Walnut Dining Table #5: Glue-up and test finishes

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Blog entry by b1v1r posted 03-11-2019 12:20 AM 291 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Arms, part layout, and a full dry assembly Part 5 of Walnut Dining Table series no next part

And now for the more stressful part of this build, the glue-up. No matter how much I seem to prepare for a glue-up, I always seem to nearly run out of time, but I was not as worried with this as I have assembled dry many times. From the plans, the recommended way to assemble this is to glue-up the base parts, then glue the base to the legs and arms. I was a bit worried that gluing up the base alone would leave the base tenons slightly misaligned with the mortises in the leg and arm, so I opted instead to glue up the base with the legs to keep them aligned, then later on glue on the arms. As it turns out, of course, I should have been more worried and less ambitious, but all worked out in the end.

The joinery on this table is fairly tight – just tight enough that I can get it together with my hands with maybe a small palm strike, but no need for a mallet. With the glue on this, though, I ran into an issue getting all the air out of the joints and some internal air pressure causing some issue, so a mallet and lots of clamp pressure was needed to get it together – more clamp pressure than I had initially thought would be needed, so I only had out my bar clamps and not my stronger pipe clamps. In the future I may consider drilling some pressure relief holes in the mortices —in this case up from the bottom and down from the top—where they would not be seen. I’m curious if others do this or maybe put grooves in the tenons to help relieve air pressure?

First thing I did was tape up the joints with blue painters tape. I am glad I did this because of all the interior corners, but it was a real PITA to get all the blue tape off. Worth it, though, in the end I think, but I may experiment with other methods on future projects.

I then proceeded to glue up the leg lap joint followed by the base parts. The base splines caused some extra time to apply glue and I think this was pushing my glue’s working time (I was using Titebond III to give a little more working time) and this made the glue a little tackier. Because of this and the tight joinery it was very hard to get the air out of the mortises with just bar clamp pressure. Because of this, I had to quickly shift to pipe clamps that can apply a lot more pressure. While it all worked out in the end, it did get a bit stressful and I forgot to get a picture. After an hour or so, I went back with a chisel and removed any drips.

Once the base and legs were completely dry (overnight), I removed all the tape and roughly cleaned up the glue. The tape worked well for the most part. Once I was happy that the glueup looked good, I glued the arms onto the assembly. This time I just went straight for the pipe clamps and I needed them!

As I mentioned before, the tape worked well except where the curves were cutout around the legs. It took some pen knife work to get it all scraped away, but it turned out nicely and there was very little glue squeeze-out to cleanup. I am really happy with these joints.

I must have gotten a little bit of a twist in the base parts when I glued them up as the arms did not quite glue down perfectly flat as I had them in the dry assembly, but I am not too worried as no one is going to be looking under the table and they really are not that bad—just not as nice as they were in the dry assembly.

That’s it for the glue-up. While this was drying, I went ahead with applying some finish to a couple of test pieces. As I stated before, I was planning on using Watco “Tung Oil” Finish. I realize this is not pure tung oil, but I have used it successfully in previous projects. I considered using Waterlox Original, but did not want to deal with the VOCs. As another suggested, I will take a look at Seal-Cell and Arm-R-Seal as that looks promising as well.

For finishing with the Watco, I am first flooding on the finish, smoothing with a painting sponge, then immediately sanding on the wet finish with a 500-600 sanding sponge. I waited about 15 minutes after sanding and then wiped off all the extra finish across the grain as to push as much of the sanding particles into the grain. I read up on this technique a few times for use on walnut to help fill in the grain with the sanding dust. This seems to work really well with the Watco. I am using a pneumatic DA sander with the 500-600 sanding sponge disks for the wet sanding, but without the vacuum attached. The results are pretty impressive. Here is a picture of raw pieces side by side with two coats of the Watco done this way. I tried both a scrap piece of the laminated top as well as a scrap piece from the base parts. It is glass smooth, but you can still feel a little bit of the grain, which is exactly what I wanted. The color turned out very nice as well, so I think I will stick with this.

For the tabletop, I am still planning on applying a Watco rub on poly over the top of the Watco “Tung Oil” Finish. I have not yet experimented with this. I’m going to add a few more coats to the test piece and then try the poly.

-- Brian - Ellicott City, MD

2 comments so far

View EarlS's profile


2569 posts in 2648 days

#1 posted 03-11-2019 11:48 AM

Looks good. I applaud your creativity with the pipe clamp glue-up.

The walnut is going to look amazing with some finish on it.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View stefang's profile


16580 posts in 3634 days

#2 posted 03-17-2019 04:32 PM

The base/legs glue-up came out really well, and the finish looks perfect too. Great work!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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