As previously reported, I created a heavy-duty extension table out of two slabs of 3/4” MDF laminated with micro-dot Formica. The next step is adding oak edging around 3 sides, both to protect the table and to provide a solid mounting to the fence and saw.
I bought a piece of 1” thick red oak, already milled and ready to go. The extension table is currently 1-5/8” thick, so I cut strips 1×1-3/4” for the length and width of the table.
Lots of Mistakes
I’d love to brag about what a skilled woodworker I am, but the truth is I make a lot of expensive mistakes. I already wrote about my first attempt at gluing the MDF slabs together with glue cauls, and because I did not use a table to attach the whole thing, it was bowed, so I had to start again with a new sheet of MDF. Second time worked fine, and laminating came out well too.
Dang! Dropped it.
With two of the three edges attached, albeit not as perfectly as I wanted, I was ready to do the last one. But this table top is VERY heavy, and in handling it, it dropped one foot to the floor. Joan came down from the second floor, saying it had shaken the whole house. But the fall cracked the laminate on the top side and damaged a mitered corner:
At first I tried trimming a rectangle of the laminate to be replaced. But this edge is in front, where I will feed wood to the saw and router, and I wanted it to be perfect. I wasn’t going to get it by replacing a rectangle. Well, Home Depot still had two sheets of the same microdot laminate, still on closeout special, so I bought another one.
They say contact cement bonds on contact, and it does, but it isn’t really as permanent as you might think. With a putty knife, I was able to separate laminate from substrate, and once a big enough piece was started, could use my hands to tease it away, one section at a time, while being careful not to break or tear it.
The surfaces were not perfectly smooth, so I used my sander on the substrate side to smooth it out, then cleaned it. There was still some dried contact cement there. I cut a new piece of laminate a bit oversize as a replacement, spread more contact cement on the substrate and laminate, and carefully placed them together.
This came out reasonably well, but not perfectly. The problem is that I already had two hardwood edges there, and it is difficult to place the laminate perfectly into the corner such that the two edges line up between the edging and the laminate. Still, better than I had before, so that’s progress. I sanded the hardwood corner carefully, and since I planned to round all edges anyway, figured that would help.
I cut new slots for the front edging (both the table and the oak trim/edge), such that I would now be trimming oak from the top edge, rather than the bottom, to have close to a perfect leading edge of the extension table. Glued and clamped.
Trimming with the Router
When I have joined wood with biscuits in the past, I have gotten edges to match up perfectly. I assumed that this would be the case, so I cut slots so that no trimming would be necessary for the top side. Well, it did not work out as well this time. The lesson I learned was that I should leave a small amount of extra material on BOTH sides to be trimmed with a router flush trim bit.
I have used a flush trim bit several times with the router, but generally for thin material like laminates. Now I had to trim a 1” thick piece of oak, which protruded about 1/8”. This is far more challenging for the router – the thickness, and the hardness of the wood – than any other router work I have done.
My first mistake was not paying attention to the feed direction, and attempted to make climbing cuts with the edge trimmer against the laminate. As you can imaging, the blade bit the oak and went running. I tried the anti-climbing direction. But this seized the wood and splintered it outwards. Fortunately, I was trimming a part that would not show, the rear bottom edge. After these disasterous mistakes, I got out my Hylton router book and turned off the shop lights: it was evening anyway, and I had made enough mistakes for one day. Just like in skiing, it’s important to know when to call it a day.Hylton does not cover this exact situation, but there were two things that came to mind:
- I could do a shallower climbing cut to cut some of the material out roughly, then finish with the proper direction
- I was trying to trim off too much material in one pass.
The next day I resumed my work. I remounted the bit so more stuck out of the plate, so that the bearing was away from the edge, and the cutting edge was only trying for about half the width. I did three passes, and this worked much better.
For reasons I still don’t understand, even though the bearing was guided by the laminate, the blade shaved some of the laminate off. No problem, this is the underside. For the top side, I put two layers of masking tape over the laminate to move the blade slightly away from the material. This prevented any shaving of laminate, but left the oak protruding about 1/64” above the laminate.
There was a bit of dried glue along the edges that I scraped off carefully with a putty knife. There was smears of glue from the gluing project that I cleaned up with a sponge soaked in hot soapy water.
A 1/4” rounding bit made this table top much easier to handle – the sharp oak edges tended to nick my hands here and there, and would be dangerous left exposed in the shop. It also helped on the damaged corner, as did the sanding I did with fine paper.
That’s as far as I got this weekend. I am a perfectionist, and this is far from perfect. However, someone wiser than me observed that “perfection is the enemy of good enough.” I’m not going to start over again, because this is good enough.
Now it looks pretty good.
The table top is probably as much as 1/16” too wide for the space between the rails. I need to trim it to fit, not snugly, but not loose either. Probably do that with the table saw, then reround the edges.
This project is taking much longer than I hoped, though not more than I expected. If only I didn’t also have a demanding job… but I don’t think I could make a living as a woodworker, at least not yet.
-- Mark, hack amateur woodworker, Medford (greater Boston) MA