In this article we show you how to make a table using a woodturning lathe and a router. This modern side table is extremely versatile, elegant and provides a unique challenge for the avid woodturner.

With a removable, lift up table top, and internal storage tray, you can customise your side table to include a chessboard to make it a games table; add a built in wireless phone charger for an attractive charging station. Or simply store and hide away pens, coasters or any other bits and bobs you don't want on show.

This project makes use of the indexing feature on the lathe (for those that have it), to help create the mortices for the table legs, making it the ideal project for those with a larger lathe. There are many ways to make the components using the tools you have. If using a larger lathe you could even turn the table top.

To learn how to make your table, watch our Woodworking Wisdom demo or follow our step by step guide below.

Buy the plans

Purchase and download the project plans here

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Prepare your timber

Begin by machining your timber so that this is flat and square, which helps with the accuracy. The material for the top needs to be edged on the joining faces. Breaking this down into shorter lengths can make this easier to handle and also result in a desired thickness being achieved.

Next, glue the boards together to make the required size for the top. Ensure these come together and adjust as required. Adding a biscuit helps to locate the board and adds more strength to the joint.


Turn the legs

Cut the legs to the length and mark up the centres by drawing corner to corner. Next cut 45mm square, plywood blocks and, using a hot melt glue gun, attach these to the end of the legs, lining up the square corners of the plywood to the marked lines. These blocks will protect the ends when turning.

Then, using a bandsaw or table saw, cut the corners off the square leg sections to save time when turning. Mount these on the lathe and turn to a clean cylinder using roughing gouge, measuring with a set of ring callipers as you go to maintain the straight section. These can be sanded and your chosen finish applied. We used finishing oil.

Cut the leg mortices

To cut the mortice into the legs we have used a router along with a specially made jig so the leg can still be held on the lathe in place so the cuts can be made with the router. This is a unique way of cutting the mortices on the lathe. You could also do this in a more traditional way.

Make a box from sheet material that accurately fits onto the lathe. The top of the box is removable to allow the legs to be changed. Within this top are two cut outs that are used with a guide bush that fits into a router. They are marked out for the position of the mortices in relation to the position within the legs. To get the correct offset of a 60 degree angle between the two legs, we have used the lathe indexing. The lathe we used has 24 indexing stops. Divide this by 3 legs gives you 8 stop locations on the index.  Use a straight 1/2 inch worktop router cutter to cut the two different depths. Finally, number the joints.

Cut the tenons

With the rail material cut to length, the tenons can be cut using either a handsaw, table saw, bandsaw, or a router table with a milling cutter. We opted to use a router table with a false fence set up. Use a scrap bit of timber to do some test cuts for the height. Make a push block to push this through, moving the fence back to achieve the length of tenon. Take three to four passes to achieve the desired length.

Change the router cutter to a round over cutter with the radius that matches the diameter of the worktop cutter. Rout off the internal edges of the rails, then on the front of the tenons, use a carvers file to create the rounded edge of the tenon. The cutter can then be changed for a straight cutter to match the thickness of the plywood and leather (optional) insert that creates the internal tray of the table.

Cut the tray insert grooves

With the tenons fitting, the position of the groove can be marked out onto the leg. Transfer this onto the box on the lathe, marking up onto the lid. A hole is drilled onto the centre of the box lid to accurately fit the size of the guide bush. The same straight cutter is used and lowered into the work, which is rotated by hand between the two mortice holes.

Mark out and cut the plywood insert storage tray. You can make a cardboard template if needed. This can be lined with leather using PVA glue to fix this in place. Leave to dry and trim off the excess.

Cut the table top

Using a bandsaw or jigsaw, cut the table top to a circle. This can then be cleaned up using a router, a pivot bar and a straight cutter. Alternatively, you can mount on to the lathe and use a faceplate with a plywood board fixed to the workpiece with hot melt glue. The edge can be square or rounded. Once turned, sand the edge. The main flat is sanded later.

Sand and finish the base

Sand and clean up the base components. Oil the insides of the rails, leaving the tenon areas clean. Mask up the leather to project this from glue and oil. To remove the plywood blocks on the legs, use a chisel to cut in under the glue working around the edges.

Assemble and glue the table frame

Dry assemble the table and use a ratchet strap to help hold this together. Check the joints come together and adjust if needed. The next step is to glue up the project.

Clamp the underframe together. One hand bar clamps work well as the throat depth is deeper, which positions onto the leg better.


Mark the leg positions on the table top

To accurately cut out the positions for the legs within the table top, make a plywood template. Mount a 150mm square section of plywood onto the lathe to allow an internal circle to be cut out. This needs to be 2mm bigger than the diameter of the leg. Mark out the diameter of the top onto a piece of plywood as if making a hexagon. Then, draw from the central point line to intersect with every other point of the hexagon. Measure and then position the plywood with the internal circle and fix in place using two screws. Then use a bearing guide cutter to cut out the section onto the main template. Reposition to cut out the three locations and check this fits onto the table frame.

Position the plywood template onto the table top and mark out the leg hole points. Use a pencil and a washer to mark out the material and cut with a jigsaw. Reposition the template and clamp in place. Use a bearing guided cutter with a top bearing set to run on the template to remove the material.

Final finish

Sand and clean up the top and the table frame and apply a finish. Treat both sides of the top the same as this will help reduce cupping. We used a finishing oil as this is easy to apply. Lightly build up the layers and lightly rub back with fine abrasive if this feels rough, and apply a light coat using a cotton cloth.

Made it? Share it!

If you have made our table project we would love to see it. Share your projects with us on social media. Search and tag @axminstertools on Facebook or Instagram and share your woodworking pictures.