The next step in this build was the long process of milling up the pieces for the three sections of the top. These comprised the two main halves (42"x40") and the insert section (42"x29"). This is photo shows about half the final pile that was stickered and left in my shop for about two months.
While the wood for the top was acclimatizing, I got going on applying the finish on the pedestals and stretchers. As mentioned earlier in this thread, I used Minwax wood conditioner following by two coats of Minwax stain (dark walnut, #2716). This was followed by two coats of brush on polyurathane, and multiple (5 or 6) coats of wipe on poly (satin) with lots of sanding between coats. I really like the wipe on poly because it is so easy to get a good furniture finish in the final result.
So here is the final base all finished and put together.
Then it was on to gluing up the top pieces. They were all milled once again taking them down to 1.5" thick, with all the edges jointed. They were glued up in small batches of 3 or 4 pieces and then these mid-size sub-assemblies were glued together.
Then finally, the two sub-assemblies for each half were glued together. I used biscuits on all the joints just to help with alignment, and I didn't really spend a lot of time worrying whether they got any glue.
The final slabs for each half were pretty hefty and about all a guy would want to be hoisting around in a one man shop.
I'd never built a table as big as this, but I was pretty sure that after gluing up so many parts, it would not be as flat as I wanted for a formal dining table. Also, I didn't think trying to flatten the top pieces with a belt sander was going to get me to the result I wanted. So I had planned from the start that I would make a router sled for the purpose of both flattening the slabs, and making the two sides parallel. So the next project was the router sled. This is the final product, which turned out to work quite well. I used a 1" diameter plunge bit, which was ok, but I did get some tear out even though I was taking fairly light passes. I'd be interested in comments from others about bit choice to avoid this. I'm thinking if I was to do something like this again, I might use a dish carving bit. Anyway, there was the usual amount of fiddling to get the rails on the jig in the same plane and of course when doing the second side of a slab, getting the other face parallel to the plane of the sled. Also, since I wasn't using kiln dried wood, I took a light pass (~ 1/16") off both sides and then let the slabs sit in the shop for a few days before continuing. As suspected, there was some wood movement, but after one or two more passes on each side the slabs seemed to stabilize, and what little bending occurred at that stage, was easily taken out when the aprons were attached. The final thickness was 1 3/16". I had been aiming for 1 1/4", but the wood movement required taking off a bit extra to get things flat.
The process certainly generates a lot of shavings, and I was thankful to have a pretty big dust collector.
After the flattening with the router sled, it took a fair bit of time with a random orbit sander to get rid of the router marks on the top surface. Once that was done, I filled the cracks in knots and worm holes with the same combination of epoxy and sanding dust.
In the next installment, I'll discuss how the three top pieces were cut to final size and prepared for the last step, which was to stain and finish.