Walnut, live-edge, end-table build

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Blog entry by DavidOveracre posted 02-02-2017 03:28 AM 754 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So I was given what was basically an old chunk of walnut firewood by a friend, as well as some random scrap pieces of milled walnut (among other useful things as well). I decided one day to roughly slab the big chunk when I was already doing the same with a cedar log for another project. It looked amazing when I opened it up, so I continued with the process. I started by using my router sled on one side of both slabs (2 pieces is about all the big chunk yielded). Then sent both thru the planer to thickness.

They actually came out great, better than expected with my cobbled together “wood shop” and contained equipment. They both measured within .005” thickness of each other! Time to take them inside and show wifey…

Now, on to the base. Since I only had limited “real” walnut lumber (more like shop leftovers) I had to frugally design my table’s base. Took inventory of what I had and subsequently designed an aesthetically pleasing base in Sketchup, considering what I was working with. I needed to make sure I had all my measurements exactly right before I cut so as not to waste what precious material I had.

After ripping my rough widths down, I added a nice straight board to my cheapo router table fence to give it some length, straightness, and rigidity, I added a couple layers of tape to the outfeed side of my fence to make a sort of jointer. It worked pretty darn good. Jointed one edge of all my pieces, then borrowed my dads TS to rip them parallel, then finished my widths on the “jointer”.

Now I needed nice consistent lengths and angles. Set up some stops on my miter saw and cut everything needed.

Time to add the slots on the inside of the aprons for the “buttons” that’ll hold the top on.

I cut 4 equal length rectangles from a piece of cherry I had lying around… just cause. They’ll be on the underside anyway. Set my depth of cut and the miter gauge up on the router and rabbeted the ends so that they would be slightly shallower than the distance from the underside of the top to the slot (about .010 I thought was good enough to give the buttons some hold). Then I measured out the hole locations, auled them, drilled and c.sunk them.

Here comes the fun part… figuring out how to assemble this base.

After much fiddling and figuring, it dawned on me to use my biscuit joiner. So carefully laid out all my joints, set up for one side of all legs, cut pockets, set up other sides, cut pockets, set up rails/apron pieces, cut all those. And with not too much trouble managed to get all my joints the way I wanted them. Made assembly much easier to have biscuits aligning and holding things in place, not to mention stronger.

I ended up jointing the top pieces at a friend’s and biscuit joined the two.

After some sanding and some more sanding, I started on the epoxy filling process for the cracks. I love the end result of this but the process is too long for my taste. I did quite a few pours to get everything just right.

My method for mixing the epoxy is with 3 “medicine” cups from a dollar store pack, I mark half of what I want on one with a fine tipped sharpie, fill to the line, mark it hardener, pour that cup into another and mark that line and label resin. This way I get the exact same volume markings. Then dump water, fill hardener and resin cups, pour resin into hardener cup (to assure that if the volumes are off slightly due to some remaining in the cup it’ll at least have a touch more hardener to cure fully). Stir, blah blah blah. I do enjoy being able to see into the wood, so I didn’t use any die in my epoxy. Tape off your pours well. In this porous walnut, leftover epoxy in the surface can show up under your finish. When the pour is sufficiently cured enough to remove the extra, I took a razor blade to it. Then scraped smooth with a razor after it was hardened. I found out, closer to the end of my project of course, that using a file worked wonderfully on that epoxy, much better than scraping or sanding (just be sure to keep a file brush handy). Of course it’ll benefit from sanding after you have everything leveled out though.

Epoxy is all done, on to finishing. I started with the base. 3 equal parts BLO, MS, and Helmsman Spar gloss urethane is my preferred finish after trying many other “straight” finishes.

Altogether I put about four coats on the piece.

I started the top off with sanding to 150, 200, then 400, then a wet sanding session with some BLO to try and fill pores.

I of course wanted a glass smooth finish on the top but got impatient and only gave it a few hours to cure so when I wiped it off some of my “filler” came with it. Oh well, the project had occupied our kitchen table for long enough and my wife was gracefully impatient. So I continued on to the next steps. Finished with my trusty mixture, about 4 or so coats until the knots and thirsty spots didn’t show thru and everything had a sufficient film for durability. I did fit the top to the base and mark out/pilot drill for the buttons before my last coat.

Finished results:

-- Dave O.

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