Thursday, July 24, 2008

Building a Dining Room Table...

Recently my wife and daughter went on a trip for 2 weeks leaving me by myself in our old country house. I had plenty of art to do for my next book, but I was aching to build something with wood. It felt like a manly thing to do. And I desperately needed to do something manly. With tools! So here is how I built our new dining table. The dimensions are 8ft long by 42" wide and 31" high. If I were to do it again I would make it 30" high.
First I found some great old oak baseboards that were stashed away in the attic of our house. they were slightly warped and filled with nail holes and covered with stain. I would have guessed them to be over 100 years old.I used a belt sander ($60.00 at Home Depot) and gave all the boards a rough sanding to remove the old stain and grime.
Next, using pony clamps, I glued the boards together one at a time. Allowing 6 hours for them to dry between boards. It was important to alternate the clamps (one above and one below) to keep the boards straight. I know, I know it's not that way in this picture, but I was trying to straighten out a warp that was already in the boards.
once all seven boards were glued together, I filled in all the cracks and nail holes with stainable wood putty.
Then I started some serious sanding. First with 80 grit, then 120 grit and finally 150 grit sand paper.

The next thing was to add end caps to both ends of the table top. Not only was this for aesthetic reasons, but it also helps strengthen the table and allows for all the boards to swell and contract without cracking or warping as much. First I cut a straight edge along the ends of my glued boards. Then I drilled 1/4" holes in the end of each board...
and using a little metal point shoved into the hole I could make a mark on the end cap where I needed to drill the matching hole. Once the holes were drilled on both sides I glued in the dowels to connect the boards. then the entire end cap fit into the dowels and was glued and clamped for six hours. I repeated this process with the other side.
Next I finished the end caps with some nifty oak plugs to give it a nice look. You can buy the oak plugs already made. Drill the hole, hammer them in, and sand them down. Presto!
Next I started to build the legs. I used pine for the legs because I wanted the legs to be a slightly different color than the top or the apron that goes under the top.

Once I had the legs glued and doweled to the apron sides, I fitted the whole base together. This was a dry fitting though (no glue) because I needed to take it apart to bring it to my loft in Brooklyn. It never would have fit in the door otherwise.
Here is the table assembled. I put three oak buttons in the side to represent my wife, my daughter and me.
Then I started staining. I used Minwax combination stain and urathane. This would give it color and protection.

In between each layer of stain and urathane (sp?) I rubbed the surface down with a very fine steel wool. This made it smooth like butter! Although my arms felt like they were going to fall off!
here is the finished table in my loft. A proud moment for me as I have not built anything from wood since I was about 12 years old.


Corinna said...

Wow, what a gorgeous table! Did you consult anything to know what to do, or is woodworking another manly instinct like map-reading or belching?

Anonymous said...

awesome job... I used to love building things when I had the use of my parents garage. Apartment living just doesn't allow such projects :-(

Rui Sousa said...

Great work, really nice!
Congratulations for the good work!


Anonymous said...

Wonderful job... how did you attach the table top to the legs and the apron. Did you glue it?

John Rocco said...

To attach the table top to the apron I used metal elbows with brass screws. (one on each side) That way if I ever move, I can just unscrew the top and take it apart to get it down our stairs.

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Rich said...

Great job! How much would it cost for all the materials and how many hours did it take to complete?

John Rocco said...

Hey Rich,
to answer your question about time and materials; The wood for the top and the apron was red oak that I found in the attic of this old house we bought, so that was free. Although if you were to buy it today I imagine it would be a few hundred dollars worth. The legs are pine 4x4's that were about $16 for all. Then I bought some sandpaper, glue and dowels. All told about $50. The time was the big issue. I spent about 35 hours on this table as it was my first.

Anonymous said...

Hello Rich:

Very nice table. Have changes in humidity caused any problems for the end caps?



John Rocco said...

Hi Mike,
We've had the table going on five years now. Four in New York (where it gets very humid) and one year here in Southern CA. where it is very dry, and so far, no problems. I attribute that to the wood being so well seasoned, as it was over one hundred years old, and had been sitting in a dry attic for over twelve of those years. Before that is was baseboard for an old house.