Woodworking in the great white north.

I really hate to throw stuff out…

…especially when I can turn it into a woodworking project.  This has oft been my downfall as my cramped garage will attest to.  My wife, Gwen, is an enabler when it comes to this, she has a knack for “finding” things that are just useful enough that it’s kind of hard to dismiss and discard them (me for instance).  The fact that I have a dominant gene inherited from both of my Scottish parents that demands frugality is possibly part of the problem as well. 

With help, I’ve been able to purge items from time to time and have things reasonably under control.  Having done so fairly recently it was especially difficult to pass up the chance to refurbish a folding table. 

Gwen’s employer was ready to toss one of these in the garbage, primarily due to the failure of the plastic where the folding frame is screwed into the table top.
“Can you fix this?”  I can “fix” anything!  Ok, maybe not anything, and in this case, not the plastic holes that the screws had chewed through.  That voice inside my head began chattering…”OI!  That frame and folding leg hardware are just fine…all it needs is a new table top.”  Into the shop goes the broken folding table and out go the plastic table tops.

To make matters better, and to appease my inner cheapskate, I began eyeing the handful of cherry and walnut shorts that I picked up at the mill for a very attractive price.  It was then settled that these shorts would become the table top for the poor decrepit folding table hardware that sat alone and bare on my bench top.

My initial problem was that I did not have enough cherry (of which I had the largest quantity) to make up the full table top.  I did have two somewhat gnarly looking pieces of walnut that just might be enough to make up the difference.

DING!  A moment of creativity struck me and I began thinking of how I could use the walnut best to accent the cherry.  A few quick cuts and it was off to the jointer and planer to rough mill the stock down to an even thickness and rough dimensions.

Surprise, surprise!  After planing the boards I’ve got some fairly clear cherry boards, some dark ribbons on others and the walnut has some crazy localized figuring around a couple of knots.  At first I think that the walnut figure is something to focus on as the centerpiece, so I try working the boards into different configurations that will accomplish this. 

After a few attempts I realized that this is a great opportunity to try building a table top with breadboard ends.  I try it with cherry, but it just looks wrong.  I leave it out for a few days and finally decide on ripping the walnut down and using it as both the breadboard end as well as the outside boards – framing the cherry.

A bit more milling work and I’ve got my boards ripped to width and I play with orientation of the cherry boards and decide on putting the figured walnut on the outside edges – I think it will look interesting with a slight profile on it after it’s all assembled.

On to fitting and gluing up the table tops.  What a shock to find that my inexpensive lumber has chosen to deform slightly after being milled down.  I focus on the edges and though I don’t yet own a jointer plane, I make do with my old Stanley #5 and my lessons from The Hand Tool School. 

I’m very pleasantly surprised to find that getting nice clean joints with a handplane is really quite easy.  I’ve read that leaving a very small gap at the center of the boards (a task incredibly easy to do with a well tuned hand plane) will help keep the ends under pressure and reduce the chance of them splitting apart.

It was absolute kizmet that I received several boxes of clamps from Bessey just in time for the glue up of the table tops.  I’ll talk more about this in another post, but anyone thinking that The Woodwhisperer Guild isn’t worth it…go price 12 Bessey clamps and deduct that from the membership cost and then we can talk.

More to come as I wrap up the initial glue up and start thinking about the breadboard ends.

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3 responses

  1. TexWood

    Nice design for top. Look forward to seeing the completed top.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:01 am

  2. Ian,
    The tops are going to be gorgeous. Will the tables go back to you Wife’s work, or stay at home?

    June 30, 2011 at 8:15 pm

  3. Thanks guys…the table gets to stay with us! It should be great when it’s done, though it might be a touch on the heavy side. I’ve been planing the surfaces to get them nice and flat and even after the glue-up….I suspect they’ll be a fair bit lighter when I’m done planing. 🙂 In retrospect, cauls would have been a good idea…oh well, next time.

    July 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm

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