Milpa Coffee Table

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Project by doug_w posted 12-17-2010 05:21 PM 6725 views 9 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This Milpa coffee table was a housewarming gift to my son and daughter in law as they move into their first home. Milpa is supposed to be a tree that grows in Mexico, probably the Yucatan Peninsula, but I was not able to verify this. The base was made from two 12/4 walnut slabs with a crotch figure arranged in a triangle with the third side open – I kept the live edges on open side where the limb came in. The table is quite large for a coffee table being 52 inches in diameter and two inches thick. The challenge was finishing the top since, not only was it all end grain, but there were thousands of cracks that are caused by the uneven drying out of a tree cross section – some as wide as 3/8 inch and many quite deep. I filled the cracks with TimberMate, an amazing wood filler from Australia, that was dyed almost black. Since I was dealing with end grain and a filler that was loaded with stain, I needed to keep the end grain from sucking up the stain and ruining the color and figure of the Milpa round. So I sealed the end grain with shellac before each crack filling session followed by sanding back down to the raw wood. It took four rounds of this process followed by some touch-up to get all the cracks filled adequately. Even then, I had to put on six coats of varnish before getting rid of the small dimples where the varnish was sucked into the grain. The resulting pattern caused by the black filled cracks contributed to the overall figure resulting in a quite stunning piece.

-- Doug, Georgia

30 comments so far

View isetegija's profile


763 posts in 4757 days

#1 posted 12-17-2010 05:34 PM

What a gorgeous wood and fine craftsmanship, very well done.
Thanks for sharing with us and welcome to Lumberjocks community.

-- Not my woodworking

View Ollie's profile


146 posts in 4517 days

#2 posted 12-17-2010 05:35 PM

Wow, that is amazing wood. You can see the effort you put into finishing the top verry `glassy` finish it still looks wet . I bet its very heavy.

-- Ollie, UK.

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 4283 days

#3 posted 12-17-2010 05:43 PM

Nice !!! Welcome !!!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Dusty56's profile


11866 posts in 4931 days

#4 posted 12-17-2010 06:10 PM

She’s a real beauty !!
Thanks for the shellac tip : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5461 days

#5 posted 12-17-2010 06:57 PM

What a gorgeous conversation piece that will be in their new home!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View blockhead's profile


1475 posts in 4551 days

#6 posted 12-17-2010 07:40 PM

Stunning is an understatement. This is absolutely gorgeous thanks in part to your finishing techniques and fine craftsmanship. Well done!

-- Brad, Oregon- The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 5569 days

#7 posted 12-17-2010 07:56 PM

that’s amazing!

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4677 days

#8 posted 12-18-2010 12:12 AM

That is ridiculous. What an incredible piece. I couldn’t even begin to image what that took. Great work.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View mafe's profile


13341 posts in 4332 days

#9 posted 12-18-2010 12:32 AM

Wauuuu, thats one heck of a beautiful piece of wood!
What a table.
What a wonderful job you have done.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View tinnman65's profile


1416 posts in 4657 days

#10 posted 12-18-2010 12:55 AM

Great work!!! Your son and daughter in law are going to be very happy. I’m glad you posted a separate shot of the base, you cant really see how nice it looks from above.

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4083 days

#11 posted 12-18-2010 01:44 AM

I love it. I have a chunk of ceder i have been wanting to do the same thing to..Welcome, you are going to love it hear.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View WoodLe's profile


155 posts in 4039 days

#12 posted 12-18-2010 03:19 AM

Large old growth usually has the best colors! Very Nice!

-- Wooster, Ohio

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3660 posts in 4955 days

#13 posted 12-18-2010 05:14 AM


That is one incredibly gorgeous chunk of wood! You certainly showed it off to its full potential.

What does it weigh? At least no one will be able to walk off with it easily ;-).


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View doug_w's profile


43 posts in 4000 days

#14 posted 12-18-2010 05:38 AM

It probably weighs about 80lb, the base another 70. I used a router to rabbit a groove in the inside of the triangle, then I cut a piece of plywood to exactly match the inside triangle and screwed it to the milpa top. That way I can easily remove the top, but when it drops into place there it is solidly in place. I was worried that since the Milpa round is end grain that the top might crack if it had to support the base when lifted, so it is now easy to move it two pieces.

-- Doug, Georgia

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3660 posts in 4955 days

#15 posted 12-18-2010 06:33 AM

Thanks for the info, Doug. That’s a very clever way of “attaching” the top without it showing, and allowing it to be moved safely.


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

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