Mid century-ish table

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Project by CincyRW posted 11-03-2014 02:09 AM 1212 views 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Peruvian Walnut for the top and metal “hairpin” legs. Finish is 3 coats of polycrilic. It looks super simple but I experimented with a few things and had a few challenges.

Jointed 4 of the boards together to form the top. I don’t have a biscuit jointer so I used dowels. The top was flattened using a hand plane (I don’t have a jointer or planer either). The shape of the top is something I dreamed up (with my wife’s help. She was explicit that she didn’t want a “square” table). I put the shape down on poster board which I affixed directly to the top and used as template. I cut it out using a jig saw (you guessed it – no band saw), and simply softened the edges with a R.O. sander.

I installed small blocks under the table as there wasn’t enough “meat” in the top to hold the screws for the legs (the top is probably only a ½”). I purchased the metal hairpin legs on line and simply attached to the blocks under the table with screws.

New things I tried for this project:
• Gluing up the table top. I had only done a top glue up once and it was under the instruction of a shop teacher.
• Jointing boards prior to glue up
• Using dowels to align the top instead of biscuits.
• Leveling the top using a hand plane. I started out using a cheap Stanley block plane that I had tuned up the best I could. This was working “ok. I used this as an excuse to buy a Wood River Jack Plane. What difference that made. Obviously, the block plane really wasn’t the right tool for the job. The jack plane was key in completing this project.
• Filling the grain prior to finishing – nearly a disaster. More detail below.
• Using a card scraper
• Turning the burr on a card scraper

• Jointing – I tried using my router table and a straight bit – shimming the outfeed fence with a washer. Its not perfect. The joint really wasn’t suitable for glue up – still variations in the boards. I had to finish it using my new jack plane. I’ve seen people on YouTube use this method and swear by it. Not sure what I’m doing wrong or if I’m just pickier than they are.
• Jointing using the table saw. I made a jointing sled (after my dis-satisfaction with the router method). Its unwieldy and I never felt safe making the cuts. This doesn’t seem like a really good way to do it and my results were no better than the router.
• Glue ups – I have a limited supply of clamps. It was basically a train wreck. The top didn’t go together perfectly, but I was anticipating this and simply planed down the very small variations between the boards.
• Hand plane use – its REAL easy to get plane-happy. I made every mistake rookie planers make – tear out, gouging, not paying attention to thickness (one end of the table is slightly thicker than the other), and struggling to get the boards flat.
• Filling the grain – The big box stores don’t have grain filler (I wanted to experiment with this technique), and the nearest Rockler or Woodcraft is about a 30 minute drive. I saw some guys on-line fill grain using “thinned” wood filler. I tried this, but unfortunately the wood filler I used was not sandable (why would they even make non-sandable wood filler). I didn’t know this until AFTER I had it slathered all over the table top. I took as much as I could off, and applied the polycrilic anyway (I’m using water based finishes because my shop is in my basement. Most oil based finishes are simply out of the question for me). Despite all this, the finish actually came out nice. Enough of the filler stayed in the pores to smooth out the top nicely. We’ll see how long it lasts.
• Using a card scraper – I can make lots of dust but not too many shavings. I know this takes a lot of practice. Sharpening (turning the burr) takes just as much. I resisted buying a burninshing rod and was using a large drill bit to work the burr because I’m having a hard time paying nearly $20 for a metal rod and wooden handle (burnishing tool). I sliced my finger open pretty good in the process. I guess I’ll reluctantly fork over the $20 for the burnishing tool.
Despite the challenges, this turned out pretty well. My main objective here was to try a bunch of things I hadn’t tried before (on my own, anyway) and get something that looked decent enough. I’ll definitely do a few things differently next time. For me, this was a success. Thanks for looking.

2 comments so far

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2681 days

#1 posted 11-04-2014 09:43 PM

Fantastic output! Thanks for sharing the details.

View tim387's profile


62 posts in 1704 days

#2 posted 08-06-2016 11:07 PM

Very nice. In building my living room table I debated about the hairpin legs but ended up with the tapered legs on my freeform coffee table as they went with the rest furniture. I did the burnishing on my bed, the first piece of my furnishings replacement plan. It turned out nice but it was just a lot less work with the sander on the rest of the large surfaces. It depends on the technical aspects of how you want the surface to be. I have a 1952 ranch home and like your wife didn’t want other square type thing and ended up with the table.

What a hoot, I just went to my table post and you were the first to comment. LOL

-- Tim S. Top notch stick kicker

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