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Chris Craft Table

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Project by tpastore posted 03-20-2011 09:00 PM 4988 views 20 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well folks it has been a very long time since I have posted. I have many new projects to post but I wanted to start with a very exciting project that I recently finished. As you know, I tend to provide elaborate write-ups describing my projects. This is no exception.

Back in June of last year (2010) I was approached by an interior decorator in Chicago to design a boat themed game table top for his client. The request was simply for the table top as the interior decorator had already selected a base that the table top would sit on. After 6 months of communication back and forth, the room that the table was going in was taking shape and the table top design was finalized. In early January (2011), I was hired to manufacture the table top. This was a very exciting and challenging commission. I will describe some of the things that made it a great learning experience.

So some of you may be saying – Hey wait a second, I have seen a similar table to this before. Yes, that was another one of my tables. Here is link to that table. This is a picture of that original table before the white stripes were added:

Both tables are intended to reflect the colors and design of the antique mahogany lake boats. The rear deck of the 1947 Chris-Craft Deluxe is where most of the inspiration came from.

If you read through the link to the original table I was debating how to handle the white lines. After much research on lake boat forums I figured out that many of the boat builders will paint the white stripes after the dozens of coats of varnish have been put on. I figured that on this new commission I would skip the step of routing the grooves and then filling them with grout since I was just going to have to paint the lines again on top of the varnish to bring the lines back to white. This brings me to my first challenge: So normally the process on boat building is 1. Install the decking 2. Caulk the decking with white caulking 3. Apply 14-21 coats of varnish 4. Repaint the stripes white. For my application I didn’t want the white stripes to be the last layer. I was concerned that the white stripes would be likely to scratched or peeled off since unlike the deck of a boat, people would have their hands on the white stripes all the time. This meant that I would need to find a final overcoat that remains clear, is highly resistant to the abuse a game table would see, and has the ultra high gloss that the lake boats do. After looking at many different options, I ended up going with System Three Mirrorcoat. This is a very clear high gloss 2 part epoxy finishing system. It isn’t cheap but it is the material used for bar surfaces. I figured that the table would never see the abuse and liquids that a typical bar would see. One other key point is that the table was ONLY for use indoors. Mirrorcoat and all other epoxies will yellow in UV light. Since this is indoors, the UV yellowing is much less of an issue. For those looking to have an outdoor table, you could use Transtar 6844 automotive clear coat with a flexible additive.

I use AutoDesk Mechanical Desktop for my 3D CAD modeling. It allows me to be able to make very detailed cut sheets. It also allowed me to generate a .dxf file that I sent to a CNC router house. They made the template that I used to mill the pocket for the plywood panel and the outside profile. I sent the design to the customer for approval and then started cutting.

I am a member of a 65 person woodworking guild in Lexington, MA. (http://www.lacsma.org/) I used the beautiful equipment we have in our shop to cut, joint, and plane the dimensional lumber. The lumber is red meranti – a member of the luan family and it commonly used on the antique boats since Philippine mahogany is very difficult to find. The outer ring was glued in two – 3 section arches. Since the miter joints of the ring segments are primarily glue-sucking endgrain joints, I used splines to keep the joint nice and tight. The two arches were brought together but the joints were not perfect. They were off by about ½ a degree on either side. To solve this, I brought the two pieces together, clamped both in place, setup a circular saw sled and used one kerf thickness to create a perfectly matched edge on both sides of the cut. Worked perfectly.

Once I had a single segmented ring, it was time to flatten the assembly and get ready to route out the pocket for the plywood. The flattening was done in a flattening jig bed. I used a router bowl bit for the flycut. It made fast work of the flattening. One key point here was to shim under any high spots before clamping down the table. If I did not do that step, the table would spring after I had just flattened it.

I flattened both sides and then attached the CNC cut template with VHB tape and cut the inside pocket and outer profile. I have done enough profile work now to know when it is imperative to do a climb cut to keep from ripping huge chunks of wood off as you profile “uphill” so I was able to do both tasks without incident.

The inner plywood is marine grade okume and it matches the meranti beautifully. I carefully designed the inner ring of the template so that I could use it to route the pocket of for the panel and to cut the outer profile of the plywood. Essentially it is the same as the inlay kits – one large guide ring and one small guide ring. The fit was nice and snug.

Some 30 minute 2 part epoxy was used to secure the plywood in the pocket. Many clamp boards were used to ensure that the panel would set up flush to the outer ring.

With the panel in place, final sanding and shaping was done in preparation for the finishing.

I sent the customer a couple of different stain colors for approval and he picked the Interlux Chris-Craft red. Before staining I used some Smith’s CPES to prepare the wood for the stain. That CPES is definitely not a step to do in a basement – some serious fumes. Luckily, that process fell on the only warm day in Boston in February.

The Interlux stain has a huge amount of grain filler and goes on with a rag and is wiped off with a squeegee. It took a couple coats to fill the grain relatively uniformly. The stain took a couple of days to dry fully and the end result looked great. You can see the spline used at the joints clearly in this shot:

The next step was the sealer coat of the MirrorCoat. This layer is used to keep the air in the wood from creating bubbles in the final coats. This coat went on relatively thin and there were definitely bubbles all over the place. It takes some tending to for a while but eventually I was able to kill most of the bubbles with a brush or using a quick pass with a propane torch (manufacturer’s suggestion). Despite what they say on the bottle, MirrorCoat takes 3 days to cure before sanding. There were some serious drips on the bottom of the table and some bubbles/nits on the top of the table. Meranti is a super porous wood so I am not surprised that I had so many bubbles. What I found was that if I waited until the epoxy was partially cured and then used a putty knife to smooth over the voids caused by the bubbles, it would prepare the table for sanding easier than if I let them alone. 80 grit paper made quick work of the drips on the bottom of the table and the top was given the 320 grit treatment.

A couple of points about MirrorCoat: the temperature is important. Keep the epoxy and the piece above the recommended temperature and do not have the temperature rising during the first 12 hours of cure time. Wipe the surface with a degreaser that will not interact with your stain. The epoxy should be thoroughly mixed in one container, poured into another container, mixed more and then poured on the table. This keeps the partially mixed components in the first container from getting all the way to the table and never curing. MirrorCoat gives MUCH MUCH better results when put on thick. Trying to just wet the surface or paint it like an oil based paint will give tons of nits and other nasties. You are better to pour it on thick, spread it as little as possible and STOP BRUSHING. Walk away and let it do its thing. Follow the instructions and be sure the table is level before you start. Also put newspapers underneath for the drips. Lastly, there are tricks using masking tape to make the drips easier to remove. I chose to not use the tape tricks. Gloves and mask is good practice when pouring or sanding.

Getting back to the project, the seal coat was sanded down and a second seal coat went on. That coat was sanded and leveled in preparation for the white stripe painting.

When masking the area for the paint, I used a tip I learned on the Chris-Craft forums. They put down a ¼” pinstripe tape where they want the paint to be and then use that as a guide to place the masking tape on either side. You then remove the pinstripe tape and spray the stripe. This way you are guaranteed that the painted lines are exactly and uniformly ¼” wide. It was a great tip and made it much easier to make straight, uniform thickness lines.

The masking tape I used was the 3M fineline 218 tape. This is the BEST masking tape I have ever used and is so much better than normal masking tape that I hesitate to call it masking tape. It is a plastic tape rather than a paper based tape and it creates flawless lines with no wicking underneath or lifting as you remove the tape. Simply awesome. The straight lines were painted first . They cured for 3 days and were wet sanded to smooth the edges.

The oval pinstripe was harder to setup. The pinstripe is perfectly centered over the joint between the outer segmented ring and the plywood. So I used 1/8” wide pinstriping tape so I could use that joint as a guide on one side of the 1/8” tape. The other side of the 1/8” tape was where the first piece of masking tape was placed.

I then used the ¼” tape to create the gap where the paint would go and put down the masking tape on the outside of the ¼” tape. As before, the ¼ “center tape was removed and the void was sprayed with white paint. This coat was also wet sanded.

With all the lines painted it was time to apply a thick top coat over the lines to protect them. I followed the tips above and was amazed with the results. The MirrorCoat was given 4 days to cure and then the bottom drips were sanded off.

The customer liked the polished stainless steel deck plate I used on the original table and asked that one be installed on this table too. Since the table was for playing games, he asked that the deck plate be partially recessed in the table so that it would not interfere with the games. A template was made up and a router was used to create the pocket for the deck plate to sit in. I must say I was happy when the step was done…..any mess-up and….nevermind. I used some tripoli and jewelers rouge to polish the stainless screws used to hold the deck plate to the table. I found that the 3M headlamp restoration kit works PERFECTLY for any last minute sanding/polishing of the finish. I actually included one kit with the table in case the customer scratches the table and needs a means to polish out the scratch. The final finish needed only minor touchups.

I created two more little details – one was that I had my company name, my name, and a serial number engraved on a huge flat polished stainless deep sea fishing lure. I created a custom curly maple base for that plate and I also made a curly maple handle with brass “bullets” that is used to open the deck plate.

To ship the top out to Chicago, I made a very sturdy case with detailed instructions on table care, installing the base, a project summary, the scratch repair kit and the handle.

Here is a picture from the customer with the table base installed. I will be recieving some better pictures of the base installed shortly. I will post those too.

Thanks for taking the time to read through the description. The project was challenging but I learned a lot and enjoyed the challenge.

Tim Pastore
In The Details Gallery Website

In The Details Gallery Facebook Page





18 comments so far

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15706 posts in 2906 days


#1 posted 03-20-2011 09:20 PM

Great project write-up… great project! I learned a lot reading about it. Thanks!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View sras's profile

sras

3873 posts in 1817 days


#2 posted 03-20-2011 09:52 PM

A beautiful table! I appreciate the time you put into the description of Mirror Coat. Very helpful and educational! Thanks for sharing.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View ellen35's profile

ellen35

2576 posts in 2120 days


#3 posted 03-20-2011 10:12 PM

I always loved Chris Craft as a kid… this is a wonderful reminder of true quality in a boat and a table.
Really, really nice, Tom.
Ellen

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Mary Anne's profile (online now)

Mary Anne

1057 posts in 1896 days


#4 posted 03-20-2011 10:20 PM

Oh, what a gorgeous table! I love that it has the look of the old Chris Craft boats… it brings back some very fond memories for me. Your write-up was very interesting and informative. Thanks for all the great tips.

View therookie's profile

therookie

887 posts in 1515 days


#5 posted 03-20-2011 10:24 PM

View twokidsnosleep's profile

twokidsnosleep

1063 posts in 1662 days


#6 posted 03-20-2011 11:59 PM

She’s a beaut!!
Great source of inspiration and well executed fabrication

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

5085 posts in 1486 days


#7 posted 03-21-2011 01:26 AM

Very nice table but I’m a little disappointed in Chris Craft. All this time I thought they actually inlaid holly as is done in cabin soles. Oh well, it takes nothing away from your beautiful work. Well done.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/

View Howie's profile

Howie

2656 posts in 1611 days


#8 posted 03-21-2011 01:48 AM

Outstanding Tim. Overall how long did it take to complete this project from conception to completion.

-- Life is good.

View fernandoindia's profile

fernandoindia

1073 posts in 1631 days


#9 posted 03-21-2011 01:48 AM

Tim, a heirloom table indeed.

Thanks so much for the description.
I did also learn a lot, which doesn´t mean I can accomplish such beautiful work.

-- Back home. Fernando

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2437 posts in 2280 days


#10 posted 03-21-2011 01:55 AM

Very nice Table. I like how you have a blog inside of your Project page. Super job.

-- Dennis Zongker

View tpastore's profile

tpastore

105 posts in 2504 days


#11 posted 03-21-2011 02:33 AM

Thanks everyone for the kind words.

Howie – The table took about 7 weeks. I only get a couple of hours a night to work on my projects since woodworking isnt my full time job.

Shipwright – Yup they use white caulking. Many of the grooves are decorative since the deck boards are actually wider and they have multiple grooves.

Tim

View dpow's profile

dpow

461 posts in 1532 days


#12 posted 03-21-2011 02:37 AM

The project title caught my attention. The detailed description was great. But, the finished table is just awesome. This project would test the limits of most peoples patience. The finished results were worth it. Thanks for sharing.

-- Doug

View mnaonik's profile

mnaonik

26 posts in 1319 days


#13 posted 03-21-2011 03:20 AM

Gorgeous

View adaughhetee's profile

adaughhetee

104 posts in 1371 days


#14 posted 03-21-2011 05:19 AM

Look’s amazing! Thank’s for the how to I wish more projects were this way.

View jcwalleye's profile

jcwalleye

291 posts in 1761 days


#15 posted 03-21-2011 05:36 AM

Thank you. very enjoyable read. great job.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

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