Hi All (again)
Just wanted to thank everyone for the input.
I came up with a few complicated reasons why this might work, but I think there may be a fairly simple reason why it won't (even with the hole in the center :-( ). I'll post in a couple of days for closure once I've had a little more time to think it over. Guess it's back to the drawing board...
Regarding the veneer option, I understand this is the reasonable (sane) approach for this type of project, and it can yield some spectacular results... but I'm having trouble giving up the solid wood construction. If I can come up with a redesign that I think will work I'll post it up as well.
All the best, and thanks again!