Building the Hexagonal Cocktail Table #4: Final Steps: Top Trim, Shelf, and Finish

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Blog entry by Ron Stewart posted 12-28-2016 11:17 PM 929 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Top Trim

The top assembly “sandwich” is trimmed by 1/8” thick poplar slats that rest on the outer edges of the leg tenons. This trim and the legs form what is a metal frame on the original table.

I cut the trim from the same board I used for the legs. I attached it much like a trim carpenter installs base or crown moulding. I temporarily placed the top backer/triangles subassembly on the base, used a miter saw to cut the first piece (nibbling away until it was exactly the right length), then repeated the process for the remaining sides.

After I glued the trim pieces, the frame of the table was ready for paint. (Earlier on, before I attached the legs and trim, I had sprayed dewaxed shellac on all of the poplar pieces to act as a sealer.) For paint, I used Rust-Oleum metallic oiled bronze spray paint. It worked really well, and it does look like metal.

The Shelf

I’m describing the shelf out of sequence. Before I cut the notches in the top’s base plate, I used it as a template for the shelf. First, I cut the shelf from a 1/2” sheet of MDF, and I flush trimmed it to match the top place. I then drew a line 1/2” from each edge, trimmed off the edges close to those lines with my table saw, and finished by clamping a board to each line and flush trimming to that. The result was a shelf inset 1/2” on each side when compared to the top’s base plate. My rationale here was that, if the top place was not a perfect hexagon, I wanted the shelf to be similarly imperfect (same error at each angle).

After I cut the V-notches in the top plate, I used them to mark shallower notches in the shelf. Finally, I routed slots at each corner to fit around the support dowels in the legs. This shot from the finished table shows one of the slots. Note that I made them wider than the dowels to account for any slop in the leg’s mounting angles.

At first, I veneered only the top and edges of the shelf. I know you’re supposed to veneer both sides of panels, but I thought I could get away without it. However, a few days after I veneered the top side, I noticed that the shelf was ever so slightly dished. So I used most of my remaining zebrawood veneer on the bottom for peace of mind. I had to hand-trim the veneer around the dowel slots, but that wasn’t too difficult.

Finishing the Shelf and Top

I decided on a simple oil finish for the top and shelf, and wiped on four or five coats of Watco (natural). That darkened the wood and gave it a very slight sheen, just like I wanted.

I’ve used Watco before, but the finish wasn’t as smooth as I wanted. This time, I followed the procedure in the YouTube video How to Apply Danish Oil, by Fabian's Tiny Workshop. He demonstrates the process very clearly, and I’m very pleased with the results.

Attaching the Shelf and Top Triangle Subassembly

Prepainting the legs and top trim created one last problem: how to attach the shelf without marring the painted legs. This was a bit tricky. I placed the table upside-down on my bench, supported by bench cookies so I didn’t put any pressure on the top trim. Then I wrapped each leg in paper and carefully slide the shelf (also upside-down) far enough to clear the dowel holes. Then I glued the dowels in place and slowly lifted the shelf to meet them. (I actually used my car’s jack to do the lifting. It looked sort of weird, but it worked well.) With the dowels touching the bottom of the slots, I used a strap clamp to apply slight inward pressure on the legs, filled each slot cavity with white glue, then waited an eternity for it to dry.

With the shelf in place, all that remained was gluing the top subassembly. I did that upside-down too, but it was simple. I placed the inverted top subassembly on the bench, coated the backer board with glue, and gently place the assembled frame around it. (I did it this way because I didn’t want to drop the top into the shallow cavity formed by the trim and have it fall in at an angle.) Then I turned the table right-side up and gently clamped it. Done at last!

-- Ron Stewart

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