Modern Dining Table
I’m building this table for a client, so sorting through this lumber my priority is getting the clearest most premium pieces possible instead of trying to maximize yield which is my normal approach. That makes my first step marking any defects in the lumber to work around them and then breaking everything down into more manageable pieces.
The milling process is the same as always. I start at the jointer to get a straight edge and flat face, rip the opposite edge at the table saw, and then plane the opposite face at the planer. Then I let it sit over night, and do it again.
Dried lumber has a lot of tension in it and almost every time you cut into you change the balance of the tension and the wood will move. Because of that, the best way to get straight and flat boards that stay that way is to mill it to over several days and sneak up on the final dimension you need. I have found that three milling sessions over three to five days produces really stable lumber.
After all the edges are hand planed, I feel for and mark where the planer may have left snipe at the end of the board. Snipe is a tiny dip in the face that’s just part of the milling process. I keep my lumber long so I can cut this off later and still have the length I need in the end.
The trick to a good glue up is to rehearse it. I dry clamp everything so all my clamps are set, then break it down and apply glue and clamp it all back together.
I like to glue up large panels in small sections, and then glue those together to keep the process manageable. The other trick to a good panel glue up is the right amount of pressure. Too little and the glue won’t bond well, too much and the panel will turn out like a Pringle.
Once the panel dries, I cut the ends square and the whole thing down to length using my circular saw and a straight edge.
Now I can lay out where the base will sit so I can copy the angle of the intersection to start cutting the half laps on the stretchers after I cut them to length and mark the middle. An off cut that’s the same thickness as the stretchers helps to precisely mark out the cut location.
I use the bevel gauge again to set my miter gauge to the right angle and then sneak up on the cuts. The dado stack hogs out the material, but isn’t tall enough to remove all the material. So after getting all I can on the table saw, I pull out my shoulder plane and tune the half lap until it’s perfect.
Next I mark and make the holes for the bolts that’ll hold the base to the table top. These are elongated to allow the table top to move during the seasons, otherwise the top would rip itself from the base when it expands in the summer.
I drill out most of the waste and then chisel the rest. I use two different sized drill bits to create a counter sink so the bolt head won’t be visible under the table.
Now is a good time to put the taper on the bottom of the stretchers. I do this after drilling the holes and cutting the half laps because both of those operations would have been challenging with a taper on one side. To make sure both stretchers are identical I make a jig for my router. But before routing the stretchers, I remove most of the waste at the bandsaw to make the routing go easier. I put an off cut in the half lap I have to route over to prevent the grain from blowing out.
Before moving on to the legs I mark on the underside of the table top where the base will attach. I use a salt trick to accurately transfer the holes so I can place some threaded inserts. I’m going with threaded inserts and bolts instead of screws incase this table has to be broken down and moved, the inserts and bolts will last longer and there won’t be any worry of the holes stripping out.
And it’s time to start working on the legs. The first thing I do is make a template. These legs are angled which means they have to be longer than the height, instead of messing around with pythagorean theorem, I use a drywall and framing square to find the length. All I care about is that when these are standing up the top is 29 1/4” off the ground.
Then I mark out the taper that’ll be on the inside of the legs and make a tapering jig for my table saw to cut all the legs identically. The jig is just some plywood scraps with CA glue, brad nails, and some toggle clamps.
Once the template is done, I use it to mark the legs out of the blanks. The pieces overlap on the blank, so I break them down on the bandsaw.
To cut to length I set up the stop on my miter station with an offcut featuring a matching angle to the legs. Then I cut the first angle on the leg, slide it to the stop, and cut the leg to length. Now they’re ready to go on the tapering jig and get run through the table saw.
With the stretchers and the legs at their final size I can move on to cutting the half laps to join them. I mark each joint individually just incase there are any differences between the pieces to get the best fit.
My exacto knife leaves a thinner line than a pencil, so I tape each piece, clamp them together and score the tape where the cut needs to be. I like this technique because it gives me a precise and obvious boundary.
I use my bevel gauge to transfer the angle from the tape to the miter gauge. It’s time for the dado stack to hog out the material, I stop just shy of the line so the joint will be a bit proud. Then I switch to handle planes and sneak up on the perfect fit before gluing the legs and stretchers together.
To reinforce and accent these joints I am going to install some brass pins. I make a template to mark the brass pin locations on the joints then drill them out at the drill press. Before gluing the pins in I scuff them with sandpaper to get a better glue bond. Some blue tape helps keep the epoxy off the wood.
The last finishing touch is a bevel on the underside of the table top to give it a lighter look. I do this in three passes to get the best finish. Then I go through my sanding regime of 120, 150, and 220 grit, popping the grain with water between each grit. A tack cloth removes any dust and I can start applying the finish. I did three coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal on this, sanding and wiping with 400 grit sand paper between each coat.
I assembled this off camera in the client’s home before taking some beauty shots.