LumberJocks

Hexagonal Coffee Table

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Project by LarryJoe701 posted 11-27-2017 05:41 PM 538 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I call this my 5-year table.

You see, back in 2003, just out college, a buddy of mine sent me a link to a Craigslist ad of a guy offering free cherry wood. The tree had been just cut down and anyone who could haul it away could take it; it was a pretty big tree. I drove down in my mom’s minivan with a chainsaw and a buddy of mine to see what we could get. After arguing with the guy about not taking the whole thing, he let us cut some logs. I ended up with 4 logs, maybe 12 to 15 inches in diameter and 2 feet long, each weighing 150-200 lbs. We loaded them up into the back of the van and drove home; that poor van never rode quite the same afterwards.

I had the rough idea that I wanted to make a table with hex slabs of end grain. I had little idea of how to go from logs to that though. Ultimately, I cut a dozen crooked slabs around 2.5” thick off with the chainsaw, then ripped a lot of the rest with the chainsaw into crooked boards I could at least deal with on other tools. Once milled into slabs and boards, I put all the boards into bins to age and dry in my garage.

I probably didn’t touch it for 3 years, but then got motivated to design and build the table. I think the original idea was to just make an end table of the center 7 hexagons, but later expanded into a coffee table. The cherry slabs I had cut were all very rough and I lacked the tools and knowledge of how to deal with them properly. I ripped the edges of the slabs off with the radial arm saw so I at least had something flat. The angles were never very precise but it at least got me started. Next I cross cut the faces with a table saw, but the blade didn’t even go half way through; plus, I didn’t have anything square to slide against, so I still ended up without smooth faces. Ultimately, I used a combination of router, table saw, and radial arm saw to eventually get faces that were fairly flat. Still, the slabs ended up different thicknesses.

Somewhere around this time I got married, in 2007. My wife suggested making it a longer coffee table, which would work perfect with our new sectional sofa in the den. My father-in-law gave me some 30-year-old walnut as a gift that Christmas, knowing that I could use it for the table. My plan was to put chevrons on either end of the hexagons to stretch the round center cluster of hexagons into a full coffee table, while still keeping the overall aesthetic of hexagons. This left a few triangle gaps that I would also make out of walnut. The walnut was rough cut itself and took some work to get ready for the table.

Once I had all the pieces cut, sanded, and loosely arranged in the shape of the table, I had to figure out how to make it a single unit. The various pieces were all still different thicknesses, and sometimes not even parallel top and bottoms. With advice from my dad, I settled upon a fairly thick sanded plywood base to which all the pieces would be screwed. I shimmed the pieces up with magazines, shims, and scrap wood to fill in as much of the void between the table base and top because I planned to pour epoxy over the top. This all worked fairly well and got the top surfaces within an eighth of an inch of each other. To finish the surface I sanded. And sanded. And sanded. I used the belt sander and the orbital sander. I worked my way down from 200 grit to a wet sanding with 1000 grit. The cherry end grain was so smooth you could see a reflection at a low angle.

To create a frame around the table I got some oak and attached it with finish nails to the top pieces and metal brackets to the base board, which was not quite as wide as the top. The last remaining problem before pouring epoxy was the gaping holes throughout the table and at the edge. I tried using wood glue to seal these up, but of course that was fairly useless for filling gaps. I settled on duct tape around the edge, such that the frame boards and the base board were sealed up. The epoxy I got from a local distributor; it wasn’t specifically for wood but had the best hardness and UV protection I could find.

With everything ready, I brought the table over to my dad’s basement office for the epoxy pour. The vapors weren’t supposed to be too bad, but my wife was pregnant and it still smelled. The office also made for a low-dust environment that I could make extra warm as recommended. I donned my heavy nitrile gloves and began mixing. I was sick of the project by this point and made some mistakes as a result. I should have done a small pour to seal the wood and any cracks, and to identify any other problems. Instead, I did a single pour and ran into some problems: the wood absorbed some epoxy and bubbles came up, the epoxy found screw holes in the base board a leaked out, and the voids were slow to fill and took a lot of epoxy. After hours of frantically taping over leaks and coaxing bubbles to the surface with a hair dryer, I settled for the condition it was in: a few bubble spots that just wouldn’t quit and a seam that ended up low.

The epoxy hardened over the coarse of a day or two, but one spot that mustn’t have mixed properly remained tacky. With people coming that night, I used alcohol to quickly wipe the sticky spot clean. It worked, but left a slightly rougher finish compared to the smooth-as-glass of the rest. For months, even years, the table still had an amine smell and would take the impression of any glass on the table; given a few hours the surface would return to normal. These days, the surface is hard and doesn’t take imprints but once in a while I can still catch a tiny whiff of amine smell.

We left the table top on storage crates for a while so I could determine the right height for the legs. I wanted the same visual theme and made the legs chevrons out of walnut. The boards weren’t wide enough so I joined them using the biscuit joiner that my grandfather had recently given me. The angle for the chevron legs is much shallower, but fits the table perfectly.

Despite its flaws, I love this table that was 5 years in the making. The different woods have darkened some over the past 9 years, but still look great together. The hexagonal shape still makes me happy. It sits proudly in my den today, though not quite as glass-smooth as it once was.

Dimensions:
15”x33” (hexagonal edges)
26”x48” (containing rectangle)
20” high
Between 60-80 lbs.

-- Larry Joe in Georgia





5 comments so far

View tyvekboy's profile

tyvekboy

1701 posts in 2849 days


#1 posted 11-27-2017 08:12 PM

That’s a hefty table. Interesting story to go along with the project.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View doubleDD's profile

doubleDD

6842 posts in 1879 days


#2 posted 11-28-2017 12:35 AM

Nice looking table. That’s a cool design. You made that cherry and walnut proud.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View recycle1943's profile

recycle1943

1507 posts in 1458 days


#3 posted 11-28-2017 11:58 AM

A dream and perseverance – the right combination for this superb project. Kudos to you

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View majuvla's profile

majuvla

11190 posts in 2704 days


#4 posted 11-28-2017 04:16 PM

So interesting geometry shapes, pretty unique project.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View robscastle's profile

robscastle

4511 posts in 2040 days


#5 posted 11-29-2017 02:47 AM

Interesting construction process, great thinking and reactive fixes, ... thats got to be one mean 1st Project undertaking!

Well done

-- Regards Robert

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