Redwood - what to do?? #2: Deciding on a table base - is there an unwritten rule??

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Blog entry by brukilla posted 07-13-2009 07:49 PM 4232 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Thinking about an end table... Part 2 of Redwood - what to do?? series Part 3: 1st Design in Sketchup for the Redwood Burl End Table »

In trying to look for inspiration in redwood table design, 99.99% of the pics had some kind of redwood trunk or burl as the base. I can’t afford to buy a base like that.

Is it completely unheard of to have a table base with actual legs with a redwood top. Personally, I am thinking a dark wood, as to not detract any attention from the redwood top. Plus, the black spots in the top would, in essence, make the dark base an afterthought. I still want to attempt some curves in the table legs and possible M&t or sliding dovetails for the table leg stretchers.

I am taking the tutorials for sketchup located at so that I can design the piece before I get in there with my hands. Since this is my first design and piece that I am going to build, I want to make sure I have the details worked out.

I am still looking for any help with how to plane the redwood, as it is pretty rough with some sharp peaks and valleys (kind of like a bad resaw attempt) and get it smooth as silk. I want to avoid major chip outs and defecting the live edges.

Thanks to everybody so far; this site really is an inspiration. Plus, I hope I am getting the lingo down.

-- "Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing." - Thomas Jefferson

6 comments so far

View Jeff's profile


95 posts in 3295 days

#1 posted 07-13-2009 08:10 PM

Looking for inspiration is always a good thing, but sometimes it inspires you to come up with something different than what you have seen. I’ve used sketchup some and love it. Maybe because I’m an engineer and work with autocad a lot, but it really can do some amazing things once you get used to all the commands.
I would suggest using a router setup to plane the top of the redwood. If you search for router jigs, you’ll find several. The width of your redwood top would decide how big you make the jig. They are called several different things, but use the same principals. There are two rails on either side of your workpiece and the router is moved back and forth between them at a fixed height. Here is just one,

Good luck, looking forward to seeing some progress.

-- - In the end, everything will be okay. If it isn't okay, it isn't the end yet.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3268 days

#2 posted 07-13-2009 08:21 PM

Redwood has its moments.

I have’nt considered it much for furniture, even the burls, as it tends to be very soft as you move away from the center core and more expensive to get woods processed from the core. Most redwood we see now is many generations from the original giants. They are typically rated as 1st growths…etc on down. Of course the closer to 1st growths you get, the more core…and the more sturdier the wood. The burls are common as the tree grows from a central root ball and once the main is cut, the smaller suckers can get the sun and nutrients needed to set off their growth…thus a second or so generation begins and adds more to the central root core. That is why you usually see them growing in rounds in a grove.

Redwoods are naturally resistent to a lot of diseases, insects and weather. That is why it is used alot in outdoor furniture and fencing. I have a friend of mine that makes his living cutting burls, making carvings, tables and other trinkets…he even sells a bit of the burl for folks to put in a pot and grow a “small redwood” the burl will sprout when placed in water.

Most of the burl tables you see from redwood burls have a glass top so as to protect the soft wood from dents and scratches….or I have seen some with very thick coats of clear coat to provide similar protection.

Anyway, another 2 cents from me…add it to a dollar and you might get a cup of coffee…

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View scopemonkey's profile


188 posts in 4161 days

#3 posted 07-13-2009 10:08 PM

It is not unheard of to have a table base with a redwood top. I actually had a similar thing happen to me: a friend gave me a bunch of clear redwood from a giant tree that went down in a family member’s property in California. He had the good sense to mill it and air dry it for years. I flattened mine with hand planes but router rails, as outlined above, may have saved me a lot of work. Redwood is quite soft but easily splinters and tears out—use sharp blades. The resulting table is here. The top is covered with glass to protect it from dents.

Have fun and post the final result!

-- GSY from N. Idaho

View brukilla's profile


74 posts in 3240 days

#4 posted 07-13-2009 11:15 PM

All this info is reassuring. I am going to hit up Sketchup to design the table base/legs and then try to come up with an interesting way to rest or attach the burl. I want to avoid glass on the top. My neighbor, who gave me the piece said that he usuallly applies 7 or so cots of polyurethane to protect it. Also, he propanes the dark live edges to harden them up. When you touch the edges, they are extremely soft and brittle. The propane trick will make sure it lasts a long time and not get dinged up easily.

-- "Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing." - Thomas Jefferson

View dog2bert's profile


13 posts in 3237 days

#5 posted 07-14-2009 04:27 AM

Give sketchup a try

View KnotChiseled's profile


5 posts in 2295 days

#6 posted 04-25-2012 06:30 PM

About 8 yrs ago I made a table from a redwood burl slab and it has held up wonderfully. It is a softer wood as was mentioned; but it has such beautiful grain that really comes out when you clear coat it (I used probably 5 coats of gloss poly). Mine is the most used table in our house, it takes a lot of abuse from the kids and a few moves; but it has held up great.
I made the base from welded tube and round steel that I painted flat black.
The tangled root bases aren’t particularly my cup of tea either. The flat black steel base was quick and cheap to build; but it’s strong and solid. For this piece, the base seems to dissappear in contrast to the natural beauty of the redwood burl. I like it that way.
I million and one ways to make a table though and I agree with Jeff. Looking for inspiration is great, sometimes it even inspires you to come up with your own designs when you can’t find what you want. Also, Jeff was spot on with using a router sled and rail system to plane large slabs. Cheap and easy to build and it does the trick well. Good Luck!

-- Nate O'Shaughnessey, KnotChiseled Furniture, Midland, MI

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