Monday, November 21, 2016

Checking another commission off of my list...

The holidays have a way of sneaking up on me. It seems like- at this time of year, everyone wants their pieces finished before the holidays begin. I can't blame them. If you're going to be entertaining, you want your house in order.

Remember this coffee table I built a few years ago? 

It was about 5 feet long, and weighed a ton! It was so heavy that I needed help working on it, and certainly needed help loading it in my clients car. 

(Thanks Richard and Eric!) 

Earlier this year, they approached me about making another set of tables, using slabs from that same piece of petrified wood. Honestly, this style of woodworking isn't what I normally do. But these clients are fabulous people, and I really enjoy building for them.  

So this project started out much the same way – building the framework round that slab. 

Since the slab was one inch thick, the frame work around it was built with one inch oak. Cutting the angles cut is tricky, but grinding the perimeter is far more difficult. 

Here's my first casualty– I dropped an earbud in between two boards.

That was the worst thing that happened. The rest of the shaping and fitting went very smoothly. I'll be heading to the Apple store for a new set...

Once everything was shaped, it was it breeze to attach the framework together using Festool dominoes. 

And just like that, the top of this table started shaping up nicely. 

Clamping them is always tricky though, and as the saying goes– you can never have enough clamps. That's so true when building something like this.

All that was left after this was to round the corners, shape the top a bit, and then sand. 

And sand.  

And sand some more. That's one thing I never grasped as a younger woodworker - a piece might take 15 hours to build, but you might have another 15 hours in sanding.  That's if you want to do it right! 

It was time to start on the base; the last time I built the coffee table, the base really stumped me. But this time around, I had a few tricks up my sleeve. It was just a matter of figuring out some angles, and cutting them on the table saw. 

The hardest part (again!) is clamping everything together, when working with irregular shapes. Honestly, when building something like this– I have to pull out every trick in the book.

 That's okay, once they're done, they clean up easily and look fabulous. This plane works wonders on those mitered corners. 

The end of the day – there was a mess on the bench....

but the bases were finished! 

A little more work with the router and the sander, and I was finally getting close to the end of construction on these two pieces. 

These tables needed shelves, and frankly, that was the most difficult part. Fitting the shelves into this angled base was tricky.  Carpenters know a simple trick about scribing pieces that have to fit together, which is exactly how I fit this shelf. 

It involved a lot of tracing that angle with the pencil, and then cutting to my line on the table saw. Not for the faint of heart, I'll tell you that. 

But it makes for a perfect fit, and really makes a difference in a piece like this.

With all of the construction completed, it was time for staining and finishing. 

When I built that original coffee table, I used a stain made by ZAR, and damn! - my local supplier quit carrying it. Luckily, I ran into a saleswoman at the hardware convention here in town, who was more than willing to help me out. 

She mailed me a quart of this stain, thus bailing me out of a huge jam. (Thanks so much, to Michelle and to UGL!)  That's what I call customer service!

And two coats later – these tables matched the original one perfectly.  

I have to say (and not just because she sent me a free quart!) that I really like using this stain. It goes on easily, with no streaking, and builds up layers nicely. Not all stains apply this evenly, nor do they build up rich color so nicely. Staining is tricky business, as I've learned over the years.

If you've never tried ZAR stain, I highly recommend that you do.  

It will make your project look amazing. 

And finally on to the grouting..... when I used to do a lot of tile work, I could never find grouts in the color I wanted them. In fact, I remember one time I was building a piece that needed purple sanded grout, and just couldn't find anything close to the color I needed. 

So I spray painted playground sand purple, and then mixed it with clear silicone caulk,  in order to make a purple grout.  It worked, but was a PITA - I don't recommend spray painting sand at all! 

Luckily -  I learned about this product - Color Rite sealant and adhesive caulk. This stuff is the bomb. 

It comes in a huge array of colors, and it was easy to find the perfect color I needed for these tables... in this case – DM 03. 

I glued the petrified slabs down in place using some marble/ stone adhesive, and waited a day for everything to dry.  

I used to cringe when I had to caulk something, it was always really messy work and I was never satisfied with the result. 

But I will tell you– this caulk is so easy to work with, all you need are some paper towels and a little bit of water to keep your finger lubricated. 

And just like that - these tables were done. 

And although this style is far outside my comfort zone, I have to say that I really enjoy building pieces like this. They challenge me, and take me far from my normal skill set. That's a good thing. 

The good news? ...the clients love them. That's all that matters!


Vegas Lupe said...

The tables came out beautifully, Jamie! Congratulations! I can see why your clients would be satisfied.

As usual, I do have a few questions:

1) When cutting the angles for the shelves with a table saw. Because you did not have a parallel surface on the opposite side, how did you accomplish that. My guess is that you angled the miter fence until the line was aligned with the blade. Is that correct? I am intrigued about the fitting.

2) Is the Zar Wood Stain that shiny, or did you have to apply a coat of clear finish afterwards? How was the stain applied? With a rag, sponge, brush or spray gun? How many coats did you apply?

3) Finally, from what I recall, were the fasteners to attach the top to the table the "figure 8" ones?

Sorry to bug you with all the questions. But I am intrigued by the construction details, particularly when it comes to finishing a piece.

Regards, Lupe

Wood It Is! said...

Lupe -

The shelf ends had so many angles and odd curves that I had to scribe each angle, and then grind and sand right up to the line. I think I made three tablesaw cuts, but the rest were hand fitted with various tools. Pretty tedious, but I think you could do this without any trouble.

I applied the stain with a rag, and then applied 3 coats of hand rubbed poly for the sheen. In the end, I rubbed everything down with steel wool, and then waxed with Johnsons Paste wax.

You're right - fasteners were Figure 8s - the best solution for a table like this.

I'm glad these are in my rear view mirror!... these were a challenge!

Julie @ followyourheartwoodworking said...

Great job again on those beautiful original tables! Wish I could get commissions like that... I'm currently working on a pine doll cradle LOL

Vegas Lupe said...

Thank you for your response, Jamie.

I like finishing tips in particular. A good finish is a must for any piece of furniture, and can even save a less than a perfect piece. On the other hand, a poor finish can ruin a perfectly crafted piece.

These tables are beautiful.

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Steve Hansen said...

Beautiful Jaime.