Cocobolo and Maple Coffee Table

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Project by cdarney posted 04-02-2013 12:23 AM 7017 views 9 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Cocobolo and Maple Coffee Table

35.5” wide x 18.5” deep x 18” high

I stopped at Hearne Hardwoods one day and found a piece of Big Leaf Maple that was a piece of wood, albeit a bit expensive, just looking for a project. It was only about 24” long, 8”wide and a little over an inch thick. My wife was with me and I asked for her suggestions for what to use it for. I didn’t expect her to suggest a coffee table. She also wanted the primary wood to be Cocobolo. Beautiful wood but a REAL challenge to work with.

(Note to self – Don’t mix Cocobolo and Maple. Unless you’re VERY careful all of the maple will be contaminated and turn a very unattractive yellow.)

I ended up resawing the BL Maple into four slices and tried thickness planing them to an equal size.

(Note to self – Don’t try to thickness Big Leaf Maple. The planer LOVES to chew it up.)

The pieces were very close to the same thickness so I veneered them on to some 1/2” hard maple to make four panels, flipped it over and thicknessed them all, just planing off the hard maple. I used clear Watco Danish oil to finish the BL Maple. I kept putting it on until it stopped taking it. It can take a LOT! I cut all of the panels to size.

I made a large 1/2” hard maple panel and glued the BL Maple panels on to it with Cocobolo, half-lapped cross pieces to make the top then framed it with Cocobolo. I sanded the entire top and put a couple of coats of sanding sealer on it.

(Note to self – Don’t mix Cocobolo and Maple. Unless you’re VERY careful all of the maple will be contaminated and turn a very unattractive yellow….Or did I already say that?)

I sanded off the shellac from the maple and re-applied it – this time being VERY careful not to touch the Cocobolo.

The base of the table was pretty simple but I wanted a single board apron around, I ripped and cross-cut the front and back boards to make the drawers. The drawers go all of the way through and can be opened from either side. I was hoping to have the drawers fit with a look like a single board. When I made the drawers I used a dovetail jig and they weren’t quite as square as I thought. Next time I’ll hand cut them. After making flat on the top and bottom I had a gap in the board so I added some maple trim around the drawer openings to fit it. Can you say “Design Feature”? I assembled the base and finished it with shellac, wiping all of the wood down very well with mineral spirits just prior to the shellac.

The maple trim in the drawer openings really changed the look of the table and the top, in comparison, looked too “thick ” and “heavy” so I routed out around the BL Maple panels and some of the Cocobolo then added some 3/8” or so Tasmanian Blackwood frames and, not liking the transition to the BL Maple, some 1/8” Cocobolo strips to make each look like its own “picture in a frame”. Another “Design Feature”. I sanded the top (yet again) well and added some shellac.

(Note to self – Don’t mix Cocobolo and Maple. Unless you’re VERY careful all of the maple will be contaminated and turn a very unattractive yellow….You would think I’d learn!)

After re-sanding the top I applied – very carefully – more sanding sealer shellac. I was really getting concerned that I would sand through the veneered BL Maple. I sanded it all down lightly and, because I expect some abuse to the top, used Arm-R-Seal – being careful not to contaminate the maple! Arm-R-Seal is great stuff – except that it never seems to harden on the Cocobolo. I took it off, wiped all of the Cocobolo with mineral spirits then acetone and quickly re-applied the Arm-R-Seal. Still wouldn’t harden on the Cocobolo. I cleaned off the Arm-R-Seal, re-sanded the top – being VERY careful not to contaminate the maple (even this old dog can learn a new trick or two!) then applied a few coats of sanding sealer. Now I was REALLY getting concerned that I would sand through the veneered BL Maple. The shellac was going to have to be the final finish. The coats were put on thick to allow for light finish sanding. I should have done this in the first place.

My wife wanted a “shiny” top so a wet-sanded the entire top to 2000 grit and added a couple of coats of paste wax until it looked the way both of us liked. I wish the pictures could do the figured in the maple justice. The depth and chatoyance of the wood is spectacular. The “ridges” change from convex to concave as you look at it. It’s beautiful maple and the Cocobolo contrast is stunning.

This one was a challenge. I was very glad to be able to call it done.

17 comments so far

View Marcus's profile


1165 posts in 2404 days

#1 posted 04-02-2013 12:34 AM

I dont think I could have left a piece of maple like that behind either. You definitely did it justice.

View ShaneA's profile


7082 posts in 2983 days

#2 posted 04-02-2013 12:37 AM

Really nice table. The maple is amazing, such depth.

View woodman88's profile


145 posts in 3033 days

#3 posted 04-02-2013 12:40 AM

WOW absolutely beautiful I love the mix of the Cocobolo and the stunning maple. That is one awsome looking table every bit of it is very nice Great work

View gsimon's profile


1312 posts in 2498 days

#4 posted 04-02-2013 12:43 AM

the top looks like rippling water!
I could also see it as a desk design as well
beautiful table – Your effort was well rewarded

-- Greg Simon

View CL810's profile


3928 posts in 3373 days

#5 posted 04-02-2013 02:59 AM

Easy to see why you couldn’t leave it behind. A great piece of furniture!

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2870 days

#6 posted 04-02-2013 03:19 AM

Sounds like you’re glad to have it done! Fine work.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Kyle's profile


109 posts in 3028 days

#7 posted 04-02-2013 03:22 AM

This is awesome. I get some quilt like this from a guy around here and I made the same mistake of sending it through my planer and the tear out was awful. The blend of woods are amazing. Great job!

-- Kyle

View a1Jim's profile


117626 posts in 3962 days

#8 posted 04-02-2013 03:38 AM

Beyond wowsville great job.

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2573 days

#9 posted 04-02-2013 04:36 AM

Incredible work. That’s mastery plain and simple. Beautiful!

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View Mosquito's profile


9756 posts in 2677 days

#10 posted 04-02-2013 05:30 AM

that looks great, excellent work. That maple really pops

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View freighttrain's profile


120 posts in 3008 days

#11 posted 04-02-2013 12:54 PM

wonderful job very nice would love to find a piece of quilted maple like that very beautiful wood great piece and great job on it

-- freighttrain,ky

View garbonsai's profile


154 posts in 2340 days

#12 posted 04-02-2013 01:02 PM

Nice work. I like the contrast between the maple and cocobolo.

-- Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

View alholstein's profile


225 posts in 4426 days

#13 posted 04-02-2013 05:45 PM

Extremely nice, your hard work and persistence show thru. Great job

-- Al Holstein "I wood do it"

View CharlieM1958's profile


16282 posts in 4603 days

#14 posted 04-03-2013 12:20 AM

What a beautiful combination of woods, and a fantastic finish!

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

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2573 days

#15 posted 04-03-2013 12:31 AM

Not a design that suits my taste, but it looks like you did a super job with some incredible wood.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

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