Lessons learned while building a table

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Blog entry by Oldtool posted 10-17-2020 08:08 PM 912 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m currently building a dining table for my daughter, and I’ve encountered two woodworking problems that may be of interest to others.

First problem, turning the legs. Table is Silver Maple, and when at the saw mill the owner directed me to a different location for some 12 quarter for the legs, and I didn’t ask what the type of maple it was. When I began turning the legs, I had a difficult time with chip out and snags. I’m not a good turner, but I have turned for a project prior, using cherry for a headboard. Maybe it was that the cherry was softer or easier to spindle turn, not sure but the maple was very brittle and gave me fits.

Here are some of the problems encountered:

I tried sharpening my lathe tools, didn’t help. At the suggestion of a fellow LJ, Randy, I purchased a carbide tipped turning tool, the kind that act as a scraper. Got it from Home Depot at a reasonable price:

turned out be be a good suggestion. These carbide tips cut very nicely, leaving a nice finish:

So lesson one: I’m not a wood turner & therefore I decided to purchase the legs from Adams Wood Products. Even though I somewhat completed a leg, I knew I’d never get 4 the same, and creating a gradual taper on the leg proved very difficult for me. So, as mentioned, I purchased 4 professionally turned legs:

Lesson number 2: Wood moves – Ever hear that before?
The table top, after being assembled with 5 perfectly flat boards, cupped. The middle board was the only one to do this, cupping so that the underside was convex. Setting the assembled leg & apron assembly on the upside down top resulted in a good quarter inch gap between a side rail & the top, when pushed down tight on the opposite side.

Frustrated, I started researching how I might flatted this sufficiently and long enough to assemble the base & hopefully keep it flat. I read about using a heat gun to ease the tension in the cup, and a second method by using wet towels and heat on the convex side. The second method seemed reasonable since steam bending is common practice, so I proceeded as follows:
I used a paint brush to spread hot water on the convex under side, not sopping wet but recoated as it soaked in. I noticed that some of the cup was easing up, so I used a steam iron directly on the cupped underside, getting the board warm to the touch without burning it. Low & behold, it became flat within about 20 minutes, so I immediately installed the base & two cross members that I made to further keep this flat. Today, two days later, it remains flat.

Glad I didn’t have to start over with this top, I’m proceeding with the dye & top coat. Hopefully it’ll remain in this flat condition.

Thanks for viewing.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

5 comments so far

View Randy's profile


397 posts in 4690 days

#1 posted 10-17-2020 08:23 PM

Considering the problems you encountered, I think it looks fantastic. Good problem solving!!

-- RKWoods

View recycle1943's profile


5853 posts in 2865 days

#2 posted 10-17-2020 08:32 PM

My turning knowledge is restricted to sanding – I don’t evn know how to sharpen a tool.

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8425 posts in 1825 days

#3 posted 10-17-2020 09:17 PM

I’m learning to turn with legs for a table for the shop. I figure close enough is going to be good enough, but I’m also glad I bought enough 8/4 ash to make 6 legs, since there’s quite a learning curve… and lots of other projects going so it’s not getting my full attention.

Looks like you’re continuing to move forward with the table, so nice work!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View PeteCollin's profile


85 posts in 2545 days

#4 posted 10-18-2020 10:20 AM

I’m glad the trick with the iron worked for you!

View Woodknack's profile


13584 posts in 3623 days

#5 posted 10-19-2020 05:49 AM

Way to persevere and overcome the problems.

Silver maple is very soft. I find it difficult to turn because it tears so easily and can have punky spots. It’s spalts beautifully though.

-- Rick M,

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