Monday, January 09, 2012

Designing and Building a Dining Table

It isn't like I woke up one day and noticed my dining room table was missing, but - well, that's pretty much the way it turned out. I won't bore you with the details, but I've had an empty dining room for over a year, and eating dinner on the couch was getting old. The good news is - tables are my specialty!

I had an idea in mind. A couple of months ago, I built this table base and really loved it. So that is what was inspiring me when I started to build this new table. My table.

Actually, I had three ideas floating around in my brain, so I started sketching them, full sized, on cardboard. There was a point early in my career where I didn't enjoy sketching; I just thought it was better to grab some wood and start cutting. Luckily, I've learned to appreciate working things out on paper first, and I'm positive it makes me a better woodworker.

It only takes about 15 minutes to come up with a decent sketch. I usually just grab some set-up blocks and a couple of straight edges, and turn the music up.

(Double click on the video below to view it full screen)




(A HUGE thank-you to Lupe for helping me with this video! You rock!)

The hardest part was deciding which of the three designs I liked the best. I decide by propping up the drawings, side by side, and comparing them.


I chose the one with curved sides, which was odd. I usually don't prefer curves for my own pieces. More about that later.


These Ash boards were screaming to be made into a table.


This kick-ass radial arm saw is perfect for rough cutting large timbers to length.


I matched the grain very carefully,


and then glued them up into wider panels.


This is what a day of planing, shaping and machining the tenons will accomplish.


The top and bottom rails were next; here the mortises are located,


and then cut into the pieces.


At this stage, there is a fair amount of fitting to be done; a shoulder plane and a chisel are perfect for this task.


These sides were made over the course of two or three days, and one thing is for sure -


I make a hell of a mess when I am in the middle of a project!


Stella was watching me from the other room. You know what she wanted.



With everything fit, shaped, and sanded, it was time to glue the sides together.


The small details, like this mounting hole and the gentle taper on this rail, all add to the beauty of this piece. I can't stress how important it is to have all these details clear in your mind ahead of time, instead of just working them out as you go. Like I did.


When the sides were complete, I added a couple of center stretchers to connect the two sides. These were nice, beefy boards that were tucked back far enough so you won't smack you knees into them.



This table top is nearly four feet wide, and seven feet long; it will seat eight comfortably. The last bit of work required on the table was was two rails, so that the top could be attached to the base. I've always like these dovetailed joints, so I decided to utilize them on these rails. First I routed a dovetailed mortise in the rails.



And then machined a dovetail in a scrap piece of wood, testing the fit.


It took a few tweaks to get a nice, tight fit. I labeled the piece and made the rails.


All that was left was to cut a small shoulder on the bottom of the tenon, so the rail could sit flush.



I added a KD (knock-down) bolt - to keep everything snug, square and parallel. Damn, I love these bolts - I use them all the time, and they're perfect for furniture that you might have to disassemble some day.



And finally - the completed base.


All that is left is to attach the top.

But... here is my dilemma. Remember earlier when I said I wasn't completely sold on this design? As mush as I preach about sketching everything out ahead of time, about working out all of the details before cutting a single board, sometimes things just look different in wood than they do on paper.

So while I like this table a lot, I'm not 110% sure it is the table I want in my dining room. I'm just picky that way, I drive myself crazy sometimes.


So I'll just keep it in the shop for a while, co-existing with it until I jump off the fence and decide. Meanwhile, if anyone is in need of a new dining room table, I'll make you a heck of a deal!

5 comments:

Vegas Lupe said...

After witnessing your work during several steps of your dining table, the next best thing is to read your blog description of the project. Few people realize all the time and effort it takes for projects like this - including writing an essay about them! I am in awe at your woodworking knowledge.

Although it might not be the dining table base you ultimately want, I am sure this design will make someone out there very happy.

We look forward to the next iteration of the ultimate dining table. :-)

Julie @ followyourheartwoodworking said...

I enjoy reading and seeing the steps you go through when working on a project.

jack said...

Radiator Cabinets

This is one of the best posts that I’ve ever seen; you may include some more ideas in the same theme about Classic Furniture Bedroom Collections . I’m still waiting for some interesting thoughts from your side in your next post.

Maggie Grant said...

You are such a talented and creative person. I cannot resist myself from reading your post and looking at the photos again and again. Hahaha! Although you mentioned that you aren’t sure that was the table you really wanted, as your reader, you amazed me so much. Thanks for sharing that! I wish you all the best!

Maggie Grant @ TheFindConsignment

Maggie Grant said...

You are such a talented and creative person. I cannot resist myself from reading your post and looking at the photos again and again. Hahaha! Although you mentioned that you aren’t sure that was the table you really wanted, as your reader, you amazed me so much. Thanks for sharing that! I wish you all the best!

Maggie Grant @ TheFindConsignment