Sofa table from tension wood

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Project by cathyb posted 07-01-2018 05:25 PM 2246 views 7 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a sofa table made from koa tension wood. For those who may not have yet experienced tension wood, it is from a tree growing in less than ideal conditions. For example, maybe it was on a hillside and as much as it wanted to grow tall and straight winds and erosion made this task challenging. All the time, it fought to be straight and tall, tension was created in the fibers, which were under compression from the pressure. Once you cut this wood, the pressure is released. You know you have tension wood when with the first pass on your saw, the fibers bind to the blade like a clamp. Then you have to work hard just to get it off the blade.

When I bought this piece of koa last fall, I loved the figure and the natural edge. Once I realized it was tension wood, I put it back on the shelf. As a real estate agent, I don’t have much time to devote to a project and one like this would have been too much time and patience. I got a little break last month, it was time. This is how I addressed the tension wood, which you can follow in my blog called “Sofa Table from Tension Wood”.

The biggest problem is to get the wood stable. I did this by running it on my jointer, then the double drum stander, off to the resaw bandsaw. As soon as I had flat and thinner pieces, about 1/4-3/8 inches thick, I laminated these pieces to stable pieces of walnut to create a two ply laminate. I can’t stress enough that the walnut and glue set up has to be ready to go once those boards come out of the sander once resawn. Once laminated the beast is controlled and you can make your top, apron and shelves. For the legs, I did the same technique. The legs are actually now four pieces, cut to 45 degrees glued together and then inlay is added after the fact.

I keep my natural edge in the middle of the piece because it gives the table character.

I hope you enjoy the table. Don’t be afraid of tension wood, it can be handled with a good marriage…



-- cathyb, Hawaii

21 comments so far

View Druid's profile


2205 posts in 4294 days

#1 posted 07-01-2018 05:30 PM

Well done Cathy. That’s a beautifully crafted table, and it will be much admired. ;)

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View cathyb's profile


860 posts in 4742 days

#2 posted 07-01-2018 05:59 PM

Thank you John.

Have a wonderful day!


-- cathyb, Hawaii

View hoss12992's profile


4181 posts in 3391 days

#3 posted 07-01-2018 06:14 PM

Absolutely beautiful table. Great job

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View tyvekboy's profile


2185 posts in 4511 days

#4 posted 07-01-2018 07:42 PM

Beautiful finished project. Thanks for sharing.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View Richard's profile


11310 posts in 4531 days

#5 posted 07-01-2018 09:08 PM

Very nice & Well done Cathy!

-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View pottz's profile


26646 posts in 2483 days

#6 posted 07-01-2018 09:17 PM

that is a gorgeous table,id say it was well worth the effort needed.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1976 posts in 3392 days

#7 posted 07-01-2018 09:21 PM

You are so fortunate to be able to use koa.
Such a nice table.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


10906 posts in 3907 days

#8 posted 07-01-2018 09:33 PM

Interesting piece. Never knew about this type of wood. Creative way to make it stable enough to work with.

Looks fantastic!!

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View cathyb's profile


860 posts in 4742 days

#9 posted 07-01-2018 10:33 PM

Thank you guys. My next project will be a quirky chair. No tension wood for that one, just a little fun ..


-- cathyb, Hawaii

View Al Breit's profile

Al Breit

103 posts in 3392 days

#10 posted 07-01-2018 10:35 PM

That is such beautiful gaining in that piece and love the big knot or void in the center, looks like you filled it with clear epoxy, beautiful job.

-- Al Breit "A day without sawdust is like a day without sunshine"

View splintergroup's profile


7151 posts in 2721 days

#11 posted 07-01-2018 10:50 PM

Wonderful wood, glad you had the persistence to keep at it!

I usually avoid any kind of tension wood (branches are also a well known source), but with that grain (koa no the less), it was worth the heroic effort.

View KimAccurso's profile


511 posts in 1638 days

#12 posted 07-01-2018 11:03 PM

Wow – you are amazing, as is the table. If it’s not you, I hope the recipient appreciates your knowledge and time taken to perfect this beautiful piece of wood – and great character you gave it with the live edge in the middle.

-- Kim - imperfection is the pursuit of perfection

View Woodbridge's profile


3755 posts in 3916 days

#13 posted 07-01-2018 11:54 PM

beautiful table

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View DocSavage45's profile


9071 posts in 4341 days

#14 posted 07-02-2018 03:07 AM

Nice job Cathy.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View cathyb's profile


860 posts in 4742 days

#15 posted 07-02-2018 04:10 AM

Thank you everyone for your support. When I went into real estate five years ago, I gave the job 100%. Little by little, I felt terrible about the loss of time in the shop. Last year, I created a team with three other agents. Now I can have time again in the shop to create pieces that inspire me and still help clients find a new home.

It was so gracious of my woodworking buddies to welcome me back. This group has always been so important to me. Many thanks….


-- cathyb, Hawaii

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