How not to build a table...

by dblodgett 24. December 2010 02:42

Here's how it started. All of the lumber was rough cut. I realized after I looked at the wood for a while that it was pretty twisted. I initially planned on doing this project without a jointer (thing that makes the sides of the wood straight and flat), or planer (thing that makes the top and bottom of the wood straight and flat), but I now realize that not having the latter would have been an absurd approach, especially considering how twisted / bent the wood was. You can see a pretty serious bend in the 6 x 6 walnut post on the left.   



These are 8/4 (called eight quarter - it equates to two inches thick) red maple planks. I had a bit of de-barking to do.



I decided not to buy a jointer, but I still had to get the sides of the wood square. I rigged up a method using a circular saw with a finishing blade, and a 20.00 straight edge from Home Depot. I needed something long enough to span the table, and this thing (made of aluminum) went out to 8 feet. I had to clamp it in the middle though, since it didn't have a lot of lateral rigidity (a total pain).


After the cut.... This setup worked surprisingly well. The only problem is that I had to do this 16 times...


...then I had to run the planks and posts (legs) throught the planer to get them as flat and clean as I could. I removed about a quarter inch from the maple planks, and 3/4s from the walnut legs. I've never used a planer before -- it's unbelievable the volume of waste material it produces. I filled up 2 contractor backs with wood shavings / dust. BTW -- I returned this RIDGID and got a DeWalt. 


 Rough assembly of the table top after the planing / jointing process was done. I also ran the router down all of the inside facing boards to give the planks / the assembly of the table a more rustic feel.



Just another view.. Note the poor little RIDGID vacuum on the left -- I tried to use it to collect the wood shavings out of the planer. It filled up in seconds. I then pulled out my big Shop Vac and it suffered the same fate.


Maple is a beautiful wood. But I learned later on in this project to NEVER stain it. It has to be dyed or treated in some other way. Staining it basically ruins the look of it. It has an almost 3/d holographic look to it when the grain is visible (as in if you simply put a clear polyurethane on it).


Walnut posts before.... 


And after cutting / planing. Walnut is an annoyingly hard wood to work with..


You can see the difference in thickness from the planing process..


The table top biscuited (you cut a semi-circle out of the two pieces of wood you're joining, and then insert a thing called a "biscuit" that helps with stabilizing / strengthening the bond), glued, "pocket hole" screwed (using a Kreg pocket hole jig -- best fifty bucks I ever spent), and clamped to the assembly table to keep it flat. You seem to never have enough clamps.


Another view.



Gluing 3/4" maple boards together to give me what are basically 2 x 4s for the frame of the table.


Another view.


Prepping the legs to cut the tapers in them. Another first for me.


"Safe foor indoor use," the box said. Safe for what?! Every time someone comes into the house they comment on how noxious it smells -- the thing is horrible. But it beat working in 20 degrees.


Lines set for cutting on the band saw. I trashed the first one pretty bad. I got good at cutting them by the last leg. Of course. Let me know if you need a lesson on "how not to band saw." I started wearing gloves every time I touched that walnut. I cut myself pretty bad on it just because it was so sharp from the planing process.


It looked easy enough....


Rough assembly of the table top.


A marginal (at best) lap joint. NEVER USE A ROUTER to remove the material to make a lap joint. I did that here and it was a near disaster. Not only did I completely smoke the bit, but it kept grabbing at the wood and running away on me. I had to cut the table down another inch because the thing went rogue on me at the wrong time.


Here's how it all kind of fits tgether. I had no idea how to make this structure -- I basically reverse engineered my kitchen table.


The inside of the corner. This is a shockingly strong design.


I made this bull nose out of 5/8th strips I cut out of a piece of maple that I had left over. Once I had the general shape of the wood cut, I ran down both sides with a round-over bit on the router. After using pices of scrap wood to get the depth of the router bt exactly right, it came out pretty good.


Table top is done -- on to finishing the legs..


I had to cut a section in each corner (2 pics below) that would allow me a big enough surface to sink the 1/2 inch lag bolts into.


Another view..


I pre taped each hole, basically by screwing a lag bolt in in a very controlled way. At first I could hardly get the bolts to turn once I got a few inches into the wood. It was a combination of the hardness of the walnut and the diameter of the lag bolt. I backed it out and grabbed a candle from inside. Then I waxed up the bolts before I put them in and it was 10x easier.


.....not I have to fix the mess I made on the bandsaw. I wound up getting some 40 grit belts (basically like gravel glued to paper) for my belt sander -- nothing else even dented it. It took me about an hour and a half per leg, just to get the shaping done.


This is the table top fully sanded and ready for the last touch - some extra screws into the frame for a bit of extra strength, and some birch screw covers that I previously stained a very dark mohogany to contrast with the reddish brown of the table. I used some sisal rope to give me a straight line for the screw holes (one thing I did right here was to buy / use a forstner drill bit, which basically cuts a perfectly clean hole). 


..the rope is dort of a non-marking chalk line.. I'm pretty OCD with this stuff. If a single screw head wasn't in line it would have caused me eternal angst.


Screws in, plugs glued, and one final wetting of the table top to make the grain stand up - then I whacked it with one final shot of 220 sand paper. Then my palm sander died. It was a 15 year old Porter Cable. Obviously a reasonable life for a 75.00 tool.


After three coats of stain. I started with the Minwax red-oak stain, and it was a bit too brown. I mixed in a tiny bit of "Sedona Red" to give me the color I wanted. Between each coat I would go into a frenetic sanding missing to try to get rid of the blotchiness that is the reason that you don't stain maple. I'd say I spent at least 2 hours sanding between each coat.


The legs -- I used just 2 coats of stain on them, and 2 finish coats (poly). They are still drying in this pic, hence the uneven tone.


Here's the finished product in my "brick room." I bought the chairs online. Assembly was a nightmare. I think it would have been easier to build them from scratch.



I used some rustic clavos (fancy nails) to give the table some character.


Clavos in each side of the leg..



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