Nakashima Inspired Coffee Table

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Project by PittsburghTim posted 09-30-2012 01:22 PM 2450 views 7 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here is my first attempt at making a piece of furniture from a natural slab. I purchased this slab of walnut about a year ago without a real plan for it because it was just such a beautiful piece of wood with both burl figure from the crotch of the tree surrounded by curly figure along the sides. The legs were made from a separate slab of walnut that is 2 inches thick. I cut the legs along the grain to keep them more natural in shape.

The legs were finished with several coats of General Finishes Arm-r-seal. The top was finished with seal coat of shellac followed by about six coats or Arm-r-seal gloss. I would like to thank Charles Neil for his advice when I was having difficulty with finishing the top. The very porous walnut top was giving me fits and he advised me to sand the Arm-r-seal with a fine grit paper between the coats, leaving the sanding residue on the top and putting the next coat on. This formed a “gravy” that helped fill the very porous top and after a few coats, eliminated the tiny bubbles that were forming in the finish when I first applied it. I also thinned the Arm-r-seal a fair amount for the first few coats to make it flow more readily into the pores of the wood.

While some may not like the high gloss finish, this was my preference as I have always liked this look and I know it will be durable, which is important as I still have children in the house and do not want to worry about someone setting a drink on it by accident.

Thanks for looking,


-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

15 comments so far

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 2675 days

#1 posted 09-30-2012 02:07 PM

very nice

View Wdwerker's profile


333 posts in 2565 days

#2 posted 09-30-2012 02:10 PM

Magnificent piece! I like the thick crossbeam in the base. What did you level the top with? Sander?router? Plane?

-- Fine Custom Woodwork since 1978

View PittsburghTim's profile


232 posts in 2654 days

#3 posted 09-30-2012 02:36 PM

Thanks. Luckily, the lumberyard from which I purchased the slab has a huge commercial sander and made the slab flat on its best side. I did have to fit the legs to the underside, which was a bit rough.


-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

View HorizontalMike's profile


7781 posts in 3246 days

#4 posted 09-30-2012 02:37 PM

Very nice! Wish I had room for these kinds of large pieces. Color me jealous for sure.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2520 days

#5 posted 09-30-2012 03:58 PM

Very nice! I’d be proud of that table.

It took me a while but my dullard mind just snapped to the fact it’s not a crosscut cookie. No way to get that beauty out of a cookie. The light goes on – finally.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30289 posts in 2670 days

#6 posted 09-30-2012 04:56 PM

Very very beautiful. Awesome job.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View kody's profile


180 posts in 2610 days

#7 posted 09-30-2012 05:26 PM

Fantastic work. I’m in the middle of making my first slab table out of Maple Burl. I just made Nick Offerman’s router sled to level large slabs. The sled works great! I’ll have to put you in my favorites for that finishing recipe. Thanks, you’ll be hearing from me later.

View Dusty56's profile


11838 posts in 4020 days

#8 posted 09-30-2012 08:15 PM

Gorgeous piece of Walnut !! You saved it for the perfect project : )

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

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3022 days

#9 posted 10-01-2012 01:24 AM

That is a remarkable slab with all that figure and you certainly did it proud. The gloss finish worked beautifully on this piece. I would like more detail on how you did the finish: how much did you thin it,wiped on,sanded with what grit to produce the slurry to fill the pores, etc???

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View vakman's profile


301 posts in 2735 days

#10 posted 10-01-2012 03:52 AM

Excellent work, a great way to showcase such a beautiful biological specimen.

I use the same sanding technique with tung oil and wet dry paper….I believe I read about it here, the gravy was referred to as a “slurry”.

-- - Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true. -

View Pete Tevonian's profile

Pete Tevonian

78 posts in 3250 days

#11 posted 10-01-2012 06:36 PM

Beautiful wood and beautiful job. How large is the slab, and how thick? Love the Nakashima-look.

-- Pete in Wilmette, IL

View WoodLe's profile


155 posts in 3128 days

#12 posted 10-02-2012 02:46 AM

Very nice piece of walnut! I would like to get some like it in my inventory.

-- Wooster, Ohio

View PittsburghTim's profile


232 posts in 2654 days

#13 posted 10-03-2012 12:22 AM

Thanks for the nice comments. I’ll try to answer the questions. The top is about 50×38x1 3/8 inch thick. The legs are from another slab that was 2 inch thick.

I sanded the top through 220 grit. I thinned the finish for the first few coats using 2/3 finish to 1/3 mineral spirits. Sanded with 220 between coats. The next few coats were 3/4 finish to 1/4 mineral spirits. Sanded with 400 grit. The final few coats were 90/10 finish to mineral spirits. I sanded between those final few coats with a 1000 grit abralon pad.

Thanks again,


-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3022 days

#14 posted 10-03-2012 12:35 AM

Thanks for the reply, Tim.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View don1960's profile


227 posts in 3019 days

#15 posted 10-07-2012 02:12 AM

Beautiful table, Tim. Really, really nice. I wish my wife liked glossy finishes, but I’m doomed to satin unless It’s something for my office space. Someday I want to make a slab table like yours. Always loved the look of them.

Hey, I think you’re the guy I bought a bench from about a year ago. It had a Record vise attached. If so, I use that everyday. Was one of my best buys off Craigslist.


-- -- Don from PA

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