|Project by Eric M. Saperstein||posted 675 days ago||1902 views||1 time favorited||14 comments|
Four oak refectory tables out of Princeton University’s historic eating clubs … all having seen what’s that equal four generations of use in a college world? Tables are around 48”x120” and 54”x144”
EVERY joint was simply done, over, broken, snapped, split, separated, sorta kinda maybe glued back together, reinforced with 15 finishing nails, a couple oddly placed screws, and lots of L brackets. The pile of nails and thumb tacks and staples holding on the old table clothes was at least 5lbs per table.
So two of them are now fully restored (first two photos and the last photo) and we’re working on the second set. A cool photo shoot is probably pending when we get the whole project done and perhaps properly reinitialize them into duty by inspiring a good old fashion party.
Every leg was split on every joint – reassembled and we inserted a new piece in to fill the hollow core. They are now fully solid legs. The reglued legs were obviously warped, twisted, and slightly off on alignment. That meant putting 24 heavy, dry, out of balance legs back onto the lathe and spinning these suckers. The game of trying not to get hit w/ a flying chunk or kicking a 500lb lathe into a dance trying to get everything balanced was fun.
We had to keep a careful pressure (or lack of) on the tools and sharpen them constantly. The idea was to clean the legs up but not totally round them again. We also had to plain down the faces to realign them and semi resquare them. The art of this whole thing is to actually NOT totally square the whole piece up. The frames are slightly off, we didn’t want a NEW table we wanted it to look like it was there 100 years and very well maintained.
Turning old oak generates splinters, not shavings. Constantly having to sharpen tools, and we once again I think got the award from Forrest for sending them some seriously damaged and dull blades. Several chipped teeth on the hidden nails and general grime and dirt took out so far two table saw blades and two radial arm blades and a chop saw blade.
A new Lee Valley router bit matched the original edge perfectly – and that huge bit was a good excuse to buy ourselves another router. This time a Dewalt 3hp variable speed w/ soft start – a MUST for running oversize bits by hand.
Rebuilding and reassembling every section fixing all the blown out joints. We added a center truss system with four vertical posts and a new top beam out of old reclaimed barn wood. Got the match of patina perfect! We also added corner blocks on every inside corner on the top sections to reinforce the tables. There is now absolutely NO movement in the frames!
Three of the four tops were split entirely, repaired and laminated to 3/4” plywood for strength. We had to run them through our planer to take out a significant cup. One of the tables was solid 6/4” oak – and it remained stable so we left it be!
Stain was Minwax Dark Walnut – oil is the only way to go with this dry of wood, two coats of stain soaked in nicely. The finish of choice here remains Waterlox, but this time we soaked in marine sealer and went with the marine high gloss. There are at least 5-6 coats of sealer and 3-4 coats of gloss on each table. It’s flexible and durable – if it will survive a boat deck at sea it will survive university life! Renewable finishes are the best choice when abuse is a definite; we can come back every summer and sand them down lightly and put a fresh coat on if need be.
Net result – well worth the effort. These will last another 100 years!
AND – we’ll have some cool pens to show from this too. We saved all the scrap wood, the tables were actually 31” originally and now dropped down to 30” we have 24 7/8” cross cuts and a bunch of misc pieces to turn into pens and other fund raiser collectable objects.
-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman www.artisansofthevalley.com