• Robert Buehler

Digital Fabrication: Cattail Table (Final Project)

For my final project in Digital Fabrication, I wanted to create a cattail side table that would compliment the chair I reupholstered earlier in the semester. The plan going into this is that the table will also serve as the pedestal for stacks of my faux hunting magazine, when it is printed. I wanted to pull influence from the kitschy sort of magazine-rack side tables all the midwestern homes from my youth had.


Like the previous joinery project, I was using 5" oak boards. The challenge became that every single component of this table had to be able to be milled within the width of a 5" board.


  1. I began with a physical sketch. I wanted to work my plan out on paper before I began creating in Rhino. I started with a front, side, and top view of the table. I knew I wanted to incorporate cattails, make some sort of custom joint, and I wanted the roundness of the tabletop to mimic the roundness of the chair's frame. I came up with designs for custom cattail joints for both of the sides/legs, as well as a custom radial cattail joint for the tabletop.

  2. I mimicked my blueprint into Rhino. Since I used a scale factor of .25":1" in my drawing, and had all of the measurements labeled before bringing it into a digital realm, the translation from drawing to vector was incredibly smooth.

  3. Once I had all of the components making up the side and top views sorted, I arranged them onto rectangles that represented the boards they would be cut from, as to be sure they would be able to be arranged properly and efficiently.

  4. Though we made tabs connecting the milled perimeters to the excess board (to prevent the smaller pieces from flying off), I still ran into some snags with boards dislocating from the bed during the milling process. I learned that to get the double-sided adhesive tape to adhere properly, you had to stand on top of the material on the bed. Additional to the double-sided tape, I also drilled several screws directly through the material and into the bed.

  5. As is visible in the flat-lay image provided below, I was left with a number of tabs on my milled components. I used a rotating sandpaper bit for my Dremel to remove these excess bits.

  6. Once I was satisfied with the sanding, I began gluing the components. I learned during this process that, even though things are milled per computer instruction, and shapes are copied exactly in Rhino, the machine does not cut the reciprocating curves of certain forms in a completely precise manner. This was a disappointment, as I did not offset a number of the components. I ended up having to sand certain contours down more than expected, and use a LOT of wood filler in other places.

  7. Once each of the legs and the table top were glued, filled, and sanded (again), I routered the edge of the tabletop with the same router I used in my decorative shelf project.

  8. Following this, I stained the three sections, as well as the three connecting magazine-holding parts.

  9. I created pocket holes on the insides of the legs to screw them directly into the tabletop, but connected the legs with the three horizontal magazine-holding components before drilling in the screws.

  10. I picked up a handful of .25" dowels to create the fencing of the magazine rack feature. I stained these, and then cut them to size. They were really quite easy to pop into place, actually!

  11. Lastly, I installed the work, and placed magazines in the basket to convey its purpose.



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