Craftsman Coffee Table Finishing Purgatory

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Project by EarlS posted 01-11-2012 01:48 AM 3217 views 5 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I finally finished the matching Craftsman coffee table and end table I designed for the living room. They are made from cherry with walnut slats. I also tried adding some Craftsman veneer details on the corners with a walnut accent strip on the top. That was easy. All of the joinery is pinned, thru mortise and tenons with some angled cuts on the top pieces for accents. All in all, the design and woodworking portions of the project turned out very well.

I did, however, have no end of problems getting the kind of finish on the coffee table top. The initial finish turned out dull and had lots of orange peel. That’s what I get for putting spray poly on too light. I mananged to sand through in some spots and not in others. Tried again with a brush and poly – no deal – I had antire ocean of fish eyes. Apparently my wife thought she would help by spraying furniture polish directly onto the finish just before I took it out to the shop to fix the finish. That took several tries to get all of the oil out. Then I tried the Sam Maloof finish. A dozen coats of poly and another 6 coats of wax. Looked pretty good until the dog threw his slobbery bone on the top and someone set a hot cup on it and I had stains. Back to the drawing board where I stripped the top completely down and started over with poly wipe gloss and 600 grit Abranet on the ROS. Big mistake!!! The scratch marks showed through and the top looked worse than ever. Another full strip down to raw wood and this time I started with sanding sealer and gloss poly wipe. I only used 800 grit wet paper between the 6 coats of poly wipe. I originally wanted to put 4 coats on but I wiped a bit too thin and a bit to long on the 4th coat so I got streaks. Whew – glad that is over. The end table looks great so I left it alone.

Morale of the story – keep trying until you get it right and you might learn a few things in the process.

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

18 comments so far

View cwdance1's profile


1164 posts in 4600 days

#1 posted 01-11-2012 01:51 AM

Wonderful design and beautiful craftsmanship.

Doesn’t get any better.

View jeepturner's profile


947 posts in 4133 days

#2 posted 01-11-2012 01:58 AM

Nice table. The finish thing is always a struggle for me. I have a love hate relationship with table tops. Glad I am not the only one. I hope this finishes the finishing for you on this one.

-- Mel,

View newagewoodworks's profile


60 posts in 3672 days

#3 posted 01-11-2012 02:02 AM

That looks great quality work.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 3702 days

#4 posted 01-11-2012 02:53 AM

The high caliber of design and construction in your work deserves an equally high caliber in finishing. I’m guessing that you have a considerable investment in power and hand tools, so why not consider a commensurate investment in finishing equipment? Nmely a compressor and conventional gun. Learning to spray a one part solvent lacquer is easy and brief. The end result is well worth it.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View bondogaposis's profile


6105 posts in 3692 days

#5 posted 01-11-2012 03:08 AM

Beautiful projects and great design. You have serious skills.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View BenR's profile


341 posts in 3969 days

#6 posted 01-11-2012 03:14 AM

Earl, I love the arts & craft look in cherry! The inlays and the walnut accents look fantastic too. I’ve been in that finishing purgatory before (*&^%#). Looks great in the end.

-- Ben in Va

View JasonC73's profile


49 posts in 3885 days

#7 posted 01-11-2012 03:22 AM

This is a beautiful piece of work. No doubt the pain of doing it will pale in comparison to the eons of service it will give your family.

View EarlS's profile


5028 posts in 3689 days

#8 posted 01-11-2012 03:30 AM

Clint – I have a Fuji HVLP and I use it for “big” projects. This one sort of got a way from me and I wound up putting blinders on. I didn’t want to get the gun out for “just a table top” so I kept going at it with the little stuff. I probably spent 4-5X the time refinishing as I would have if I would have just got it out and done it right. I am thinking about gettting a small finishing gun that I can use in cases like this. Live and learn….

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

View a1Jim's profile


118309 posts in 4918 days

#9 posted 01-11-2012 03:40 AM

a fantastic table beautiful and well built.


View Hallmark's profile


432 posts in 4447 days

#10 posted 01-11-2012 04:31 AM

Really sharp looking combo, great stuff!

-- Style is simple, but not my execution of it.

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 3838 days

#11 posted 01-11-2012 06:06 AM

A delightful inlay – that makes it for me.

-- [email protected] : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View LukieB's profile


966 posts in 3671 days

#12 posted 01-11-2012 06:09 AM

Wow, what a cool piece, that inlay is stunning, and the finish looks like it turned out great in the end. I can relate to your finish saga, it’s a whole ‘nother art isn’t it.

-- Lucas, "Someday woodworks will be my real job, until then, there's this"

View Ken90712's profile


18106 posts in 4530 days

#13 posted 01-11-2012 12:43 PM

Great looking tables, Nice job on the inlay as well.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View dubsaloon's profile


623 posts in 4135 days

#14 posted 01-11-2012 01:17 PM

Love the table. Nice grain, an exceptional build. Thank you for sharing.

-- The works of evil people are not the problem. It is the "Good" people standing by and watching not speaking up. Dubsaloon

View sailorjo70's profile


24 posts in 3685 days

#15 posted 01-11-2012 02:39 PM

beautiful job lots of fine craftmanship gone into it and a fine finish

sailorjo nl. canada

-- george Nl,Canada

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