your wood.

Tenon on End of Upright and
Preparing to Cut Straight Lines for Tails

Picture of using bandsaw


Dovetails consist of pins and tails. In the picture below you can see that the tails (light colored) are on the crosspiece and the pins (dark colored) are on the uprights. I made the dovetail joints for this Shaker Sewing Table by hand. Since Cody was in the early stages of learning woodworking, I had him make what I will call "mock dovetails" for our purposes - an alternative method. Because the pieces do not interlock in this alternative method, dowels are used to provide added strength to the joint. The alternative method is the process I will describe in this section.

Shaker Sewing Table
Picture of Pins and Tails

Picture of dovetails

Using the above picture for reference, lay out two square pins on the uprights. That will then determine the size and location of the tails (dovetails) on the crosspiece. Mark the tails by laying the uprights on your workbench and then holding the crosspiece in the position that it will be in when attached. Using a pencil, outline each tail. When you have finished, the pins and tails will be exact countermarks on the uprights and the crosspiece.

I had Cody use the bandsaw to make the first cuts for the pins and tails. (Use whatever saw you have available.) Then, he finished by cutting out the waste using a sharp chisel. You must take care when cutting with the chisel not to damage the pins and tails. Clearly mark the waste areas (you can use chalk for this purpose). Also, you may want to make a guide for your chisel (out of scrap wood) that will keep the chisel from moving outside of your work area while you cut out the waste material. Make sure the pins and tails make a good fit.

This Picture shows both the
Dowels reinforcing the Mock Dovetails
and the
Uprights joined to Crosspiece

Picture of dowell in upright.

Join the uprights to the crosspiece using a light wood glue coating. Make sure that the grooves (rabbets) in the uprights face the crosspiece. Then, drill a 1/4" x 1" hole through the crosspiece into each end of the uprights so that the holes penetrate the midsection of the tails. Drive a glue-coated 1/4" dowel into each hole. You will then have a strong support for the weight of the drawer and the table top. You can see the ends of the dowels in the picture above.

Shaker Sewing Table
Drawer Hangers (2)

Picture of Shaker Table Drawer Hangers

The drawer hangers measure 1" x 1 1/4" x 16".

Beginning at a point 2" from center, taper each hanger
- both to the right and to the left -
from 1" to 3/4". Next, cut a 1/4" x 1/4" groove (rabbet) along the top edge of each hanger. (You will attach runners to the drawer to guide it along this groove.) Looking at the picture above, you will see the tapering and the rabbeting.

Mounting Hangers to Uprights

Picture of mortise and tenon joint.

A mortise and tenon joint is one of my preferences. I decided that this Shaker Sewing Table project would be a good time to teach Cody how to make one. So, next, you are going to mount the drawer hangers on the uprights by using that method.

First, center the grooved-side of a hanger on an upright making sure that the inside edges of the hanger and the upright are flush (see the picture above). Mark the outline of the tenon on the hanger, making sure that the entire tenon is contained within the 1 1/4" thick area of the drawer hanger. Then, cut a mortise (hole) in the hanger to receive the tenon. I showed Cody how to use a mortise chisel mounted on the drill press to cut his. If you do not have a drill press and mortise chisel, you can bore holes with a drill and bit and then straighten the sides slowly and carefully with a sharp chisel. If you use a drill and bit, mark the depth of the mortise on the bit with a piece of tape so that you do not cut the mortise too deeply.
Use the same procedure to mount the other drawer runner.
Put wood glue on the tenons and then insert them into the mortises. Make sure you have a good, tight fit.

Mounting Yoke/Driving Wedge

Picture of wedge in pedestal

At this step, Cody is mounting the yoke to the pedestal. First, you make a cut across the end of the peg on the pedestal. Then you cut a small wedge from a piece of wood. Next, mount the crosspiece on the pedestal. Make sure you pay attention to where the legs are on the pedestal because you want the crosspiece positioned so that the pull on the front of the drawer will line up with the center of one of the legs. Coat the wedge with wood glue, then drive it into the split in the peg. The wedge causes the pedestal top to expand and this will result in a good, tight fit.

Next, you are going to make the bi-directional drawer for the Shaker Sewing Table.

Picture of Shaker Table Drawer

The end panels measure
5/8" x 4 3/4" x 7 3/4".
The side panels measure
1/2" x 4 1/2" x 15 1/2".
The drawer bottom measures
1/2" x 7 1/4" x 15 1/4".

Cut out the panels and the drawer bottom for the Shaker Sewing Table. (The drawer bottom can be cut from a lesser quality wood than the table as long as it will blend well when the table is finished.) Make a
1/4" lip on the drawer bottom by cutting a 1/4" x 1/4" rabbet (also called a rebate) around it. Cut a 1/4" x 1/4" groove on the inside of the panels, up 1/4" from the base. The lip on the drawer bottom will fit into the grooves in the panels so that when you assemble the drawer there will be no overhang.

Picture of Drawer Dovetails

Picture of dovetails.

You are going to join the end panels with the side panels using half-blind dovetails. This is the common method used with the Shaker Sewing Table because you do not want end grain to show. You are going to make 3/8" pins on the side panels. You are going to make tails on the end panels that are the exact counterpart of the pins on the side panels. You will leave the remaining 1/4" on the end panels untouched. Also, remember to allow for the 1/4" bottom joint so that your pins and tails do not protrude into this area. When you join the pins and tails, your drawer will be 16" long because of the 1/4" inclusion from each end panel. Your dovetails will be seen from the side, but not from the front.

For our purposes there are two ways you can go about making the dovetail joints. First, you can do as I had Cody do by making them with a dovetail machine. (I will assume that if you have a dovetail machine, then you know how to use it.) Second, you can use the same method of square pins and tails (mock dovetails) that we used to join the uprights to the crosspiece. Just be sure that you reinforce them with dowels. You do not need to make more than three or four joints if you use the second method.

If you are experienced, you can make dovetails by hand. This is not easy to do unless you have had a lot of practice, so I do not recommend it for inexperienced woodworkers.

Picture of table saw

Now, it is time to cut the last two pieces of your Shaker Sewing Table - the drawer runners. Your runners will measure 1/4" by 3/4" x 15 1/2" (or the length of your side panels). You want the runners to butt against the end panels. (When you cut your side panels, they were 1/4" shorter than your end panels so that when the runner is mounted it will be flush with the top of the end panels.)

In the picture above, Cody is learning a little about using a table saw as we cut out the runners for his drawer. Notice that I had him grip the fence with his right hand. Much later, when he actually began learning to cut boards with the table saw, I had him hook his little finger over the fence. You will do well to remember to do this, too. (Needless to say, I altered my teaching technique when it came to the table saw. Cody gradually built his confidence, and I never insisted that he cut any piece that he felt unsure about.)

When you attach the drawer runners to the side panels you will use four evenly spaced small finishing nails. You will mount them so that you have a 1/4" overhang that will glide on the 1/4" x 1/4" groove that you made in the drawer hangers.

This concludes part two of this
Shaker Sewing Table project.

When you are ready, proceed to Project - 1c where you will assemble the drawer, attach the drawer runners, mount the table top, turn the drawer pulls, and finish the table.

Shaker Sewing Table - 1b to 1a

Shaker Sewing Table - 1b to 1c

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