The "Old" Oak Tree

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Project by Chilly posted 01-30-2010 05:54 AM 4210 views 6 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This table began out of necessity and emerged as a conversation piece that represents its home well.

My client was forced to cut down a large oak tree in their front yard that had grown to become a hazard to their home. Originally growing a safe distance from the house, after years of growth and subsequent home renovations prior to their occupation of the house, the old oak had reached its limits in the ground.

It was cut down but not without much thought. Wishing to keep the tree as part of the house they insisted it be turned into something that would persist. Reflecting on their love of having the family meals together and having friends over for dinner they decided a new, larger dining room table would be the best “living” end for the old tree.

The tree was milled locally in late summer and then dried over the winter. Over beer and great conversations the table design became clear. Maintaining the very rough nature of the Manitoba Oak was paramount as the tree’s character needed to be recognizable. As such, elements such as rough cut marks from where the chainsaw removed nails that had been hammered into the tree to hold steps for a treehouse, bluish stains from said nails, large knots that would have otherwise dried up and fallen out and, of course, portions of the actual bark as it transitions from deep reds into the pale sap wood and into the dark, teak-like heartwood – everything had to be maintained.

These rough contrasting elements were highlighted by the highly simplified lines of the table and the tripod structure of the legs. By giving the legs a massive quality through multiple tapered laminations and then presenting them in a way that alluded to the structure of a tree – the branching of the main leg into a cloven split that reveals the beautiful reds and whites and small protrusions that used to be branches – the table quite literally resembles a tree when you sit around it.

The main “branching trunk” leg is constructed of 7’ long tapered laminations (from 5/8” to 7/8”) that split around a wedge comprised of 4-3’ tapers that go from 1/4” to 3/4”. The branch that emerges from it to support the table top acts as a key that mates the final gap and provide the full branch-like structure to the base.

The rear legs are comprised of two tapered laminated legs (1/2” to 7/8”) that are mated to a wedge comprised of 11-1/4” to 3/4” tapers. They, all-together, form a monolithic block that is “dovetailed” around the main trunk.

The leg assembly is one-piece and it bolts to two slotted stringers that span the width of the table. There is virtually no wobble in the table even when surrounded by 8 hearty dinner guests.

The top was built as 3 separate panels with breadboard ends. I think I wound up with about 2 board feet to spare after the whole thing.

Each part was barrier coated with two coats of West System Epoxy and then 3 coats of clear water-borne satin urethane.

Contrasting elements, are what it is all about. The size (8 1/2 feet long) supported at two points giving greater feeling of weight supported on air. The leg mirrors and inverts itself upon its axis. The rivers of red and white running through the top and revealed in the foot. Finished and raw wood elements contrasting within. The branching of a singular element into two. The rustic but contemporary design. Resembling a split-rail fence or saw horses it is still unquestionably contemporary – all of these characteristics are representative of the yin and yang – contrasting forces at once in harmony.

Essentially I was given free reign on this project as the client said “we trust you” after seeing an initial napkin sketch and a few of my other pieces. Still, the boundaries were so loose and for that creative freedom I am very grateful! Undoubtedly my favorite project to date.

Thanks to Chris for taking the awesome pictures.


-- can't talk, woodworking -- p1g furniture design

12 comments so far

View Wade's profile


18 posts in 4333 days

#1 posted 01-30-2010 06:12 AM

The legs totally make the table. They make the table appear to be defying gravity. I wish I had an “old oak tree” that needed to come down. Thanks for posting

-- " I do what the vioces in my head tell me to do...HAHA"

View a1Jim's profile


118297 posts in 4865 days

#2 posted 01-30-2010 06:14 AM

Interesting design and wood


View dakremer's profile


2771 posts in 4380 days

#3 posted 01-30-2010 06:30 AM

That is awesome!! I really like it a lot – great job!! My parents just cut down their maple tree in their front yard – unfortunately they cut it all up into fire wood before I could get my hands on it – I would have loved to get it milled and make something out of it!! Oh well! Awesome table – thanks for sharing!!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


22848 posts in 4964 days

#4 posted 01-30-2010 06:35 AM

Interesting design and story. How is the stability if some one leans on the narrow legged end?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Puupaja's profile


310 posts in 4389 days

#5 posted 01-30-2010 06:46 AM

Best thing is to make one of kind pieces like you have done, looks great!


View FuzzyDove's profile


64 posts in 4663 days

#6 posted 01-30-2010 07:17 AM

In the days of pre-dimensioned lumber for all, this is a refreshing and beautiful bit of craftsmanship. Kudos.

View Troy's profile


186 posts in 4352 days

#7 posted 01-30-2010 08:17 AM

Meaningful project = double impressiveness.

-- Troy Bouffard || Master Sergeant, US Army (Retired) ||

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 4497 days

#8 posted 01-30-2010 08:37 AM

This is one of the most beautiful tables I’ve ever seen. Wonderful design and craftsmanship that honors the tree. Wow!

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 4650 days

#9 posted 01-30-2010 01:18 PM

Hey Chilly,
Great design and finish…well done.

View tomfromwinnipeg's profile


60 posts in 4374 days

#10 posted 01-30-2010 01:51 PM

Great design and workmanship be proud of that one!

-- Tom From Winnipeg

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2859 posts in 4880 days

#11 posted 01-30-2010 05:37 PM

Sweetness! Great gob.

-- Dennis Zongker

View Arnold's profile


215 posts in 4850 days

#12 posted 01-30-2010 09:07 PM

Really nice

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