The inspiration for the table came from two directions, the first a table that was friendlier to our little guy and second, working with wood is so much fun. Making a coffee table seemed like a great project to embark on. Our old table was a behemoth with nasty corners on the top and bottom; perfect for little people to hurt themselves on as well as for adults to stub toes, scrape ankles, etc. At some point in our past it was a good idea and useful; no longer though.
Lisa already provided pics of the place where we picked up the wood, the pieces we bought, and the finished product. By the way the sawyer we go to is a great down-to-earth guy. We will continue to go with him for other projects.
First, we got the pieces home and let the wood acclimate to the moisture at the house. After a few days I notice that the wood was not dead flat; it had a slight curve to it. At this point I started thinking about what I would need to do to flatten out the boards. This is where Lisa mentioned in an earlier post that I started discussing the purchase of expensive tools. There were discussions about the tools but not necessarily purchasing them.
During these discussions, I learned quite a lot. I learned that “jointing” is where a board is cut on the top and bottom through a machine to flatten the board to make it “dead flat”. “planning” is smoothing out the faces of the board. If I “planed” pieces before jointing, I would have very smooth curved boards. After some conversations with various woodworkers, I was informed that a jointer and planer that could take a 20 inch wide board would be very hard come by.
So, they advised me on the next best thing, “Sand the crap out of it”. Mental note, next time I am at the sawyer getting some wood, see if he can joint and plane the pieces before leaving.
So we bought a belt sander and lots of 50 grit sandpaper. I did some sanding and thought about what the table was going to look like and the size of it. Once this was determined, I clamped the boards together to make the cuts to get the cutout the table top. I made three cuts; two to shorten the boards from 60 inches to 38inches and one cut to thin the boards from 20 inches to 12-16 inches based on the curve. The extra wood would be used for the legs and tenon.
Once the boards were cut, I noticed the curve was not as extreme (the curve was at most 1 – 1.25 mm) and that with minimum force I could flatten the one piece to line up with the other. At least enough that once the two boards were joined together (not “joined” as in made flat but joined as in brought together) I could sand them to a dead flat surface.
Now I had to figure out how I was going to bring the two pieces together and make it strong enough so that if a little man decided to jump onto the table it would not buckle. To join the two boards, I bought a doweling jig that could drill 3/8 in holes. I had to offset and alternate the jig because it’s maximum width was 1 inch and the boards were 1 ½ inches. I drilled six 3/8 in holes 6 inches apart, then flipped the boards, and drilled 6 3/8 inch holes at three in intervals between the first six. I ended up with 12 alternating holes that would take a 3 inch dowel rod (1 ½ inch into each board) and be glued together. To join the boards I hammered 6 dowels into each board so that when they were brought together dowels were sliding into the alternating holes. With a little force, glue, and clamps, the boards were joined.
After several days of letting the glue set, and having the job that pays the bills take over my life for a while, I was able to begin sanding. I started with 50-grit and gradually moved to 150-grit. Once I was ready to use the 150-grit sand paper, I put Sanding Sealer on the table top. This helped firm up the grains in the wood so I could start the final smoothing process. For the natural edge I used a steel brush to scrape the remaining bark off the sides.
Once the table top was ready, I began on the legs and tenon. I used the same sanding and sealing process to prep the legs and tenon as I did on the table. At this point I did lots of research on how make the mortise and tenon because it would be the strongest support join I could use. Now, I did not have a tenon jig, router, drill press or any other standard tools to quickly make the mortise and tenon. What I had was a hand saw, chisels, and a hand drill. For the tenon, I measured the length of the through piece and then took my time with the hand saw to cut the sides of the tenon to fit into the mortise. For the mortise, I used the hand drill and then slowly chiseled out the mortise, quickly learning how to effectively use chisels. The final step in the mortise and tenon process for me was to drill a hole on each side of the protruding tenon to hold a 3/8 inch dowel, for structural support and as a decorative element.
All pieces now were done and ready to be polyurethaned and sanded. I used fast-drying polyurethane and 220-grit sandpaper for the finishing process. This alternating process was done 4 times to create the final finish.
The legs were put together and then attached to the table. To attach them to the table, I opted to use eight 2 inch brass “L” brackets so that the legs would be solid (just in case the little guy decided to make the table a platform for his gymnastics). Once done, we brought it in and have been enjoying it since.