Single-Slab Cherry Coffee Table, Part I

This weekend, I am demonstrating Festool power tools at Lee Valley Tools Ltd. in Coquitlam. To generate interest and demonstrate what can be done with the tools, I am turning this seven-foot-long slab of cherry into a coffee table.

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By the end of Thursday, I had made some good progress. To make the legs, I used the TS75 track saw to cut the ends of the slab from table top and bevel the ends at 45 degrees.

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I used the DF700 Domino XL to cut mortises in the bevelled ends of one joint and inserted 14mm Domino tenons to provide strength and alignment.

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On Friday, I cut the joints for the other two legs. I glued them before lunch, then did some careful layout to determine how to cut the legs so the table sat flat. I performed the cuts with the TS75 track saw in a somewhat dramatic fashion.

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After that, I removed the chainsaw marks from the outside surfaces of the legs. I was able to power through this task quickly with 80-grit Rubin 2 abrasive paper on the mighty RO150 Rotex sander.

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At the end of day two, the table stood on its own (and I could stand – and jump – on it).

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So far, this project has been a good test of what the Festool equipment can do and it has attracted a lot of attention from customers, whether they were woodworkers or not. Many wanted to see it finished and asked if the table would be on display upon completion (the answer was, yes).

Tomorrow, I will continue work by surfacing the top. I may also inset some dovetail keys in the top, and perhaps down one leg to visually reinforce the split.

16 thoughts on “Single-Slab Cherry Coffee Table, Part I

  1. Your work is as typical, atypical. You take a form that we are familiar with (slab stuff) and do something new (use a fork as another leg), yet once seen, amazingly seems natural. Good work as always.

    • Hi Jeremy,

      This is a slab that I’ve had for probably six years and never did anything with it because I couldn’t figure out how to use it well (I was going to say, “how best to use it”, but that implies that this way is the best). When I was looking at it Wednesday, this idea struck me.

      Chris

  2. I love the simplicity of making a few cuts to a beautiful natural piece and getting furniture that is both functional and art. I am not in any way diminishing the skill it takes to do this, in fact I know it takes more experience to see the table in the raw material and to handle large pieces like this.

  3. Hi Chris, Your doing a great job so far. That table is going to be a knockout when completed. The piece of wood you are working with is fantastic. The shape and dimensions give you some great latitude to create a piece that will speak volumes.
    Will be a fine piece too see when your done making your Mojo.

    Have fun with the Festool demo at Lee Valley. Festool have a great quality product line and if your fluid in your presentation you will impress the new talent with a world of possibilities for their own future projects. Lee Valley is the summum of project possibilities, a woodworkers Shangri La. Hehe.

    Till next, Ray R.

    • Hi Ray,

      Thanks for your comment. This was a great opportunity to get more hands-on experience with the Festool equipment while engaging customers about tools, techniques, and design.

      Chris

  4. i have to say… i don’t think i would have come up with that idea for that piece of wood. i have to bow to your design. Make sure you show us photos of the finished piece.

    • Hi Stephen,

      I must say that the table looks great with a coat of oil! It will be on display at Lee Valley Coquitlam starting tomorrow, and I’ll get some pictures Wednesday.

      Chris

  5. How do you handle warping? Is sealing all surfaces of the table enough to prevent movement? I’m working with a slab I procured from a guy in CT that can cut up to 15′ logs. The slab is 30″x80″ and I’m afraid it will move with the seasons down here once installed…

    • Hi Joe,

      There are several things that can be done to manage wood movement. I’ll start off by saying that unless you completely impregnate the wood with something (resin, in the case of stabilizing; or minerals, in the case of petrified wood), I don’t think that you can prevent wood from moving. If you were to encase a piece of wood in plastic, that may work… I’ve never tried.

      The easiest, and most important thing to do, in my opinion, is to allow the material to stabilize. Give it time to acclimate to its surroundings. When I get wood milled from a tree, I typically give it a couple years to release moisture and settle down before thinking about working with it. Then, I bring it into my shop and, if possible, break it down into smaller pieces which are closer to the final sizes of each component. This allows the wood to stabilize further and acclimate more quickly. Depending on the thickness of material, and the amount of climate shift it is experiencing, I allow a few days to a month for this process to take place.

      When designing and building, there are also techniques to control warping. These include fastening battens across the grain and breadboard ends.

      Remember that different cuts of wood react differently to changes in moisture content. Quartersawn wood sees much less warpage than flatsawn material.

      Hope this helps.

      Chris

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