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Restrained elegance in an American classic.

Someday in your woodworking career, you’ll want to reach for the sky. Maybe you’ll have an urge to make an ambitious piece of your own design, or perhaps you’ll prefer to walk in the shoes of cabinetmakers who have gone before and build an American classic. If you love period furniture, this table is for you.

Our table dates back to the early days of the American republic, when card-playing parties were often hosted in fashionable homes. During the day, the table was placed against a wall, with the top folded over. On the night of a party, the table was brought out to the middle of the room. The backs legs were swung out and the top opened up into a full circle.

In the decorative arts, the era of 1790 to 1830 is known as the Federal period. The demilune (“half-moon”) card table became an icon of Federal design, with cabinetmakers in each part of the country interpreting it in their own way. I’ve studied many Federal card tables and have come to prefer those made in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for their restrained elegance.

This particular table is not a reproduction—it’s my own design, based on those Portsmouth pieces. Its method of construction and joinery are similar to the tables built in Federal-era shops. While you’ll most likely use power tools to mill all of the wood and to cut some of the joints, building this table still requires skilled work with hand tools. Once you’re done, I’m sure you’ll say with genuine pride, “I made that!”

Portsmouth Card Table Cut List

Overall Dimensions: 29-1/2″ H x 35-1/2″ W x 17-3/4″ D

Part

Name

Qty.

Material

Th x W x L

A

Apron brick

50

Yellow poplar

7/8″ x 1-1/2″ x 5-15/32″ (a)

B

Rear fixed rail

1

Yellow poplar

7/8″ x 3-1/2″ x 33-5/16″ (b)

C

Leg

4

Mahogany

1-5/8″ x…

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