Currently, I’m down in Phoenix, Arizona, working for Morgan Holt of EarthArt Landscape & Designs, Inc. on a massive dining table being made from one large slab of bubinga.
Monday morning at 8:00, Morgan and I picked up the Bubinga slab for the table. Morgan had arranged for some help to unload the slab which measured 14′ long, 42′ wide, and 2′ thick. It was estimated to weigh 800 lbs. With four helpers, we were able to unload the slab on to Morgan’s workbench. After deciding which side would be the top, we proceeded to sand the top smooth and flat. The slab had cupped a little, but not enough that you’d notice without sighting down it’s width. It was also slightly bowed over the length, but we later discovered that this was due to the 14′ long slab not being fully supported by the 8′ long bench.
Our first step was to cut it to length – 12′. I laid out our cuts and Morgan cut to the lines with his Festool plunge circular saw. He had to do it because, being much taller than I, he could reach across the board to make the cut. The slab had been fed through a thickness sander before, but there were still some saw marks which we needed to remove.
For the balance of Monday, I belt sanded the top, starting with 36-grit and working up to 120. I had one scary moment when I backed the sander over its own cord. It tore up the sanding belt and wore through the outside of the power cord – thankfully the wires inside were intact. A little electrical tape and I was back in business. We prevented further such accidents by tying the power cord to the shop vac hose which we hung from the ceiling with a bungee cord (a brilliant idea on Morgan’s part).
This morning, I moved on to the random orbit sander equipped with 120 grit sandpaper. After I had removed all the marks left by the belt sander, I proceeded to the final grit of 220. A little while later, the client stopped by to have a look at the table. The whole premise of my flying down to Phoenix was to carve the edge of the table.
Months earlier, I had completed a sample board consisting of six different ideas of which could be carved into the edge. We agreed to carve the edge in such a way that it would follow the ‘waterfall’ grain of the bubinga. This slab, by the way, is no ordinary bubinga. It’s as highly figured as possible without being burled. I continued on sanding and finished in the early afternoon.
After a break for lunch, I returned to the shop to work on profiling the edge. I started by laying out the proposed profile with a pencil, then once satisfied, I darkened the lines with a black marker. Then the fun began. I broke out the angle grinder with which I had fitted an Arbortech wood-cutting wheel and gouged away the waste. I had enough control over the tool to comfortably cut to the line. I worked my way half-way down one edge before taking a break by refining the edge with rasps. Then I went back to the angle grinder.
When I finished the first edge, I put down the angle grinder and started again with the rasps. It was slow, tedious work so it wasn’t long before I decided to speed things up with the belt sander. I equipped the sander with a 36-grit belt which made short work of smoothing the edge – the grinder left light scallops in the edge. I went back to the angle grinder and carved the remaining edge. At this point, I knew I was getting fatigued and was liable to make a mistake, but I plowed ahead. Upon completing the edge, I put down the tools and spent 20 minutes cleaning up the shop, which was now covered in wood chips from the angle grinder.