The photos below can be viewed larger size in the flickr set.
This project began with a plan to make use of a 1” slab of maple I got my hands on recently. The figure of the wood, the shape of the edge and the large size made it highly suitable for a table top. After sketching out some ideas on paper, I put them into sketchup for comparison. Given the natural edge of the top plank, the designs with straight lines and rectilinear forms immediately stuck out as incongruous. It was apparent that the legs would have to be curved, narrowing my choices down to just one design. From there I went back and forth between paper, sketchup, templates, and a finally a full size mock-up in pine to refine the shape.
The legs were cut from a single board with a circular saw and jigsaw. When the jigsaw got too hot and my arm felt like vibrating off, I made a final attack with a kataba saw (below). Perhaps this will motivate me to build a bow saw or acquire a bandsaw.
The next step was shaping of the legs with jointer plane, drawknife, and spokeshave. Most of the joinery required for the legs was new to me, so I took the chance to try out a variety of techniques. The legs are attached at the base differently at each end, one end with a half-lap and dowel, and the other with a tenon and locking key. Both methods worked, but strength wise the tenon is certainly the better choice. It was nice to have a dozuki on hand for cutting joinery, but I found that I had a lot more control with chisels so I relied on them to get the fit dialed in.
Jointing with the new rokudai
Improvised depth gauge
Things are looking up!
Mortising for the arms
Smoothing the top arc of the stretchers
These guys made an appearance, along with chirping squirrels and other signs of spring.
The arms cross with a mitered half-lap joint, which I discovered in Chris Hall’s work. The joint normally allows the edges to be filleted or chamfered without showing a gap, but in my case the overlap is incomplete so the edges at the joint had to be maintained. The rest of the sides got a slight round-over treatment, a nice trick to soften the visible edges.
The hardest joint to lay out was the mortise for the stretchers; not only is the mortise splayed in two dimensions, but the stretcher has its own arc profile to be accommodated. Triple checking the lines was called for, and after cutting the first couple I had some paring adjustments to make on the end-grain. No photos as I was apparently in concentration mode.
It sure was satisfying to finally fit the pieces together!
Lots of grunt work smoothing the top. Closing up the mouth on the plane made a world of difference, as did obtaining a good edge on the scraper:
The fridge magnet is a trick from Chris Schwarz to delay thumb burn.
Finish planing is its own reward :)
For the finish I tried tung oil, which I think provides a more durable finish than linseed oil and is slower to yellow. No sanding or rubbing out was required for the legs—all the surface prep happened before the finish went on. The faces received a plane finish, and then I did something a little out of the ordinary. Using a block of hard maple, I burnished the wood to a glassy sheen. The legs then received two coats of high-luster tung oil.
The top got its own treatment to highlight the burls and figure. I started with a soaking of tung diluted with turpentine for penetration. The second coat was rubbed out, and the third polished with 600grit wet dry, the only sandpaper required for the project. Rubbing alcohol worked great for this step, cleaning the surface and unloading the sandpaper of gunk in a flash. Finally I rubbed on some wax to knock down the lustre by a couple degrees. I used my own blend of beeswax, mineral oil and coconut oil.
Overall I’m quite satisfied with the result. The handtool route has taught me a great deal about the properties of wood. Along the way I’ve learned such things as the importance of having flat and square stock before attempting layout, and to leave excess material when sawing joinery. I’ve also learned how to use a tight mouth plane and card scraper to smooth difficult grain, and how to apply an oil finish to bring up highlights in the grain.