Help with a table top and cabinetmaker - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 05:36 AM Thread Starter
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Help with a table top and cabinetmaker

Hi all, I am not sure if I put this in the right place, but here I go.

I wanted a table to house a 20 gallon palladium. I settled for a coffee table as it was at the height I wanted, but couldn't find one in the right length. Long story short, I hired a cabinetmaker to build a basic table top that would be 33" x 52". I don't have a lot of money to allocate to this project, so I just ordered a table top and use the apron and legs I already had.

He made it out of three 2 x 11 douglas fir boards from a lumbar yard and doweled and glued them together. Now I told him I would be finishing it myself, with stain and a poly coat, so he would just have to give it a rough sanding and that I had a sander and could do the finer stuff.

He emailed me and said the wood he had bought had warped, so he got some more. The end product I received, the middle board has a crack that goes right through the top and bottom going nearly 3/4's of the length of the board. The crack juts out about an 1/8" in the middle. Neither of the boards on the sides are flat, and one sticks out about 1/4".

When he delivered it to me, me I didn't have a chance to look at it as I was on my way out. But looked it over when I got home that evening and discovered the flaws.

I told him that two of the cleats would be sitting in the middle of the crack in the middle board and fear that they will cause the board to break and that I think I would have to scrub (?)plane everything down just so it will sit level, which was more work that I had planned on doing.

He said he explained that lumbar yard wood is unpredictable and that I should have expected the cracks and warping as it is natural when using lumbar yard wood. (i am not a carpenter, I don't know anything about this, which is why I hired him.) He told me to try and sand everything down and attach it to the apron, regardless, and if it doesn't work, he will refund everything and eat the costs. He was upset that I suggested the planing because he assumed I would have been willing to do that myself, since I didn't tell him to do it when he was building the table. I figured planing wood was a normal part of building tables.

I browsed several forums and tried to find pages that would show me how to repair this, but from what I am gathering, it's not going to work. The screws will rip out from the table top under pressure and I don't have the money to invest in a hand plane. I told him it really isn't going to work, but again, he demanded that I still put in the effort to screw it down and plane/sand it all up and then take pictures to prove it didn't work. He won't give me a refund otherwise.

I have uploaded two pics that show part of the issue.

So, my question for you all is can this thing be salvaged and repaired? Or should I be demanding my money back? I am not a very diplomatic person and tend to solve my problems in ways that are typically frowned upon. So if I should get a refund, how would be the best way to word it?

Thanks for reading..
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post #2 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 07:16 AM
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The guy doesn't know what he's doing, plain and simple. Lumber company wood is made to frame a house with, not build furniture. It's not dried quite as well so it's a gamble to build furniture with. Then to increase the gamble making it out of 2x12's is asking for it. It would have been better to use 2x4's so there is more boards in the top. The wider the board is the more prone it is to warp. I'm not sure what you mean by the crack. If the board was cracked when he bought it and used it that was definitely wrong. What I'm seeing in the picture though is the joint being cracked. He just glued the boards together like they came from the lumber company instead of machining the edges of the wood in the joint. Once glued it should have looked pretty much like a single piece of wood.

The top could be salvaged but it would have to be cut apart and into more narrow pieces, have the edges jointed and then glued back together.
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post #3 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 07:55 AM
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You do not say why it was that he made the top from the standard lumber yard wood. Did you and him have a conversation about this ahead of time? Was that wood used because of the price you were willing to pay?

From what you have written I get the impression that this top was built out of low quality wood because of the cost of the project.

George
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post #4 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 08:06 AM
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I'm with Steve ...

Wood warps if not cut properly OR dried properly. Here's what happens depending on where in the log it is cut:


Now what? A properly glued joint does not need any dowels to hold it together. A straight and square edge on both mating surfaces and a even coating of glue is all you need, but requires a jointer with long beds or a straight line jig on the tablesaw. A cabinet maker should have both. Aligning the planks is the next step before clamping and clamps should be both on the top and bottom to avoid twisting or shifting. To keep them level "cauls" can be used if necessary.

Construction lumber like 2 X's can be used if properly selected for grain direction AND if needed ripped, into more narrow pieces, then glued. Experience would tell you what to do in order to get a level surface. He obviously had no experience. :frown2:

What should you do now? Get your money back, as the end result is NOT satisfactory. Cracks, offset joints are NOT the mark of a skilled cabinetmaker or any decent woodworker for that matter.
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The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #5 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 12:28 PM
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Agreed. And last I checked, a table top is supposed to be flat. If it's not flat before you mount it to the apron/legs, it won't be flat and structurally sound afterwords. What you have there is a hack job done by someone who is NOT a cabinetmaker (just because you say you are does not make it so) that basically just stole your money. If that's how he makes something as simple as a laminated table top, I'd hate to see his cabinetry. What a joke!
Get your money back immediately.
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post #6 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 02:11 PM Thread Starter
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Good morning all, thank you for replying. Here is a bit more clarification. I have ptsd and so my memory is a bit haywire. I have all the emails between us and here is a better picture of what went down.

When we were first discussing this, I explained that I wanted an inexpensive table for the length I required which at the time was 25" x 52" and that it did not need anything elaborate since it was mainly just to be used as something to hold up a fish tank, plants and a light fixture. The bonus for me would be that I could stain it myself and have a little fun with that. So I said just give it a rough sanding and I will do the finishing sanding as I had a sander for it. I did not need anything fancy, I just needed it to function. I said I did not care what species of wood he used, just go with the least expensive one. He decided to use lumbar yard wood, without telling me at the time that using this wood would cause problems with cracking, warping, etc and was not used in furniture production. He said he typically used 2 x 11 boards and that my original requested dimensions would have required more work on his part because he would have had to rip the boards down and would have produced more waste, which were things I was trying to prevent. So I agreed to increase the width to 33" and length to 60" to accommodate three 2 x 11s. He agreed to do this work for $160, plus $50 for delivery and $15 for pst.

In a follow up email, I asked him how he was planning on putting the boards together, if he was going to use like some kind of finger joint, or whatever they are called and he replied that he was just going to dowel, glue and clamp the boards together.

He followed this up with an email saying he put the table together and that it needed 24 hours to dry and that he also had to buy new boards because the first ones had warped on him before he had a chance to work with them.

It wasn't until after I received it and saw the flaws, that he told me lumbar yard wood will do that. Had he told me about this potential problem, I would not have agreed to the build. And that since I agreed to sand it down, I guess he assumed I would plane it down as well?

Here is a picture of part of the major crack. I can't get a decent picture of the entire crack as it won't show up. This is right in the middle of the middle board, which is the worst part. And you can see where the joint protrudes up 1/4". The rest of the crack is really fine and almost looks like the wood grain, itself.

I honestly think if I try to screw this top down to the apron, the screws will just rip out and I am not sure how well planing the boards will turn out, whether or not it will thin the board too much and cause weak spots.

I suppose I should have done my research better in regards to joints used and lumbar for a project. I went with the faith in that he looked like he knew what he was doing and wouldn't have used lumbar that wouldn't have held up.

Again, thanks for reading my wall of text.

Cheers
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post #7 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 03:02 PM
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Yeah, that guy was a hack, pure and simple. It's not the fault of the materials, I personally have made a lot of furniture from construction grade 2 by stock, as have a lot of other people, and its more than doable if you know what you're doing. Looking at the pictures you've posted, this guy didn't have a clue.

First off, using lumber straight from the yard is a bad idea, most construction grade stuff is wetter than you'd want it to be for furniture, so it needs to hang out and dry a bit. Skipping this generally results in warping. Second off, by the look of it there were no surfacing operations done to the wood, it wasn't run through a jointer or planer to get a good surface, which really has to be done to get a decent result.

I'd demand a refund without any further questions asked. That guy had no clue how to glue up a table top, pure and simple, and $150 is way too much for that anyway. A top like that glued up from 3 boards would take me, in my basement home shop, less than an hour's worth of work, and Im pretty far from a professional.
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post #8 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 03:07 PM
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I think that the major problem here is a lack of communication/understanding between the two parties concerning "lumber yard" quality wood. I think that you both probably assumed more than you should have.

In my opinion this lack of communication does not entitle you to a total refund. I think that a good compromise would be for you to furnish a suitable quality wood and for him to furnish the labor.

You used a lot more words than necessary in both of your posts. Excess verbiage often leads to misunderstandings. Keep your conversation direct and succinct.

George
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post #9 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post
I think that the major problem here is a lack of communication/understanding between the two parties concerning "lumber yard" quality wood. I think that you both probably assumed more than you should have. In my opinion this lack of communication does not entitle you to a total refund. I think that a good compromise would be for you to furnish a suitable quality wood and for him to furnish the labor. You used a lot more words than necessary in both of your posts. Excess verbiage often leads to misunderstandings. Keep your conversation direct and succinct. George
You have got to be kidding me. How could you possibly defend work of that caliber, misunderstanding or not?? That is just plain nonsense and I don't mind saying so.

And too many words? Excess verbiage? That's kind of ignorant if you ask me. I thought he explained the situation thoroughly and clearly.
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post #10 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 04:09 PM Thread Starter
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I am going to have to disagree with you there, George. I don't think the onus is on me to have a 100% understanding of woodworking when hiring someone to build a table top, after being given the assumption he knows what he is doing. This is a business he runs. If I brought a car into a mechanic's shop and he billed me for topping up the headlight fluid, would I really be at fault for not knowing that headlight fluid is not a thing and that I shouldn't expect a refund for it?

I was considering giving him a break over the second batch of wood he had bought, but if he already knew that the wood would eventually give me grief, why did he choose it?
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post #11 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 04:10 PM Thread Starter
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You have got to be kidding me. How could you possibly defend work of that caliber, misunderstanding or not?? That is just plain nonsense and I don't mind saying so.

And too many words? Excess verbiage? That's kind of ignorant if you ask me. I thought he explained the situation thoroughly and clearly.
Thanks, man.

I'm a she, btw
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post #12 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 05:14 PM
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I think what we need to show is the process of joining wood for a table top should have been. It helps if the wood is uniform thickness but I just grabbed a couple pieces of scrap wood.

The first picture is the wood as it comes from the lumber company. It's not completely straight and the wood has rounded over corners so folks don't get as many splinters using it. Joining wood straight from the lumber company is what was done.

From there the second picture shows what a jointer does for it. It straightens the wood and trims enough on the edges to remove the rounded over corners. I stopped half way through the cut to show the cut. By running the board all the way through it squares and straightens the wood.

The third picture shows the two pieces milled and ready to be glued. Another note, when the pieces of wood are glued together it's good idea to wash the excess glue off that oozes out. The glue seals the wood and takes a lot of work to sand off once dried.
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post #13 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 05:45 PM
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I think the cabinetmaker didn't know what they were doing and as such shouldn't be called a cabinetmaker. I would return all wood and demand a refund. You can't just use wood straight from the lumber yard without prep work(planing and jointing and checking moisture content).
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post #14 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 06:11 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone!

I just fired off an email once more to the cabinetmaker, heavily loaded with pictures. He has relented and will be giving me a refund, but won't take the wood back. I think I will just paint a target on it and use it for my throwing knives. :D

I wish one of you lot were in my area, Vancouver BC, and could have done this project for me. My original idea was to buy an island counter top from Ikea and cut it to length with a circular saw. But i had to give up on that because I live in an apartment building, and don't have any room to work. So using a circular saw in my living room would probably piss off my neighbours and scare the hell out of my dog.

If anyone knows anyone in Vancouver that does cabinetry, please feel free to PM me and I'll give them a holler.

Thanks again, everyone!
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post #15 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 06:13 PM Thread Starter
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I think what we need to show is the process of joining wood for a table top should have been. It helps if the wood is uniform thickness but I just grabbed a couple pieces of scrap wood.

The first picture is the wood as it comes from the lumber company. It's not completely straight and the wood has rounded over corners so folks don't get as many splinters using it. Joining wood straight from the lumber company is what was done.

From there the second picture shows what a jointer does for it. It straightens the wood and trims enough on the edges to remove the rounded over corners. I stopped half way through the cut to show the cut. By running the board all the way through it squares and straightens the wood.

The third picture shows the two pieces milled and ready to be glued. Another note, when the pieces of wood are glued together it's good idea to wash the excess glue off that oozes out. The glue seals the wood and takes a lot of work to sand off once dried.
Dude, you rock! Thanks for going out of your way to do this. I really appreciate it :)
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post #16 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 06:27 PM
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Thanks everyone!

I just fired off an email once more to the cabinetmaker, heavily loaded with pictures. He has relented and will be giving me a refund, but won't take the wood back. I think I will just paint a target on it and use it for my throwing knives. :D

I wish one of you lot were in my area, Vancouver BC, and could have done this project for me. My original idea was to buy an island counter top from Ikea and cut it to length with a circular saw. But i had to give up on that because I live in an apartment building, and don't have any room to work. So using a circular saw in my living room would probably piss off my neighbours and scare the hell out of my dog.

If anyone knows anyone in Vancouver that does cabinetry, please feel free to PM me and I'll give them a holler.

Thanks again, everyone!
Good to hear you got the refund, you shouldntve been expected to pay for that, ermm, 'quality' of work in the first place. Never ceases to amaze me what people will try to pass off as a well-made product...

Anyway, checking it out it looks like there's a few techshop type places in Vancouver, like this one:
http://www.makerlabs.com

A place like that is pretty much a rentable workshop, and I've got no experience with them but looking at the website they seem pretty well equipped. It may not be a bad idea to take the woodshop class, then use their tools to build your table. Price wise would probably be about even, plus you get the experience. Building it yourself is always more fun, plus a table top is one of the easies things you can make at first, it's near impossible to screw up
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post #17 of 51 Old 07-09-2016, 07:11 PM
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Thanks, man. I'm a she, btw
Lol. The handle Grunttruck threw me off haha
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post #18 of 51 Old 07-10-2016, 01:24 AM Thread Starter
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Good to hear you got the refund, you shouldntve been expected to pay for that, ermm, 'quality' of work in the first place. Never ceases to amaze me what people will try to pass off as a well-made product...

Anyway, checking it out it looks like there's a few techshop type places in Vancouver, like this one:
http://www.makerlabs.com

A place like that is pretty much a rentable workshop, and I've got no experience with them but looking at the website they seem pretty well equipped. It may not be a bad idea to take the woodshop class, then use their tools to build your table. Price wise would probably be about even, plus you get the experience. Building it yourself is always more fun, plus a table top is one of the easies things you can make at first, it's near impossible to screw up
Huh, interesting. I knew there was a place like that in Hamilton, Ont. but not here. Thanks for the heads up! It never dawned on me to look for one here, lol.

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Lol. The handle Grunttruck threw me off haha
Lol, it's all good. It's the name of an alt band from the 90's.
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post #19 of 51 Old 07-10-2016, 08:35 PM
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Glad it worked out..I think the name you have just doesnt feel right to me..Can I call you a more girl name.
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post #20 of 51 Old 07-11-2016, 01:29 AM
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Glad it worked out..I think the name you have just doesnt feel right to me..Can I call you a more girl name.
How is guntruck not a girl name? Girls can't like guns and trucks? Firearms and automobiles are like woodworking, none of those hobbies give a crap what's in your pants and they all appeal to everybody.
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