English Elm table top- not sure where to post - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 02-04-2019, 04:36 PM Thread Starter
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English Elm table top- not sure where to post

Hello, I'm brand new to any type of wood working and have undertaken a project that has become far more complicated than I had anticipated. I have a large cookie of English Elm that I have been trying to make into a coffee table for some time. Unfortuneatley, I don't think I stored it properly for drying so it has warped significantly and cracked some as a result. I have been using a hand planer and belt sander to slowly try and work it down to a level surface by eye. ( I know these aren't ideal tools but it's all I currently have) Although it has improved noticeably, it's incredibly slow work. I don't have the space or funds to invest in any large equipment and am hoping that somebody might be able to provide some hints or an alternative method to acheive a smooth, level surface. Up to this point most of the work I have done has been to one side but I have included several pictures of both sides to try and illustrate the issue I've encountered. Thanks for any help.
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post #2 of 14 Old 02-04-2019, 04:48 PM
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Welcome to the forum! When you get a minute add your first name to your signature line so we'll know what to call you.

Is there a cabinet shop near you, one with a wide belt sander? I have one close by and they have one that I've used (had them use, actually) and it makes short work of things like this.

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post #3 of 14 Old 02-04-2019, 06:07 PM
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+1 for the sander.

I know you said that you don't have the funds for large tools but I would highly suggest a good router as your next purchase. One of those and a router sled would be your best alternative to the sander and the router will be one of the workhorses of your shop for years to come.
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post #4 of 14 Old 02-04-2019, 08:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jhparker2681 View Post
Hello, I'm brand new to any type of wood working and have undertaken a project that has become far more complicated than I had anticipated. I have a large cookie of English Elm that I have been trying to make into a coffee table for some time. Unfortuneatley, I don't think I stored it properly for drying so it has warped significantly and cracked some as a result. I have been using a hand planer and belt sander to slowly try and work it down to a level surface by eye. ( I know these aren't ideal tools but it's all I currently have) Although it has improved noticeably, it's incredibly slow work. I don't have the space or funds to invest in any large equipment and am hoping that somebody might be able to provide some hints or an alternative method to acheive a smooth, level surface. Up to this point most of the work I have done has been to one side but I have included several pictures of both sides to try and illustrate the issue I've encountered. Thanks for any help.
JH ,you're doing fine...you have 2 tools that can compliment each other AND as a beginner you're at a great starting place to learn and appreciate proper sharpening and usage of the hand plane.

To start....end grain wood requires super sharp tooling as it's much tougher to cut/slice as I'm sure you've found out than face grain.

Jay Whitecloud here can give you some great pointers as that's his expertise in hand tools and primitive cultures/techniques in wood and many other mediums.
He usually chimes in after dark as he keeps a busy schedule. I'll drop him a note to read your post.

Oh ...GREAT start !!!!
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post #5 of 14 Old 02-04-2019, 11:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jhparker2681 View Post
...Hello, I'm brand new to any type of wood working and have undertaken a project that has become far more complicated than I had anticipated....
Hey Parker...Welcome to the group!!!

(Hi Tim, thanks for the kind words!!!)

Below are some post links with good information on "wood slices" (sorry about the debates that went on in a few of them...but still good info nevertheless!) I hope to be starting a discussion soon dedicated to only "Wood Slices." I've been harvesting and working with "Cookies" (aka wood slices) since 1969...

Epoxy and Finishing Help Needed

Drying Stumps and Cookies

Using Green Lumber for a Project..Drying question?

Lumber splitting

Flattening wood slabs with router

Quote:
Originally Posted by jhparker2681 View Post
...I have a large cookie of English Elm that I have been trying to make into a coffee table for some time. Unfortuneatley, I don't think I stored it properly for drying so it has warped significantly and cracked some as a result....
Brother, I don't believe that had to do with your drying method or how you stored it...per se?

That's an Elm species and one of my favorite for "wood slice" work. I have had some cut as large as 4' and some as thin as 1/2" that never split at all...!!!...It's one hellishly tough grained wood and tends not to split at all because of the cellular structure (forgot the name for that of wood cell...Brian T...HELP!!!???)

What (I think?) I see in your photos is a "felling stress crack," or the tree experienced some kind of reaction trauma while growing. This will (almost always) manifest itself in the finished lumber. Its part of its character and there are a number of ways to deal with it...including any of the methods and understanding regarding:

Kintsugi 金継ぎ and Wabi-sabi 侘寂

Which speaks to both modality and philosophy of repairing blemishes in any craft work from woodworking to tailoring...

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Originally Posted by jhparker2681 View Post
... I have been using a hand planer and belt sander to slowly try and work it down to a level surface by eye. ( I know these aren't ideal tools but it's all I currently have) Although it has improved noticeably, it's incredibly slow work. I don't have the space or funds to invest in any large equipment and am hoping that somebody might be able to provide some hints or an alternative method to achieve a smooth, level surface. ...
I would say those tools are more than "ideal" and it all depends on how you wish to work. I have worked entire cookies up with only saws, chisels (aka "slicks") and hand planes...Your approach is just fine if it is working for you. Elm is one of the most challenging species to work down anyway (power or hand) because of that grain structure...

You need not invest in anything else if you don't wish to or can't afford to at this time...

I'm not clear if you are using a "power hand plane" or an actual "hand plane?" If a hand plane...what kind and how is the blade shaped and how are you sharpening it?

Once I know specifically what your tooling is, I can help more (I think?)

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Originally Posted by jhparker2681 View Post
... Up to this point most of the work I have done has been to one side but I have included several pictures of both sides to try and illustrate the issue I've encountered. Thanks for any help.
...
The wood looks really dry...??? It may help to soak it in some wax and oil to help soften the grain for easier planing and working...More on this later.

Read the links and share more questions when you have them...By the way...why do you think this is an "English Elm" and not Asian or American Elm species?

Regards,

j
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post #6 of 14 Old 02-04-2019, 11:39 PM
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The cookie doesn't look too bad. You might fill the cracks with wood putty and sand it level with 36 grit sanding belts. Just keep in mind that belts that coarse make a lot of deep scratches in the wood so when you get close to having it level start using finer and finer belts until you get to at least 80 grit. From time to time drag a straight edge over the surface to see where the high places that need sanding. From there finish sanding with a random orbital sander. When you get closer to a finished sanding it helps to dampen the wood with water and raise the grain. This makes the sanding more effective.
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post #7 of 14 Old 02-05-2019, 12:05 AM
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OP wrote “hand planer”. I suspect the OP may have a power hand planer, not a hand plane. If so, does this alter the advise given?


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post #8 of 14 Old 02-05-2019, 12:11 AM
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Quote:
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OP wrote “hand planer”. I suspect the OP may have a power hand planer, not a hand plane. If so, does this alter the advise given?
Hi WesTex,

If you mean from me...No, not really, but there are some details to get into when I learn more of his goals, and skill sets...

Hope that was helpful?

j
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post #9 of 14 Old 02-05-2019, 09:21 AM
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It's hard to tell from the pictures how bad the warp is.

To be honest, sandpaper wrapped around a piece of scrap wood is really all you need to get it smooth. It will take some elbow grease and some time but if you endeavor to persevere the job won't take as long as you think.

As for the crack, that's a design element. Fill it with epoxy or something like that.

What's your plan for the legs?
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post #10 of 14 Old 02-05-2019, 10:41 AM Thread Starter
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Wow, thank you for all of the responses everyone. I didn't imagine I'd get so much helpful feedback so quickly. To clarify, both my sander and planer are corded power tools (which have been fun to use in my garage with no outlets and one extension cord with limited reach). Firstly, thanks Echo, I looked into the router w/ sled and it seems like a great method for this.Tim and Jay, thank you for the encouragement and the many resources you've shared. I haven't gotten a chance to look through the links yet but I surely will today! It's good to hear that the cracks may not have been a result of me neglecting to care for it but a reaction to felling, it is a slice from the top of a stump that had been left afterall. For now, I think I will continue the planing and sanding method I've been utilizing until I am able to come up with some type of router and sled setup. (Any suggestions on purchasing a reasonably priced one or somehow making a sled once getting a router would be great!) I thought oil and wax was for finishing and didn't realize it was helpful in these early steps. What should I use? I apologize if any of my questions are answered in the links provided. Currently I believe I have 50, 80, and maybe 120 grain belts for my sander. I have been using the lower two so far and, as you might see in the pictures, the wood shows signs of the planer that I've had some difficulty removing. Perhaps I just need to keep working those areas with a lower grain? Again, thank you everyone for all the help! Jay, I think this is English Elm because I acquired it from a woodlot that is being managed to restore native species. If what I've been told and researched is correct, a great deal of English Elm had been brought over as nursery stock sometime around 1890-1900 and this was from one of the remnant trees.

James
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post #11 of 14 Old 02-05-2019, 10:49 AM Thread Starter
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As for the legs, I planned to use black iron pipe. Here's a drawing of what i plan to do. Still need to figure out the lengths of pipe I want to use to make sure the design provides a stable base.
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post #12 of 14 Old 02-05-2019, 11:04 AM
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As for the legs, I planned to use black iron pipe. Here's a drawing of what i plan to do. Still need to figure out the lengths of pipe I want to use to make sure the design provides a stable base.
The design you have should be plenty stable. The only thing I would suggest is the floor flanges where they would fasten to the top you drill the mounting holes out larger and mount the wood with pan head screws with washers. This would allow for wood movement. If you just tighten the screws barely snug it should allow for the top to move without causing any cracking.
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post #13 of 14 Old 02-05-2019, 08:48 PM
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...I didn't imagine I'd get so much helpful feedback so quickly...
LMAO...Be careful James...!!!...When you get a bunch of "old duffers" that also love wood and can't get enough of it...you will typically get more information than you need...Especially from me...LOL!!!

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...To clarify, both my sander and planer are corded power tools (which have been fun to use in my garage with no outlets and one extension cord with limited reach)....
Those will get the job done for sure...

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...Tim and Jay, thank you for the encouragement and the many resources you've shared. I haven't gotten a chance to look through the links yet but I surely will today!...
Take your time...develop good questions and I promise we will be here short of Divine intervention...!

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...It's good to hear that the cracks may not have been a result of me neglecting to care for it but a reaction to felling, it is a slice from the top of a stump that had been left after all.....
Then my suspicions had been correct...

Many trees will develop "grain pull" and "felling stress" near the butt log/bolt very often if the Logger hasn't been diligent in there procedures to fell the tree properly. In your case it sounds like an Arborist that just needed to get rid of an invasive tree and really didn't care too much

About the only thing you could have done better (?) is either put the cookie in a pond, river or some other body of water to store it till ready to work with it...or...Slathered it in wax on both sides...

Cookies (most wood actually) do better "relaxed" than...just dried out!!!

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... For now, I think I will continue the planing and sanding method I've been utilizing until I am able to come up with some type of router and sled setup. (Any suggestions on purchasing a reasonably priced one or somehow making a sled once getting a router would be great!)...
The linked posts I shared do discuss "type of router and sled setup" but you are, of course, welcome to ask your own specific questions when ready...

Tools are very personal to the operator/owner. Go try some out, and see what you like. For "hand" power tools, I like Mafell, Festool, Bosch and Makita as my "go to" tools, but each person has there own preferences. My own routers are:

Festool OF 2200 EB Router Note: This router is often called a "portable shaper!!!"...This is the one used for "flattening" giant slabs when the need arises...IF...its not done (just like your doing it) with one of the large hand held giant power planners one of which is 400 mm wide (needs replacement), but our daily "go to" is 300 mm wide, 175mm and 100 mm. All are used in succession depending on the wood species, grain and other factors...All work is finished with hand tools ...

Festool 1400 EQ Router

Bosch 1613AEVS Plunge Router

Bosch Colt Palm Grip

For "flattening work" the biggest router you can afford is the typical advise, as this will do the easiest job of the work...however, a small router can too!

I would also offer that many just like using a power planner (the way you are doing it!) and their "eye to hand" coordination to do this work (I know I do!) I...might...set up a sled to do the last bit of work...maybe?

I seldom bother with the bottom of a cookie for much of anything beyond putting a sealing finish on it. You will note that most traditional furniture pieces don't deal much with what "isn't seen," as its a wast of time and effort to do so. My joinery (aka traditional joinery) will address any aspects that are out of level with the rest of the corresponding geometry...More on that later...If you wish???

Quote:
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...I thought oil and wax was for finishing and didn't realize it was helpful in these early steps. What should I use? I apologize if any of my questions are answered in the links provided...
It is in the other posts...If you can't find it...Let me know?

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...Currently I believe I have 50, 80, and maybe 120 grain belts for my sander. I have been using the lower two so far and, as you might see in the pictures, the wood shows signs of the planer that I've had some difficulty removing. ...
If you are not done with the planer (?) since its not flat enough yet...don't bother using the sander at all...That comes later.

Once you are satisfied with the cookie being as flat as you want it to be...work down through your different sanding grits...or...!!!...get a good block, smoothing and scraper plan and do the best work with that...much better than sanding...

If I sand something (which I do for some things) I go as fare as 320 grit and sometime into the 1000 ranges. It all depends on the species and the project design and goal for surface texture...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jhparker2681 View Post
... Jay, I think this is English Elm because I acquired it from a woodlot that is being managed to restore native species. If what I've been told and researched is correct, a great deal of English Elm had been brought over as nursery stock sometime around 1890-1900 and this was from one of the remnant trees...
Perfect answer...thanks for being a "geek" for me...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jhparker2681 View Post
As for the legs, I planned to use black iron pipe. Here's a drawing of what i plan to do. Still need to figure out the lengths of pipe I want to use to make sure the design provides a stable base.

Personally, I'm not into the modern "Industrial design" look in furniture or what some call "Brutalistic Furniture Design," as I tend to specialize in vernacular folk styles.

However, when well done, the Industrial and Brutalist design motif can not only be effective it can be stunning!!! I actually like your current intended approach, and have seen similar done with very good outcomes. Your sketch suggest you have an Art background (?) or your just talented that way...Very nice sketch.

When you are done getting the sketch balanced to the actual piece of wood and where you think it should go aesthetically for you...we can then look at the practical design and function aspects together and review the possible mounting modalities that will work best for it?

Till later, enjoy the reading and the process of working on this!!!

Regards,

j

Last edited by 35015; 02-05-2019 at 08:51 PM.
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post #14 of 14 Old 02-06-2019, 01:44 AM
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I'm not into the above design for my own home, but encourage others to find what pleases them. If you're happy with your own design choices, then I'm happy for you.

One thing that I like about the design above is that it would be easy to change bases in the future. There is no law preventing you from creating a new base whenever you get tired of the current one. I see the cookie as the "diamond", and the base as the "setting" that may be easily changed to create a long-running series of unique pieces. Something like that.
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