Complete Novice In Need of Advice - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum

  • 1 Post By gmercer_48083
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post #1 of 10 Old 04-20-2017, 09:41 AM Thread Starter
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Complete Novice In Need of Advice

[Picture included is of raw, unworked materials. And my dog.]

Hello, all.

My name is Brian and aside from Pinewood Derby cars as a kid and some random fix-it projects, I've no woodworking experience. However, when a friend had a large tree cut down I couldn't help but see a coffee table in the remnants.

I've done some research on general tips and studied other projects in a similar vein, but I wanted to grab some other opinions.

My main curiosity is about leveling the surface. The table piece is thicker on one end than the other. I can either make the legs different heights to compensate, or work the table piece to make it uniform.

Does anyone have thoughts on which is better? And if I work the table piece to uniform thickness, should I cut, plane, sand, or a combination of all three?

Thanks for indulging a newcomer. I appreciate - in advance - all your help and information.
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post #2 of 10 Old 04-20-2017, 10:42 AM
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Either that log was pre-rotted or you spilt some really strong coffee on it..or your dog went crazy on it..
Anyway..are you just trying to smooth the top nice and level? Going to peel the bark away? Are you planning to make it much thinner? That's a pretty hefty coffee table there.. Saw mill perhaps?
If you plan to hand plane it you're in for a lot of work..That don't look like any kind of softwood there.. If you plan on hand planing it you may want to start off with a scrub plane and I made mine from a cheapo, off the shelf $20 plane and rounded the iron with a grinder and then honed it later. Works much better than I expected..
Anyway, there's a lot of very helpful people here with vastly superior suggestions than I might offer..
Let's have some more specifics of what your goals are with this chunk of stuff formerly known as a tree..

I figured it's time to change my signature so hold your breath. This is it.
Impressive, huh?
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post #3 of 10 Old 04-20-2017, 10:53 AM Thread Starter
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It was pre-rotted (possibly even termites), though I'd love to see the coffee that could do that.

The plan is to have this be a thick, rugged table. Bark on. I'm looking to level it, smooth it, then seal it all up. If at all possible I wouldn't want to lose too much thickness on its current thinnest end.

Information and advice I've gotten currently suggests wood hardener and urothane for finishing along with a clear gloss finishing spray for the bark. But I'm open to all opinions on every step.
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post #4 of 10 Old 04-20-2017, 10:53 AM
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Brian, If you have a router you could make a router sled to make a flat surface. An internet search can help you find a plan on one. Not knowing what types of tools you have at your disposal makes this question difficult to answer.
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post #5 of 10 Old 04-20-2017, 11:08 AM Thread Starter
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I honestly don't have many. So whatever decision I land on will be sending me on a shopping trip. Hence why I brought this question to the forum. I'm looking to make the most informed decision I can.
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post #6 of 10 Old 04-20-2017, 11:45 AM
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There's a BUNCH of different ways you can go about this thing, but one aspect you really should consider is insect damage and if there are still living bugs crawling around in and around it. I kind of doubt you would want a bunch of termites breeding in your living room although that's probably not a serious threat..
We have no idea how much money you have to spend, but it could quickly add up depending on what you are going to do.
If it were me and I wanted to invest in tools and equipment I'd buy stuff I'm going to use and need well after this project is completed on future projects. I'd love to say I've never purchased equipment that I never used again, but I'm fundamentally against lying about things like that..
A decent set of hand planes can be had from places like ebay and not all planes are made alike.
A good Stanley #4 and maybe a #6 might come in darn handy, but go for those made back when real craftsmen made them instead of the stuff popping out of Chinese factories these days.
I mentioned the cheapo plane I turned into a scrub plane, but it was never worth much more than that.
For around $30 you can probably get your hands on a decent plane made somewhere in the 1940s or thereabouts.. EBay is your friend in that department and then you may want to invest in some sharpening equipment or tools. Nothing beats a plane iron you could shave with. (not that I'm suggesting you take up hand plane shaving) Then you can get into whether you want to go with water stones or diamond stones...blah blah blah..
Woodworking is fun and satisfying, but I'm probably not the only one who is going to suggest it's only going to get more expensive and confusing as you go along..
I hope anything I have to add is marginally helpful, but I'm not betting the farm on it..
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Impressive, huh?
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post #7 of 10 Old 04-20-2017, 04:17 PM
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Your coffee table looks more like a bench for outdoors to me.
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If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #8 of 10 Old 04-20-2017, 04:45 PM
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It appears you would need to remove as much as 2-3 inches from part of the slab? Correct?

That would be a whole-lotta-work to do it by hand.
However, it can be done with a router planing jig and a router.

Do you have a work bench large enough to put the top on? In this case, you would need a level surface large enough for the top to rest on. A jig consisting of a pair of rails would mount on the work table on each side of the work piece. The guide rails would have to be tall enough so a sled (resembles a crane gantry) could sit on top and be moved by hand along the rails. The router would sit in the sled and me moved back and forth removing a small amount with each pass. Eventually, you will wind up with a top that is flat and the same thickness as the thin end.

Here is a jig I made just last week. It works great. You would have to modify it so the sides were taller. And maybe make the sled longer so it would span the width of the work piece and have a little room for the router to move past the wood as you cut it.

There are also numerous videos on You Tube with others that have built sled of similar fashion.

The cutter I used was a Freud 12190 1 1/2 inch diameter flat bottom two flute cutter. You would need a router that accepts 1/2 inch dia router bit shanks.

I think I saw a router yesterday at Harbor Freight for less than $60. Not the prettiest or well made, but it might work once. And if it fails, take it back and get another one. The Triton I used is a 3 1/4hp beast. It just loafs along at half speed slinging sawdust everywhere. Well, not everywhere,. I had dust collection hooked up but there is still sawdust to deal with.

Oh yeah, make sure you get one that has a plunge feature so you can easily operate it. A fixed base would be harder to use hand held, especially with a large cutter spinning about 12000 rpms.

Do a good bug check.
Good luck.
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Last edited by MT Stringer; 04-20-2017 at 04:48 PM.
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post #9 of 10 Old 04-20-2017, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Toolman50 View Post
Your coffee table looks more like a bench for outdoors to me.
You are not incorrect. Coffee table may not be the best expression of the idea. A low surface on which to sit or place things is a bit cumbersome, though. Basically, I want a nice-looking, all around hardy piece of furniture.

Also, a router sounds like the best idea, but sadly I don't have the surface for it. I may be in for a bit of planing.
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post #10 of 10 Old 04-21-2017, 06:49 AM
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I think that "leveling" the top would be way too much work. Cutting one leg shorter would be much easier and faster. With the natural look of the piece no one will ever notice.

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