Friday, August 23, 2013

THE Table

Today is a good time to talk about our new kitchen table.  The table that caused more heartache and stress than any other kitchen table I have ever made before.  I know I sound a little over-dramatic -if you read the whole post I believe I can save anyone following my steps quite a few mistakes.  Since I made most of the mistakes and learned from them.

First of all: let me show you a picture of what I wanted to build.  It was a beautiful slab table that I saw in the Restoration Hardware catalog.  Restoration Hardware is the place I would model my entire home off of if I only had the budget.  Unfortunately, I do not--so instead I try to duplicate and replicate.  They are definitely worth checking out, especially if you know someone awesome that has everything and need to get them an amazing piece of furniture.  Many of the pieces they sell are rustic and huge.  They are often made from reclaimed wood and each one is unique and wonderful.
Restoration Hardware Plank Table in All its Splendor and Beauty
After having built the top for the map case, I knew some things that I wanted to change for the table and its top.  First, I didn't want to have any gaps in the wood.  In fact, I wanted the top to fit together so tight that no one would know that it was individual planks.  I also knew that I wanted it to be big enough to fit the pew that we already had for the table.  It is a beautiful old church pew that we had been able to take from one of our old churches before it was razed.  We had used it for years at our old kitchen table, which really didn't fit.

After consulting various table designs on Ana-White I had my plans all made up and went to the orange hardware store.  The day I went I ended up taking Tutt, Yaya, Lulu and one of their friends.  This was tough because I was trying to find the most perfectly straight boards I could find.  For the top, I decided to construct it from 2x12's, four of them to be precise (huge mistake!  read on).  For the slab legs I decided to join a bunch of 2x4's side by side while turning out the end pieces to give it the illusion of a thicker slab.  I ended up out the door with all the lumber I needed for around $100.  Given the lifetime supply of 2 1/2" pocket hole screws I had already bought, this was my only real expense!
Our Table: Before

The first step I took was to begin building the base of the table.  I cut the 2x4s into sections that were 29 1/4" high and squared them up using our jointer Butch.
10 2x4's Squared up and Ready for some Glue and Screws
After squaring them, I drilled ample pocket holes, glued and screwed them together to form the planks for the legs.  
One Plank Leg Joined Together On Top of our Old Table

After completing both "planks" I used a couple of 2x4's to fasten the planks together and ran a 6x8 down the middle to give it added stability and the base was "finished."  I was actually a little nervous once I'd squared everything up and screwed it all together.  
The Finished Table Base
The base wasn't as sturdy as I'd hoped and gave way quite a bit, which turned out to be no big deal once the top was on it.  Next it was time to make the top. 

I was pretty nervous about doing the top because I wanted it to turn out perfect.  First step was to square off the 2x12's we would be using.  Once they were squared up, it was time to arrange them in the most interesting way.  Next came more drilling.  I love using pocket holes, but sometimes all that drilling can sure become tedious.  Finally, it was time to glue and screw.  After piecing the top together I sanded and sanded it to get it smooth and to level it out.  
Glued and Screwed and Sanded Too!
There was one piece of wood that didn't seem to line up right even though it looked square to the naked eye.  I simply sanded some more until it was all even.  Probably should have seen it coming.  After the sanding, we added some 2x6s breadboards to each end.

One feature I wanted the table to have were some extension pieces we could slide in when we had company over.  In the end, they've become a little more permanent because I really like them on the table, but we can always remove them if we want.  

To make these we simple joined a couple of 2x6s together and attached some 2x4s on the underside.  On the base we first marked the spot for the extensions and then repeatedly cut the area with a circular saw.  After slicing and dicing a while, we used a wood chisel to clean it up.

Once that was completed, it was time to put it together for the first time.  The top was so blinking heavy it about gave me a hernia bringing it in from the garage/shed/shop.  When we first put it on, I think I loved it right away!
The Table When First Put Together

Then it was time to stain, what a joy that is.  Nellie and I wanted the table to be gray like the map case top, but warm as well.  We used Minwax Classic Gray for the first coat.  We would coat one board, move on to the next, and then wipe off the first board.  This allowed the table to take in the color without too much.  
The Stain on the Underside of the Table--You can see all the pocket holes in this shot

Next we added smaller amounts of the Minwax Dark Walnut and wiped them off much quicker.  The brown would warm up the cool gray in a way that was really neat.  I really liked the color we ended up with.  

After staining the table in its entirety, we added about a gazillion coats of clear poly.  The finished product:

Now,  let me tell you about what I would do differently next time: I made a few mistakes on this table that are near deal-breakers.  In fact if anyone loves the table and wants to buy it from me, I would sell it in a heart-beat just to make little modifications for my liking.

The biggest blunder I made was joining together 2x12s for the top.  I thought it would give it a more elegant look.  Turns out that finding straight 2x12s is the harder than finding gold.  Second, after having made this mistake I read in the instruction manual for my Kreg jig (always read the directions!) that you shouldn't join wood thicker than 8" together.  The table first developed a small crack only a couple days after it was finished.  I read a lot of workworking websites and concluded I must have made it so the wood couldn't expand and had thus incurred the crack.  We experimented with what we could fill it with.  First we used glue, then wax, then wood filler that was "stainable."  They were all mediocre, but it was alright.  I waited to see if anything else would happen.

Nellie was at home one afternoon a couple of weeks in to our new tablehood when she heard something that sounded like a gunshot.  She went to the source of the noise in the kitchen where a crack the length of the table had formed!  After a few days the crack had expanded to be 1/4 to 1/2" wide.  We could clearly see the floor through it.  I thought we could just install a chute under it and connect it to a vacuum hose and use it to clean our table off....but it was still a huge, ugly crack.

I was discouraged.  I thought that table was crap at this point.  I had felt so proud of it before and now it was a testament to my foolishness.  Thinking I could build a table that we'd actually like: ha!  It wasn't until I visited the garage a few weeks later that I figured out what had gone wrong.  Two of the remnants of the 2x12s I had used for the top were sitting on top of each other.  One of them remained flat, the other one had curled to the point it looked like a "C" with some curve to be desired.  I picked the piece up, applied some pressure and it snapped in half!  Figuring out that I had just screwed up in my choice of wood made me feel much better.  It was as though knowing the cause of the problem made me feel like it would be alright.

Nellie and I set out to find a solution that could fill the crack once and for all.  I figured I could make another top if it didn't work, but would rather find a solution for the time being at least.  We ended up using a product called Bondo Glass.  It's a fiberglass ooze that mixed with a hardener smells like death.  We dyed it with some black dye and fed it into our cracks.  After some drying and sanding and some more coats of poly, our table is better than before.

Does our table have some character?  Absolutely.  Are there some things I would change if I made it again?  Absolutely.  Mostly preferences about how long I would have made it etc.  I can say that I love the table and it's beautiful to me.  
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