Crafting: making a table

The most-read post made during the very short heyday of this blog was about my desire to be a craftsman, and how I turned to video games to fill that desire.

In the past two years, I have had the opportunity to begin leveling up various crafting-related skills in real life. I’d like to share with you what I hope is the start of a long journey.

Woodworking: level 9

I have a dream of one day making a beautiful farmhouse-style table for my family to enjoy. So I decided to start by making a craft/school table for our kids. I would make the base out of untreated 4 x 4 Douglas Fir and the top out of 2 X 6 Yellow Pine boards (originally I planned to use a plywood top with solid wood banding around the edge, but I abandoned that idea).

In the past I’ve tended to just sketch out a few ideas on paper. I always think this should be a quick process, but it always takes way too long due to my poor drafting skills and my love of precision. For this project, I decided that I should start to learn SketchUp in order to speed up the process.

Table schematic - bottom view.
Table SketchUp drawing. Note the plan for the top, which I abandoned in favor of a solid wood top.

Learning SketchUp was actually a lot of fun once I found a good tutorial. And having a decent plan made the job of buying the right amount of wood and cutting the right pieces much easier.

Mortised and tenoned pieces ready for assembly.
The sections to make the base and supports have been mortised and tenoned, and are ready for finishing.
Joined table top ready for finishing.
The table top is glued, voids have been filled, it’s been sanded, and its now ready for finish.

Finishing always seems to take longer than I think it should. This was certainly the case with this project. I ended up doing two coats of water-based stain on the top since the first one raised the grain too much and had to be sanded down. And I put four coats of water-based poly to protect the top against hard use.

The finished table.
The finished table.

So, what did I learn while doing this?

  1. A good plan is almost half the battle.
  2. Soft wood is hard to chisel, especially across the grain. It just bounces.
  3. Use dry wood. I used fairly wet pine for the top of my table, and planing it revealed pockets of sap. It shrank about an inch and a half end-to-end, and three-quarters side to side after gluing.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, and go with the flow. I miscalculated the required length of my angled supports, and ended up making them about a half-inch shorter overall. But it still turned out okay.

I still dream of the perfect farmhouse dining table for my family. I plan to do it this year, if possible. If I do, maybe I’ll finally hit level 10.

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