Writing Table

The following plan was provided by Christopher Swingley. Check out his website for other interesting information.

Copyright © 2003, Christopher Swingley, cswingle@iarc.uaf.edu


Here is an easy to build version of the “monastery table” Norm Abrams built during the 2003 season of This Old House. The plans are simplified by not turning the legs and using a solid top for the table.


These plans show the design of the table. The height should be adjusted to a comfortable working height for you.

The base construction is mortise and tenon joinery and the table top can be held to the base using any method that allows for wood movement. I will probably use buttons that ride in a groove in the top rails.

Cut List

Tools Used

Construction Notes

For my version of the monastery table, I started with several rough cut spruce left over from the sawyer who cut my bevel siding. Pieces were approximately two inches thick, and eight inches wide. The legs were sawn from a single plank and planned to approximate dimension using a jack / fore / jack combination of wooden planes. The first jack plane used has a deeply cambered iron, set to take a deep cut. The fore plane has a shallower camber and is set to take a thinner shaving, and the final plane uses a very gradual camber and is set fine. The rails were cut to the appropriate width and then resawn in half to yield the thickness shown on the cut list and plans. The same planing procedure was used on these pieces. All pieces were trued on one side first, using a pair of winding sticks with parallel edges. When one side is flat and straight, use a marking gauge with its face on the side you just flattened to mark the opposite side. By planing down to these lines, you should have a board that is the same thickness in one dimension and has no twist. From there, work on flattening one of the other two edges, but in addition to keeping the edge flat and without twist, make sure that it is 90 degrees to one of the two faces you’ve already flattened. Finally, use the marking gauge again to mark the thickness for planing the opposite side. The end result is a board with all four sides flat, without twist, parallel to the opposite face, and perpendicular to adjacent sides.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *