All about Wood Tables

Over the last year, we’ve worked on two wood tables that I’d love to share with you guys. They were both really fun projects that I definitely learned a lot from. The first table was made from white oak we purchased from a man out in Maryland who had cut down the tree in his yard and dried the wood himself (that was probably one of the most important the thing I learned from this experience- how long it takes to kiln dry properly care for wood in preparation for furniture). I’ll start off with the biggest mistake we made during the process- storing the oak in a damp room. A few days after storing it, we noticed warping and minor honeycombing (when the core cracks) in the wood. Bummer!

Not to be discouraged, we decided to say “screw it” and sand/finish it anyways to see if we could get a table out of it. Here is the wood before we began work:

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We first removed the bark from the wood and sanded down the top with some hand sanders. Here it is post-bark removal:

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We went up to a few hundred grit, and were told by some of my Techshop coworkers to go up even higher to really give a smooth finish. After we finished sanding the wood, it was time to decide on legs. We knew we wanted cast iron, but had a couple options to decide on. We ultimately decided on cross legs, but when we received them, this is how they turned out (the piece of wood in the picture is actually another piece of the same wood from the Maryland man… not sure what we are going to do with it yet…):

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WAY too tiny! A quick search on Amazon found us some pin legs, which we decided to go with (the next time around, I would love to get into the metal shop and make my own, but that’s a project for another day).

We decided to go with Waterlox (a Tung-Oil sealer/finish), which turned out beautifully. Here I am putting on the first layer:

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And after a few more layers:

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It wasn’t especially difficult to put on, and dried really nicely. After that, it was time to screw in the legs…

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Et viola, complete (I apologize for the intense Instagram filter):

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As you can see, we did get some minimal warping, which was definitely a bummer because we put so much work into the table. Weirdly enough, around the same time Sasha’s Aunt decided to get rid of a GORGEOUS (albeit dented and somewhat moldy) Redwood table. I unfortunately do not have a great before-photo and did not document the process as well as our first table, but here is the table just as we began to smooth it down/remove the existing, nicked finish with a hand planer:

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Once we got off all the old finish, we hand sanded it down until it was nice and smooth. A few days later, we set up shop on Sasha’s parents back porch and finished it with two layers of danish oil. Here’s the final product:

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The next step for this project will be working on new legs, as the current base is some dimensional lumber with too light of a finish. Hopefully I can get around to it with all the projects I want to try!

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Learning how to Turn on a Lathe

I am fortunate that one of my coworkers at Techshop, who is extremely skilled at wood turning, offered to teach me how to use the wood lathe. At first I was a bit nervous, as I have minimal experience in woodworking (I’m more of a CNC/digital fabrication kind of gal). However, I soon learned turning was not as difficult as I thought. I believe it’s one of those skills that is relatively easy to learn, but difficult to master. It’s all about getting the rotation speed correct and placing the chisels correctly (this was actually a bit difficult for me as a lefty!)

I wanted to show a comparison of my first work with my most recent work. Here is my first work, a basic baluster, that I turned on the lathe:

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To get the varying cuts and grooves, I used different chisels, such a spindle gouge for lighter grooves and a parting tool to make deeper cuts (this is also what to use to actually remove a piece from the lathe). After I learned how to use the lathe, my ultimate goal was to make some sort of bowl. My coworker decided he would show me how to do so, but using marble rather than wood. I was really surprised to learn that marble (and soapstone) was a soft enough stone to be cut using steel chisels. It didn’t take much more effort to turn the marble than the wood, and I think the final product came out beautifully. I decided to give the small bowl-turned-candle holder to my mom- check it out:

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Couple of side notes: 1) I used steel wool to polish the marble. You just hold it against the stone while it’s spinning. 2) This bowl was actually supposed to have a lid, but unfortunately it went FLYING OFF THE LATHE (!) as I tried to part it. You live and learn I suppose- my happy accident turned my jewelry bowl to a candle holder.