|Project by pmulry||posted 07-29-2007 04:41 PM||5380 views||3 times favorited||18 comments|
Somehow I always manage to try to learn to swim by diving into the deep end. This table is a perfect example.
One of my poker buddies is in the process of opening a new law firm nearby and wanted a showpiece conference table made from solid wood. As we play on the poker tables that I build, he commissioned me to build a unique solid-wood table for him. I knew that building this table would be very different from the poker tables that I regularly build. Never mind learning on a reasonably-scaled table like for a kitchen; instead, we took on this 9-foot long, 46-inch wide behemoth.
The one detail that the customer was adamant about from the very start was that we build the top from solid wood. We wrangled over the details of the design for about a month, then created a full-scale mockup of the legs and base so that we could get the proportions of the fluting and ogee detail to work together correctly. We were originally going to build the table from jatoba, but then found a beautiful pair of boards online for the solid-wood top. We selected a large bookmatched set of boards from a lumberyard halfway across the country (thank you Internet!) and had them shipped. Since they were bubinga, we decided to build the rest of the table from bubinga too. Before cutting down to size, the boards for the top were 2 pieces that, each 25-27” wide and more than 15 feet long. Each weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 pounds! The boards were big enough that even after cutting them down for the table top we still have 2 large slabs, one of which will be the top to the matching credenza that I’ll be starting work on soon.
Building the legs, bases, and apron/frame were interesing, but they were nothing nearly as difficult as gluing up the solid top. Although there were only 2 halves to glue up, it was challenging because of the weight and size of the top and my desire to get the bookmatched halves match up as perfectly as possible. It was a real hustle to get all the clamps tightened up during the open time for the glue, but we just made it. After some sanding to level the top, dry assembly was a breeze.
The legs are mortised into the bases and the stretchers on the table frame. The stretchers and short aprons are mortised into the long aprons. The entire apron/frame assembly was then assembled with Titebond III and without any mechanical fasteners. The top is attached to the apron/frame with solid bubinga wooden buttons that we created from scrap generated from the rest of the table.
After sanding to 220, we finished the table with garnet shellac, then sanded back to 600 grit. Final finish was three coats of Target Coatings' Emtech 8000 Pre-Cat Conversion Varnish sprayed with an HVLP conversion gun. After 3 weeks to cure, we final polished with Briwax Antique Mahogany paste wax, which knocked down the gloss finish a bit and adds a bit more depth to the finish.
The key to the successful outcome of this project was about 80% in the planning and design stage, but the biggest single factor was that we started off with spectacular looking materials. One thing that I learned was that if you have great materials, keep the design simple and keep yourself out of the way and the beauty of the lumber will shine through. There are a couple of things I’d change about the milling & assembly process the next time that I tackle a table project this size, but it was a great learning project for a great customer and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
-- Pat Mulry, Dallas, Texas || www.lonestarpokertables.com