Demilune tables have been around for centuries. Originally they were quite ornate; the one I’ve made is much more restrained. You can change the dimensions of the table to suit your taste, and you can use almost any wood. I have made this table out of maple and elm, but it would also look great in cherry, walnut or mahogany.
The top is the easiest part to make. Begin by gluing up the stock, then planing and sanding it smooth. Joint the edge that will be the back of the top. Then, using a circle cutting jig or template, bandsaw or rout the half moon shape. I chose to cut the top on my bandsaw using a jig. Once the edge is shaped, sand it smooth, then rout the edge with your favourite profile bit. Better to take two or three passes to shape the edge rather than doing it all at once. Finally, lightly sand or plane the back edge.
The legs are cut in two steps. First, the legs are tapered: the left leg is tapered on the right side, the right leg is tapered on the left side, and the middle leg is tapered on both sides. Begin by arranging the leg blanks according to grain flow and pattern. Label the bottom of each leg for future reference. Before tapering the legs drill ⅜” dowel holes at the top of each leg. A dowelling jig is best suited for this job (see dowelling jigs review Canadian Woodworking issue #16, Feb/Mar 2002).
Now you can draw taper lines on the legs and bandsaw about 1/16″ outside the lines. Joint or hand plane the surfaces to remove saw marks.
The next step is to cut the curves at the top and bottom of the legs. I find it best to make a full-scale drawing of the leg profile on Bristol board or thin plywood, and then trace the profile onto the leg blanks. Use the bandsaw to remove the waste. Keep outside the profile lines. You can then smooth the legs using sandpaper, hand plane, spokeshave, file, or router and template. A drum sander makes for easy shaping of the curved areas. To finish off the legs, rout the edges with a ⅛” round over bit.
There are three rails, one straight rail at the back and two curved rails at the front. The rails are joined to the legs with dowels. Make the straight rail, then use dowel pins to mark dowel hole positions on the rails to match those on the legs.
For the curved rails you will need two pieces of dressed stock 2 ½” x 31/16″ x 17 15/16″. The finished rails will be ⅞” x 2 ½” x 13 ⅛”. Begin by drawing the shape of the rail on the stock. Then cut the two ends at 45°. Next, mark and drill the dowel holes.
Now you can cut out the curved rails on the bandsaw. Again, cut outside the lines. I find it best to use a drum sander to remove saw marks from the back of the rails and a random orbital sander for the front of the rails.
Note that the back rail is set in 1/4″ from the back side of the leg and the front rails are set in 5/16″ from the back side of the leg. Finally, using a slot cutter, rout two slots on the inside of each rail for the buttons.
I attach the top to the aprons with wood buttons, spacing two of them evenly along each rail. To make the buttons rout a rabbet across the end grain of a ¾” x 1 ¾” board. Mark cut lines every 1″, and then drill and countersink a screw hole in the center of each button. Next, rip the board into 1″ pieces on the bandsaw or table saw. Don’t apply any glue to the buttons, simply screw them in place.
Dry fit all the parts together before gluing. Doing so will allow you to make any last minute adjustments. Once you’re satisfied with the way it goes together, glue the back rail and legs together, clamp and let dry. Then glue the two curved rails to the front leg and glue the curved rails to the back legs. Clamp with a strap clamp and let the glue dry. Finally, attach the top to the rails using the buttons.
I applied a two-part Old Mahogany toner and stain on the table. First I applied the toner with a brush, then followed with a brushed on stain. Once the stain dried I sprayed on two coats of a lacquer finish. You can apply almost any finish to a project like this, including varnish, waterbourne or oil.