Construction of “Table with a Twist” – Part 3: Top and Finishing

This is the third post on the construction of my Table with a Twist.  The first post covered the making of the legs and the second post covered the aprons.

The tabletop was the last main component to be made.  I had selected a premium piece of figured maple which I milled to about 42″ x 12-1/2″ x 1-1/8″.  As usual, I focused on proportions over even numbers.  I knew that a rectilinear top wouldn’t suit the overall design of the table so I planned to introduce some curves.  To ensure the top was symmetrical, I made two templates from my favourite template stock – 1/4″ MDF.  One template was for the front edge and the other was for the ends.  The back was left straight.  I cut the templates out using my bandsaw and used a stationary belt sander to smooth the edges.  Then I traced their shapes onto the maple top and used the jigsaw to cut close to the line.

After securing the templates to the top, I used a template bit to finish the profile.  The large-diameter bit made a very smooth cut and took large shavings, even on the end-grain.

After shaping the top, I set it on the base to see how it looked.  The 1-1/8″ thick top was too visually heavy and adding a small chamfer or round-over would not have been enough to lighten the top.  To make the top look less chunky, I chose to bevel both the top and bottom.  But instead of using the same profile on each side, I used a standard 45-degree chamfer bit on the bottom and a low-angle panel-raising bit on the top to create a wide bevel.

To attach the top to the base, I used wooden buttons.  I cut them on the tablesaw and drilled screw holes with the drill press.  Can you see the mistake I made?

After having completed the first batch, I noticed that the grain was oriented the wrong way.  With the grain running this way, the tongue, to the right in the picture, could have easily broken off if stressed.

Once I made the new buttons with the grain oriented properly, the power tools were retired.  Next, I gave everything a careful look over and lightly sanded all surfaces with 180x sandpaper.  Before finishing, I cleaned the wood by wiping it down with alcohol.  The last step was to apply a couple coats of spray-on polyurethane followed by wipe-on polyurethane to build up a protective, scratch-resistant finish.

I’ll leave you with my favourite picture of the table.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the process as much as I have.

Durability Shmurability

It would be great if it were possible to build a piece of furniture that would last for generations without any need for repair.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Fortunately, there are glues and finishes which are easy to repair. Available are animal based glues such as hide or fish glues. They create a strong, rigid bond yet readily disassemble for repair with steam. What’s more, they don’t require all the old glue to be removed for a good bond, like PVAs do.

Of course, in some situations, such as in a bathroom or outdoors where heat and/or moisture are likely to be present, these glues are not ideal; a waterproof adhesive would be a better choice. In this situation, you are compromising ease of repairability for longevity. Not a bad trade-off.

Many high-tech finishes like polyurethane or epoxy coatings are extremely durable. However, should any damage be inflicted, they are difficult to repair, requiring the finish to be completely stripped before reapplication.

Age-old finishes such as lacquer, shellac, and oils are easy to fix, often requiring only a cleansing followed by another coat of finish.