Building the Hexagonal Cocktail Table #2: The Top Assembly

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Blog entry by Ron Stewart posted 12-28-2016 06:49 PM 987 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Introduction Part 2 of Building the Hexagonal Cocktail Table series Part 3: Legs »

The top assembly is a three-layer sandwich approximately 1 1/8” thick.

The bottom layer is 1/2” thick MDF hexagon. I had never cut a hexagon before, so I searched the web and found the excellent article Cutting Hexagons on a Table Saw by Don Snyder (a fellow LumberJock who goes by StLouisWoodworker) to use as a starting point. The large size of my hexagon (23 3/4” across the flats) made it difficult to follow the article to the letter, but I did the best I could. The resulting hexagon wasn’t perfect, but it was close enough.

At this point, I did not cut the triangular notches for the tenons. (That came later, after the legs were complete.)

The top layer is composed of 24 triangles. Twelve narrow isosceles triangles (with 120/30/30 degree angles) form the interior “pinwheel” or star, and twelve equilateral triangles form the perimeter. I again used 1/2” MDF for them (mainly because I started my test cuts using some 1/2” MDF scrap on hand). Cutting those triangles was not as difficult as I feared.

The middle layer is a 1/8” thick hardboard hexagon. Its purpose is combining the top triangles into a single unit that can be easily moved, sanded, and finished.

I started with the narrow interior triangles. Each is about 3 1/2” tall (as measured from the 120 degree angle to the opposite side), but that wasn’t critical. I cut 4” wide strips of MDF, and I cut oversized triangles from them using my table saw and a miter gauge set to 60 degrees. The triangles’ exact sizes did not matter, and their sizes didn’t need to match. The important things were (1) that 120-degree angle and (2) that they were oversized. After I cut all twelve rough triangles, I trimmed them all to their final size (long side 11 7/8” long) using a simple jig and my crosscut sled.

I used a similar procedure to cut the twelve equilateral triangles. I cut oversized triangles using the miter gauge set to 30 degrees, then trimmed them to final size using another jig and the sled. The key thing here was sizing the triangles so the sides were the same length as the short sides of the interior triangles. (In the photo below, I used two cut offs to simulate one perimeter triangle, and I separated the work piece from the jig to make them easier to tell apart.)

After all of the triangles were cut, I dry fit them on the base plate. If I were Norm Abram, they would have fit together perfectly, with no gaps to be seen. Unfortunately, I’m not Norm, so there were some gaps. I played around with the positioning to minimize the gaps, and then I labeled each triangle. I mentally subdivided the base plate into wedges (so I had Wedge 1 through Wedge 6), and I assigned each triangle a specific on each wedge. That way, every time I test fit the parts (and when I did the final glue up), I put each piece in exactly the same position.

With that done, I veneered each triangle separately. I won’t go into details about that. The only tricky part was making sure to rotate the veneer 30 degrees on each interior triangle, and making sure that the grain on the veneer on adjacent interior triangles formed a ‘V’. I used the iron-on method with regular TiteBond and flush trimmed each triangle on my router table. Veneering was tedious, but simple.

Now I was ready to glue. To make that task easier, I first edge-glued the four triangles that formed each wedge together, using just my hands for clamping and alignment. Once those wedges dried, I glued all six to a hardboard backer board whose size exactly matched that of the base plate. (Flush trimming the backer using the base plate as a guide ensured that match.) It was much easier to keep the six wedges in place during gluing/clamping than it would have been to keep 24 triangles in place.

At this point, I had a single slab with all of the triangles. Because my backer board wasn’t a perfect hexagon, I flush trimmed it to match the hexagon formed by the glued triangles. Then I flush trimmed the base plate to match. So, even through none of the three layers of the top assembly sandwich was a perfect hexagon, all size sides of the sandwich were flush.

Here’s a photo of the top. (Ignore the legs for now.) If you look carefully, you can see slight gaps between some of the wedges. Before finishing, I filled those gaps with a mixture of white glue and sawdust. (Every time I sanded anything, I saved as much of the dust as I could.)

Note that I did not glue the backer board to the base plate at this time. That was the very last step of the project. With the triangles glued to the backer, I had a single sub-assembly I could sand and finish.

My next post will describe the table’s legs and how I attached them to the top’s base plate.

-- Ron Stewart

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