Top of Mind Design Conundrums

If my old man were here, he’d say: “stop lollygagging and get on with it.” He’d be right but I still wouldn’t be moving forward. Every step of the way I’ve found my paralysis by analysis disease rear its ugly head on this project. I reached out to the IG community for help and received some good feedback. I’m going to solicit the same from you.

My last design hurdle is what to do with the top? I’ll try to break it down into a three categories: overhang, under-bevel, and curves. First we’ll look at the overhang. I like the idea of a long(ish) overhang because I’ve been ogling images like this one from Darrell Peart on Pinterest.


Inspiration piece from Darrell Peart

On the other hand, my lovely wife does not like this exaggerated overhang citing our daughters’ clumsy tendencies and the fact that it’s at eye level for one and shoulder height for the other. I snapped these two pictures to toggle between (sorry about the busy background).

Hold your thoughts for a minute as we discuss the next topic: under-bevel. I’m not sure if I’m saying that right but it’s the “large” bevel you see on the underside of Shaker tables and the like. Due to the relatively thin top (3/4″ thick), I was thinking of putting an under-bevel to help lift the piece and mask it’s thinness by actually making it thinner. Conversely, I did consider the breadboard ends in a Greene & Greene style as shown in Peart piece but it requires a longer overhang and it’s considerably more work than I want to do at this point. Again, hold your thoughts.

Finally, I’m wondering about adding a curve to the outside edges of the top. Using the template from the legs, I thought I’d echo those curves. It’s hard to capture on camera but, you’ll get the idea (I hope). I masked out the area I’d chop off with blue tape.

Now that I’ve explained everything, here are my specific questions:

  1. Overhang – long or short?
  2. Breadboard ends – yes or no?
  3. Under-bevel – yes or not?
  4. If yes to #3 then what dimensions/ratios make sense? Where do I start the bevel or how much of the flat do I keep? 1/4″?
  5. Should the under-bevel extend to the back part of the top? Or should the back be flat and flush?
  6. Curves on the sides – yes or no?
  7. If I do curve the sides should they be circular or echo the slight asymmetry of the legs? Or do I bust out a French curve and pick something else?
  8. If I do the curve AND the under-bevel, how does that work? Some guidance on the dimensions and process would be helpful.

Here’s a reference picture

The exercise of writing this all out has been tremendously cathartic. And truth be told, I’m leaning toward the following decisions:

  1. Small overhang (1″ or so max)
  2. Curves on the sides that echo the legs…the apex to the curve may determine the overhang
  3. Under-bevel all the way around including the curved sides

That being said, I’d really appreciate some critiques and thoughts before I start cutting things up. Please let me have it.




About Shawn Nichols

Heady. Phishy. Woodworker
This entry was posted in The Dresser and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Top of Mind Design Conundrums

  1. tombuhl says:

    Hey Shawn,
    First on my list: Forget the breadboard ends. Save those for situations where you don’t have much below to secure the top (flat), such as table with minimal base/frame attachment locations. And they usually look too precious to my eye. “Who you trying to impress?” Well, I try to impress all discerning eyes, but I hope it is not too obvious.

    Practical (safety) issues aside, the thinner top doesn’t look right at the Pert amount of overhang. Jumping ahead I like a subtle curve at the ends. Perhaps reinforce the asymmetrical curve of the legs, but don’t go for dramatic. Symmetrical gentle curve is fine and might not seem much different. Back to the overhang. Your blue tape demo is too stubby for the overhang. I’d begin looking at the minimum (front point) about the amount you now max (apex of curve). Which would put the new apex maybe an inch (plus) wider than the stubby length. Curve on my chest of drawers is about 1/2 inch deflection on under 18 inch top. Another 1/4 inch deflection would be fine…more than that will be a distraction. Alas, I designed mine for tight closet space…but I like it too much to put in the dark, so my much too small overhang looks stubby.

    I’d suggest less than 1/4 inch (more than 1/8) for straight portion of edge, given the 3/4 thickness. Again, I’d vote for subtle bevel or else top will look fragile and out of place relative to the strong stance of the dresser. No need to bevel the back edge.

    I’d use spokeshave/block plane to create the bevel. No fun setting up a corded solution. By hand and eye, with assist with some pencil guidelines. Soften the edges. Irregularities will not be noticeable, but the spirt will be stronger.

    And, no to the french curve on this one. If you follow my line (subtle) that would be overkill and killing the look you’ve been working towards. However, if you want to freehand your curves proceed with my blessings. I like freehand.

    Hey, question for you: do you have a case top, or web frame, or just the vertical elements (sides, front, back)? If not a case top, will you use cleats to allow for securing the top? Or? For casework I like a integral top. Let’s you make a secure box early in the process and gives plenty of surface area for the show top to rest on (and be secured to). Not all designs allow that, but…

    There is the paralysis by analysis school. And the dive in, figure it out, and recover school. Both schools have their advantages and disadvantages. One of my mottos is “I fix it when I build the next one.” Of course, I seldom want to actually bother with repeats. I’d rather explore some new mistake opportunities. Enjoy, my friend.


    • Pure gold Tom.

      First off, the blue tape masking wasn’t supposed to represent the overhang as well but I can see how that’s confusing. I was simply playing with the curve there. The template from the legs did imbibe a nice gentle curve but it’s hard to capture with the camera given the space constraints. Ben Strano suggested mocking things up in cardboard and the curve/overhang is a perfect way to get that right. I’ll mock something up to get things right.

      I’ll also take a look at a Shaker table I built to see what other flat to bevel ratios look like. the 1/4″ or less guidline is helpful. I planned on doing it by hand so thanks for another vote of confidence there.

      As to your web frame question, the answer is yes. Even in my design infancy I put in plenty of real estate for attaching the top to the carcase.

      Thanks for your continued wisdom. More to come.



Let me know what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s