Well after many hours in my cold shop and a couple of trips to my neighbor’s cabinet shop, the table top is ready for finishing. I have to thank my neighbor, who owns a home remodeling company, for offering me the use of his cabinet shop. It saved me probably two full days of flattening the top
First, I glued up the top and then took it back to the cabinet shop to flatten and sand down to 150 on their massive 54” wide-belt sander. They also cut it to length for me on their Altendorf sliding table saw. The fence and the cross cut sled have digital readouts for the measurements. The guy was still messing with it getting it to 54.000” when it was reading 53.995”. Thats precision. I told him I didnt think my wife would notice the 5 thou shortage.
The pictures below of the sander and Altendorf show the other table that I’m working on. I didn’t get a picture of the walnut table. Here’s a link to the progress on that table: Arts and Crafts Dining Table
Then, it was back to my cold, Minnesota garage shop to do the butterfly inlays and finish sanding. I was pretty nervous about cutting the butterfly mortises. Even though I’d practiced a few times on scrap and had no problems, this had the potential to really mess up the table top if something went wrong. Fortunately it came out fine.
I decided to use walnut sapwood for the butterflies to contrast with the top and match the sapwood along the live edge. The three butterflies on the left are in a large crack and a bark inclusion. The one on the right wasnt really necessary. There is a small bark inclusion there, but I added it mostly to balance out the ones on the left.
With the butterflies done, it was time to sand… and sand… and sand. I used “sanding stars” that I picked up from Woodcraft to sand the live edge. I was skeptical of these at first, but they actually worked really well. I used my random orbit sander to smooth out the butterflies and resand the table down to 150. After that, I did everything by hand with sanding blocks down to 400. I hear a lot that you dont need to sand beyond 220. I dont agree with that for highly figured walnut. In the crotch area and knot areas, there arent really any visible pores, and the scratch marks from 220 are plainly visible. I’m still debating if I want to go to 600 in a couple spots.
And, finally, here is the top after sanding to 400 and wiping with mineral spirits:
I need to finish sanding the base—only to 220 this time :) and do all the varnishing. Hopefully I’ll have a completed table in the next couple of weeks.
-- Marshall - http://mcomisar.tumblr.com