Dining table - out of the fire

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Project by Ozfiddler posted 01-13-2009 01:25 AM 2235 views 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When the 2003 Canberra Bushfire hit us we were extremely lucky only to lose the garden – up to the front door mat! and only surface damage to the house – not bad as we were only four houses back form the initial fire front. We had a big ribbon gum tree (Eucalyptus viminaris) in the front yard that was burnt and dangerous. It was the biggest tree in the garden and I thought just maybe there would be enough to get some timber – so when we had it felled two weeks later I had arranged with a local saw-mill to have the tree milled into boards. They even let me assist with the milling process. So I came home with a van load of boards about 2.2m x 175mm and instructions on how best to sticker it for the next four years.

Fast forward and last year I thought long and hard about how best to honour the tree that took the brunt of the fire front and effectively saved the house.

My wife and I had always thought our dining table was a bit small for dinner parties, so I embarked on by far my biggest project so far. It was a great excuse to buy a jointer ;-) – a 6” long table Sherwood which works really well and coped with the long heavy gum tree giving me a bunch of nicely dressed boards. I also had some good sized square lumber from the same tree.

I wanted something large, but light-looking and decided on gently tapered legs and a contrast for the skirt and breadboard ends to give it visual closure – the skirt and ends are Western Australian jarrah (Eucalyptus marinata) – which is like a rich burgundy with the density of mahogany.

I filled the sap voids in the ribbon-gum with fibreglass resin sanded the whole thing to 1500 grit and finished the top with two coats of Rustins Plastic Finish – a two-part alkyd finish that is extremely hard wearing and gives a good durable finish.

The joinery is pretty basic mortise and tenon – reinforced with low-profile screw dowels and the top is joined with biscuits. The breadboard ends are supported separately on a sub-frame and loose doweled to allow for seasonal movement with only the centre dowels glued and the ends are slot-screwed to the sub-frame.

The underframe comes almost to the edge on the sides as ribbon gum is very strong along the grain and very weak across it.

I made the decorative rosettes from red maple.

I finished it just over a year ago and we have had many good dinner parties around it since.

-- Jerry, Australia

16 comments so far

View woodworm's profile


14468 posts in 3585 days

#1 posted 01-13-2009 02:42 AM

Beautifully built table.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Bob42's profile


456 posts in 3785 days

#2 posted 01-13-2009 02:44 AM

That’s some story. Glad all is OK. Alt least something good came out of it, you got a beautiful table and a story to go with it. Nice work!

-- Bob K. East Northport, NY

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 3875 days

#3 posted 01-13-2009 02:50 AM

great story , and an heirloom that will be with your family for many years no dought . exellent job jerry

View Ozfiddler's profile


40 posts in 3418 days

#4 posted 01-13-2009 04:14 AM

Thanks yeah it’s a table with a story and we were lucky to have stayed with the house to fight the fire – they ran out of police to evacuate folks a few streets away so we just figured we’d just keep hosing until the water pressure went and take that as our signal to depart – luckily the water pressure held – mostly those who stayed to fight the fire saved their houses, and those who evacuated lost them because of the embers.

The table is a little prone to racking so I may yet replace the skirt with something a little wider. At the moment I just tension the screw dowels a little when we need to use the table for guests – or when my wife uses it for sewing.


-- Jerry, Australia

View Bigbuck's profile


1347 posts in 3658 days

#5 posted 01-13-2009 04:14 AM

Very nice table

-- Glenn, New Mexico

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4395 days

#6 posted 01-13-2009 04:38 AM

A great looking table and a family story to go with it.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Konquest's profile


171 posts in 3439 days

#7 posted 01-13-2009 05:55 AM

Man, a story like that accompanying a piece like that, all local woods, etc. The defnintion of “heirloom”.

-- 9 3/4 fingers remaining.

View Ozfiddler's profile


40 posts in 3418 days

#8 posted 01-13-2009 05:58 AM

Thanks Bigbuck, Karson and Konquest – thanks and yes I reckon that one will be an heirloom alright

-- Jerry, Australia

View jim1953's profile


2735 posts in 3837 days

#9 posted 01-13-2009 06:04 AM

Great Lookin table

-- Jim, Kentucky

View BarryW's profile


1015 posts in 3901 days

#10 posted 01-13-2009 06:40 AM

Fires are so destructive no matter where they are…and it’s great you made a great save in this case…and wood to boot. Congratulations.

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View Dominic Vanacora's profile

Dominic Vanacora

508 posts in 3864 days

#11 posted 01-14-2009 11:22 PM

That was a danagerous thing to do but all’s well. The table will be with you and the family for many many years to come.
What a great project. I would give anything to be abe to pass down an heirloon with a story like that.

-- Dominic, Trinity, Florida...Lets be safe out there.

View Ozfiddler's profile


40 posts in 3418 days

#12 posted 01-15-2009 01:05 AM

Thanks Kim, Barry and Dominic – My woodworking cotton dust mask kept the smoke out of my lungs enabling me to keep at it even when the smoke was thick. And we continually reassessed the danger – the streets were clear so we had the escape route if we needed it.

I’m glad to have come through it – but wouldn’t want to be in that position again!

As you say – it’s an heirloom with a story :-)

-- Jerry, Australia

View Woodsong's profile


3 posts in 3410 days

#13 posted 01-25-2009 06:05 AM

Gorgeous-and a wonderful story as well. Did you make the chairs?

View Ozfiddler's profile


40 posts in 3418 days

#14 posted 01-25-2009 04:30 PM

Thanks Woodsong – no the chairs were bought separately – but they go well with the table:-)


-- Jerry, Australia

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3794 days

#15 posted 01-25-2009 04:33 PM

how cool.. thanks for sharing

-- making sawdust....

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