Alaska Cabin #3: The Live Edge Counter

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Blog entry by Matt Snyder posted 02-06-2019 02:51 AM 777 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Diamond Willow & Agate Cabin Kitchen Lights Part 3 of Alaska Cabin series no next part

When I moved in to the small 13’ x 15’ dry cabin on the fire base in McGrath, AK it was nicer than most of the primitive cabins on base. Some of the walls had rough cut white spruce panels and there was a little hand made furniture from previous crafty resident firefighters. In the kitchen area the counter was a white painted piece of plywood braced to the wall with a simple cabinet underneath.

I figured I could do better and thus began my first major woodworking project that started me down the path of addiction that afflicts me today.

I started with a couple rough cut White Spruce slabs that I glued edge to edge to get the depth I wanted. To hide the seam and reinforce the joint, I decided to route out a 6” wide by 1/4” deep mortise that I planned to glue a piece of cedar into. While functional, it was kinda boring so I had to kick the complexity up a notch.

I had two shades of cedar and couldn’t decide which to use so I decided to used both. I stacked them in the miter saw and made a 45° cut. Each subsequent cut was 1/8” smaller than the one before. Alternating sides, I arranged them from largest at the edges to smallest in the center.

I also ordered a gallon of epoxy for the finish coat that we’ll get to in a bit.

When I got all the cedar bits lined up I was left with a boring triangle in the center of the table.

It looked like something was missing and gluing it up as it was seemed too easy so it was again time to complicate things. I opened my note pad and sketched out what I thought would tie it all together.

I set to work with the Dremel carving out the scene from different materials I’d picked up on my travels around the world.

The island is made from local sand from the banks of the mighty Kuskokwim River. The ocean is jade from the mercado in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. The palm fronds are malachite from the Chatuchuk Market in Bangkok, Thailand. The sun is a piece of cocobolo I found on a dirt road in eastern Panama and the trunk of the palm tree is fossilized walrus ivory from the Alaska coast.

With the center piece complete it was time to pour the epoxy coat. I used marine/tablectop 1:1 epoxy. After making a frame for three sides we moved into the bathhouse which we figured was the least dusty place in camp. We poured several coats using a heat gun to pop the bubbles that came up.

For the sloping bark of the live edge I used a wood shim to scoop up and dump the runoff epoxy back on the bark as it hardened. It was almost like I was able to get multiple coats thickness in one coat.

I gave it a day covered to harden up before giving it a few final cuts on the table saw to get it to size. Mounted in place it looks so much better than the peeling paint plywood I started with.

The final and most important step: set up the coffee station and move on with life.

If you like this check out the rest of my Alaska Cabin improvements. Thanks for reading.

-- - I learn more from my failures than my successes.

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