Twelve years ago, Popular Woodworking Magazine featured a table built by Robert Lang called The Lost Stickley Side Table. The table was likely built in the early 1900s by someone in the employ of Gustav Stickley, and Mr. Lang wrote his article on producing one for your own home. I happened upon a copy of the article a few years later, and made a note to myself that someday I would like to build it.
A good eight years ago, I discovered a gorgeous, wide piece of Paduk sitting in a wood supply store in Kansas City called Metro Hardwoods. At the time, I was not sure what I would make with it, but I bought it on the spot – like all good wood lovers would do. I kept it in my shop where I would see it from time to time, and knew it had to become a table top.
Just before Thanksgiving in 2017, I walked into our local Woodcraft store, and they had a sale on 8/4 Paduk. After sifting through several nice planks, I knew that using them for legs I could combine them with the wide piece sitting in my shop to build the Stickley table. I glued another piece that I had squirreled away to the piece from KC to make the top. You can see from the picture on the left that it looks amazing! The drawer front is also made from the KC wood.
The original, shown here was made with white oak. If you read the article, Mr. Lang explains that the table was unknown until 2004. It appears to have been a prototype that never made it into production, because of the angles on the legs and the matching angle of the face of the drawer were too difficult to mass produce. I settled upon 3 1/2 degrees so that I could make all my cuts consistent. I knew the table would be challenging to build, and it stalled me out a couple times as I pondered my next steps.
Mr. Lang is far more talented than I expect to ever become, and when he expressed the challenge of dovetailing the drawer on an angle, I knew it would be tough for myself too. Fortunately, they turned out pretty good after much fitting work.
Also challenging was the lower shelf/stretcher which has a tenon protruding through the lower rail. Making that 3 1/2 degree angle come out just right took a little help from a jig that I made so that my plunge router could cut most of the mortise at the right angle. The wife and I debated keeping the key or modernizing the piece a bit to have a simple through tenon. We agreed to keep the key, and later I could see that the strength of the stretcher going through that rail depends upon that key.
Also in question in keeping with the original would be the knob. I have never been a fan of that shape wooden knob, and I considered making or buying something else. But, in an effort to recreate the piece as it had been designed 100 years ago, I made the effort. Mr. Lang gave good advice on making and shaping it, and in the end I am very happy with it. It feels wonderfully supple and looks so good on the table. I am happy that I stayed on target.
I refer you to the article to get all the details. My only diversions were to use Paduk instead of Oak, and I chose to use a different finish. I applied several coats of Watco Danish Oil instead of shellac. I like the oil because you can ‘feel’ the wood, and a piece like this is likely to get a few bruises over the years. The oil will be very easy to renew. After the oil cures, I plan to add a coat of wax to the top.
Paduk looses that wonderful orange/red color as light changes it – like sunlight does for many woods. I have some other Paduk projects around the house, so I know what it should look like later. But man is it pretty right now!
The most challenging part will be to find the right place for this table in our house. Without some arranging, it does not currently fit. I knew that before I started, but hey, most woodworkers have the same issues. Here is a potential home for it with a few past projects in the background.