dining table build - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 02-15-2016, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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dining table build

I decided early on in this project that I would do a build thread on the forum, but because I work at a different pace (slow) than many here, I thought I'd wait until the project was completed -- which it is now. Otherwise, I thought with progress being as slow as it was, I would put everyone to sleep before completion.

First some background on the project. When we had our home built eleven years ago, we had to take down 5 or 6 trees to make room. Most were Douglas Fir (DF) and some were big (eg. ~15" diameter). I had the trees hauled to a guy with a sawmill, and had them sawed up into 8/4 slabs. I stickered and air dried the lumber over the winter under a covered deck. After that I had to store it outside under a tarp due to a lack indoor storage space.

Over the years I used some of the DF on various projects and I just loved the grain and the orange patina it developed over time. Here are a few samples

bathroom cabinets


cabinet for stereo components


one of two end tables


matching coffee table


However, the big project that I always had in my mind, and which I promised my wife from the day we moved in, was a trestle style dining table. I finally got serious about it well over a year ago. I did a lot of looking online for design ideas and once I got a concept in mind, I started detailed drawings. Often I don't do drawings -- just winging it and designing on the fly. However, for a project like this, I thought drawings would be a good idea, and that was definitely the right call. It was last March when I finally started hauling what was left of my lumber into my shop. This was the raw material.



The project was officially finished yesterday and here are some photos of the final product.

completed table without the extension piece


open for extension


table with the extension piece in place


The table is 42"x80" extending to 109" with the extension piece and is a standard 30" high. The middle section is stored under the top when the table is not extended.

So I hope I have generated some interest in this project. Over the next few weeks I'll discuss the design and give a blow by blow description of the build.

PS not sure what happened with the sideways photos. They flip around if you click on them to view full size.
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post #2 of 17 Old 02-15-2016, 03:23 PM
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So so beautiful!
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post #3 of 17 Old 02-15-2016, 09:42 PM
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Some very nice work you've done an excellent job
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post #4 of 17 Old 02-15-2016, 10:18 PM
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You've been very busy. Very good looking projects. What's next?
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post #5 of 17 Old 02-15-2016, 10:46 PM
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Well done! Nice 'little' project. I'm like you in that I post my builds after I complete them. What finish did you use?

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post #6 of 17 Old 02-16-2016, 12:27 PM
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I am new to this forum and have read many threads. I too am building my first dining room table, from pine cut from our land. I had it sawn into 8/4 stock and then hauled it all to a dry kiln in our area. It has been stored in my shop for about 18 months. Last winter I built the top and it sits on the old table. I am now working on the trestle legs and have a couple of questions for you. I noticed that you have a skirt on your table, mine was built with no skirt. My question is, I was wondering why you did not use breadboard ends. You did not mention if you kiln dried your lumber, only that it was air dried and then in your shop for a while. Did you check MC before building? Are you not concerned with wood movement, then splitting, with changes in indoor humidity? Especially considering that the wood was not kiln dried. I used breadboard ends on mine and over the last summer, I noticed that the top expanded about 3/32" on each side of the breadboard ends. Have you not seen any expansion/shrinkage? By the way, I love your work, real quality workmanship.

If you can't explain it to a six year old, then you really don't understand it yourself.
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post #7 of 17 Old 02-18-2016, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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difalkner: The finish started with Minwax wood conditioner followed by two applications of Minwax stain (dark walnut #2716). I followed this with 2 or 3 coats of brush on satin Varathane, sanding between coats (320 grit pad). I finished up with 5 or 6 coats of Minwax wipe on poly (satin) sanding between every second or third coat with a 400 grit pad. After the last coat, of buffed up the top with some #0000 steel wool.

Kerfer: I did not kiln dry my Douglas Fir. If I recall correctly, the MC after air drying was around 10% (that was 10 years ago) but when I brought the wood into my shop to build the table, it was averaging around 14%. That's why for most of the pieces, I gave them a good long time to acclimatize and dry out a bit in my shop before machining to final dimension. In the case of the material for the top, I cut pieces to nominal dimensions, stickered them, and let them acclimatize for almost 2 months. It was fly fishing season, so I had a diversion from the project. The MC was averaging around 8% when I started the final milling. As I mentioned in my original post, I've made a lot of stuff with this wood, and it was been pretty stable once it has acclimatized. I should mention that we live in a place that is fairly dry and there are not big fluctuations in humidity over the course of a year.

The boards on the table top run cross-wise, so that's why I did not use a bread board edge. To some extent, the skirts perform the function of keeping the top flat (at least so far). Initially I did consider running the boards longitudinally. However, given the length of the table wanted, and the fact that I wanted an extension, I opted to go cross-wise. That made it a lot easier to mill the individual pieces, especially with a 6" jointer. Also, even with the cross-wise approach, the final "half tops" are pretty massive, and were more than enough for one old guy to heft around.
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post #8 of 17 Old 02-19-2016, 02:41 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, here we go with the blow by blow description of this build. I hope somebody might be interested -- I guess we'll see. I know there has been a fair amount of interest in dining tables in the past, and I enjoyed following some of those discussions while I was designing and building mine.

As mentioned earlier, I was using air dried wood, so a lot of attention was paid to acclimatizing the wood, so a lot of time was spent cutting pieces to nominal dimension, stickering, and doing something else for a few days, a few weeks, or longer.



I began with constructing the two pedestals each of which consists of a foot portion, two verticals, and an upper cross bar. They are joined by through mortise and tenons. Each of these components was made from two halves that were glued together after cutting the mortises with a dado blade on the table saw.






I used biscuits during the glue up just to help keep the pieces aligned properly.

To help with consistency I used templates and a router to shape the feet and the verticals. Since the pieces were too thick to do in one pass, I used the template and a pattern bit on one side and then finished up with a flush trim bit from the other side.



Since the mortises on the vertical pieces, which would receive the through tenons from the stretcher had to be cut more accurately, I roughed them out on the table saw as described above, but after glue up, I used a template and router to get them to the final consistent dimension.



Before the final glue up of the pedestals I of course did a lot of sanding, and I filled any cracks in knots with a mixture of epoxy and sanding dust.



After that, it was glue up time.


Last edited by terryh; 02-19-2016 at 02:53 PM. Reason: wasn't finished
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post #9 of 17 Old 02-22-2016, 02:01 PM
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I noticed the important part of woodworking- the insulated coffee cup! My complements on the projects. How did you store the table leaf under the table? Got a table on the drawing board for this year. Using Walnut for the legs and apron, natural pecan for the top. Thanks for sharing the great pictures!
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post #10 of 17 Old 02-22-2016, 02:14 PM Thread Starter
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Pineknot_86: There was a lot of coffee consumed during the life of this project. Walnut and pecan sounds gorgeous. I hope you'll share photos. As far as the storage of the extension insert, I'll have some photos in a later installment. It's a pretty simple system -- it just sits on two cross rails. The apron on the insert piece folds down for storage.
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post #11 of 17 Old 02-22-2016, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
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Well, here goes another installment.

After finishing the pedestals, the next step was to work on the two stretchers. The critical thing with these was to ensure that the tenons at each end were in the same vertical plane in order to properly fit the mortises in the pedestals. A lot fiddling went into ensuring this was achieved.

The two long boards for the stretchers were too wide to flatten on my 6" jointer so I ripped them in half, milled each half separately and glued them back together. You really have to look closely to see the joint.



I cut the shoulders for the tenons and rough cut the cheeks on the table saw with a dado blade. Then with a shoulder plane, the tenons were cleaned up and fitted individually.



The cutout on the bottom edge of each stretcher was done to lighten up the overall look and it matches the shape of the pedestals as well. These were rough cut with the table saw and a jig saw and then cleaned up using a router with templates and a straight edge.





I should mention that when I was designing the table, I thought about cheating, and having the stretchers just butt up against the inside of the pedestals, connecting them with bed rail hardware. On the outside of the pedestal I was thinking of attaching a fake through tenon and wedge. In the end I opted for the real thing, and I'm glad I did. It really wasn't any more work and I was quite surprised how solid the whole assembly becomes when those wedges are tapped home. There is absolutely no racking in any plane.

Also, when I was designing the stretchers I was a bit worried about having enough material between the wedge and the end of the stretcher. Given the grain direction I could see a shear failure as a possibility if the wedge was driven in too hard. In the end I left a full 2" between the wedge and the end of the stretcher and I think that was adequate. However, before I was finished the project, I came across a neat idea in a recent Woodsmith magazine. On a similar project they drilled up from the bottom of the stretcher and inserted a 3/8" dowel to reinforce the end of the stretcher. It was a "duh, why didn't I think of that" moment. Anyway, it wasn't too late, and I did the same thing on my project -- details in a subsequent installment.

The tapered edge on each wedge was cut on the table saw using a simple jig. I chose a 3 degree angle somewhat arbitrarily. I'm not sure what others have used, but I wanted it shallow enough that they wouldn't pop out, put steep enough that I could apply good tension to the stretcher.



The mortises to accept the wedges were roughed out with a jig saw and then cleaned up with a template and a router with a template bit.



The outside face of these mortises had to be angled to match the tapered wedge and this was done with a guide block and paring with a chisel.



After rounding over the edges, the stretchers were pretty much done and it was time to get going on the system for attaching the extension rails and storing the middle section. That will be part of the next installment.




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Last edited by terryh; 02-22-2016 at 02:33 PM. Reason: fix typo
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post #12 of 17 Old 02-29-2016, 03:02 PM Thread Starter
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After the last installment of this build thread things were pretty much as shown in the photo below. The only additional thing that was done before the next step was to knock the corners off the through tenons on the stretchers and then lightly round over the edges with sand paper. The edges of the stretchers on the portion inside the pedestals were rounded over with a 1/8" radius round over bit as were the edges on all the components of the two pedestals.



When designing the table I had some constraints associated with the storage of the middle insert section. I didn't want to use one of the folding storage schemes you often see in commercially built tables. Instead I wanted one solid piece as close to 30" wide as I could get and 42" long to match the width of the table. The idea was that the piece would be stored upside down between the extension rails with the 42" direction being in the long direction of the table. Allowing 2" between the table edge and the aprons, plus the width of the three piece extension rails, the inside space between the rails is 30". Therefore, allowing for some wiggle room for stuff that I'll show later, the final width of the insert piece was chosen as 29".

The other consideration that I had to deal with in the design was the length of the extension rails. For a variety of reasons I wanted the inside to inside dimension between the pedestals to be 48" which gave a centerline to centerline distance of 49 3/4". This distance was chosen to facilitate placing chairs between the pedestals and to provide sufficient leg room at the ends of the table when not extended. I also wanted to use the type B extenders shown below.



The ideal situation would have been to find extenders that were long enough to sit on top of the cross pieces on the pedestals. However the longest that I could find (in Canada at least), were 46" long extending an additional 23" in each direction to provide a 46" opening. Therefore, I had to find a way to attach the middle rail to the pedestals. I opted for L-shaped pieces of 3/4" Baltic birch plywood at each end of the pedestal cross bars as shown below.



The middle rail of the extenders is bolted to the L-pieces from below with two lag bolts at each end. The horizontal space between the rails and the pedestals is just large enough to accommodate the middle section when stored. To provide support for the middle section, two cross pieces were added on the bottom side of the L-pieces as shown in the next photo.



At this stage I wanted to start milling the pieces for the three parts of the top before staining and applying the finish to the completed base. So we'll pick up there in the next installment.
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post #13 of 17 Old 03-10-2016, 08:24 PM Thread Starter
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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.
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post #14 of 17 Old 03-11-2016, 10:43 AM
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Many thanks. Looking for the next installment.

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post #15 of 17 Old 03-11-2016, 11:25 AM
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Wow the table turned out great, and your build info is awesome!
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post #16 of 17 Old 03-11-2016, 11:29 AM
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Great woodworking!
I learned a lot from your experience. Thanks for sharing.
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post #17 of 17 Old 03-19-2016, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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After using the router sled to get all three top slabs flattened and to a uniform thickness, the next step was to cut all three to their final dimensions. As mentioned earlier, the two main halves of the table top are 40"x42" and the extension piece is 29"x42". The critical issues were that the 42" dimension (table width) be "exactly" the same on all three, the mating edges be "exactly" straight, and that all corners be square. I'm a great believer in story sticks, and I had one for each of the three dimensions (29", 40", and 42"). There was also a lot of diagonal measuring done before any cutting got done.

Since the slabs were too big to deal with on my table saw, I rough cut the sides using a circular saw and straight edge.



Then to get the side to it's final position, I used a router, straight edge, and a pattern bit. The pattern bit wasn't long enough to do the complete thickness so I used a flush trim bit from the other side to complete the process.



To round the four outside corners of the table top, I rough cut them using a jig saw and then cleaned them up with a template and pattern bit. Again this also required using a router from the other side with a flush trim bit (always nice to have at least two routers).



The edges were rounded with a 1/4" round-over bit and then came lots and lots of sanding through various grits from 120 to 320. The top surface was done with a random orbit sander and the edges with a detail sander.





From there, it was on to building the apron. The apron is 4" deep except for those on the table ends, which have a cut-out that reduces the depth to 2 3/4" to accommodate arm chairs. The apron sections are joined with 1"x1" blocks at the corners using stub tenon and dado joinery. When the apron pieces meet at the middle of the table, I made blocks with a T-shape cross-section. One side of the T is joined to one apron section, and the other side of the T overlaps the end of the adjoining apron section, so that line between the two sections is not visible.






My original plan for joining the apron to the table top was to use table top clips to allow for seasonal wood movement. However, at one end of the table there is insufficient room between the apron and the extension rail. I thought about using figure eight connectors mortised into the top on that end of the table. In the end I took the simpler route of using pocket screws and elongated the screw holes. I should mention too that connecting the extension rails to the top also creates a cross-grain situation, so I had to elongate those holes as well.

In the next installment I'll show the design and building of the extension piece and discuss how it is stored as well.
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