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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Dear All-I had a local shop make us a very large dining table from some nice cherry wood as my wood shop is not currently equipped with everything necessary to do this. This shop makes fairly "rustic" tables but does good work and I know they were giving significant attention to our table. When they delivered it, they were surprised as were we that there were some "dents" in the top. Admittedly, we have the brightest light you can have coming through our waterfront windows which show every dent, scratch, and piece of dust on wood. They said they didn't see them in their shop. They are very eager to fix the problem, but I want to identify why they occurred prior to trying to fix them.

I have attached some pictures that should show you a little about what I am talking about. If you run your hand across the table, they are not subtle. They are almost mini-craters in the table. Of note, they do all their sanding by hand....no large sanders. They plane the boards, join them with biscuits and glue, then hand sand. Also, they usually make tables out of pine so working with cherry is not their norm.

I was wondering if this is just poor sanding. But, at the same time, I'm not sure how you could create dents like this without a lot of effort!

Is there a problem with my wood? Does cherry have weak spots that cause this? The wood came from a very high quality place in PA that supplies high grade furniture quality wood. Some of the dents do cross seams so it isn't just an issue with specific boards.

Is this due to some kind of shrinkage? It is often located near places they put a very small amount of filler which leads me to believe they sanded it too much. But, could the filler have caused local contracture of the wood?

I would appreciate your thoughts. Also, any suggestions on how to fix it are appreciated. Is this simply something we can sand out with enough work or do we need a large sander or planer I can run across the entire top to fix the problem? Fortunately we still have 1&3/4" of stock on the top so have some wood to work with.

Any help is appreciated!
 

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Guessing the top is made of solid wood it looks like the top was sanded with a hand held belt sander. Even someone very experienced with a belt sander can make marks on a table but not quite that bad. It would have been better if the top was sanded with a wide belt sander but if it is a small shop the sander may just be too expensive for them. The alternative would have been to thoroughly sand the top with a orbital sander after belt sanding. At this point that is the only fix. The finish would have to be stripped with a chemical remover and sanded again before finishing.

If the top is veneered you need a new table.
 

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agreed, it was gouged by oversanding an area with a mechanical sander. even an ros will do that if held at an angle. they were trying to remove imperfections.

wide belt sander; or rip, re-plane, rejoin, re-sand, refinish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Steve-Thank you for your input. Yes, they do use a belt sander and then fine finish with an orbital. I suspect most of the top was done with the belt and only the edges where they rounded them with a fine sander. There are some "waves" in the table as well which I am certain came from the belt sander but the craters are what really bother me and need to be fixed. So you think the belt sander created the craters as well? I guess they can chew out a lot of wood quickly with uneven pressure.

The top is 100% solid wood. Out of curiosity, why do you have to strip the finish first before resanding? Can't you just sand through the finish? (just for my own enlightenment)

They do not have a large sander to feed this through, as you suspected. There is an outstanding cabinet shop nearby that I know well that has one and if you think that is what should be done, I can approach them about running the top through their sander.

Is this something that CAN be done with careful attention and an orbital sander? I have a nice Festool rotex sander I can take over and use with them, but I admit I don't have extensive experience. However, as we both agree, these are not subtle and I think anyone can do better with careful attention.

Any specifics anyone can offer on how to fix this problem are appreciated--although I lack extensive experience I have pretty good insight and attention to detail so I plan to go over and do part of the resanding with them so I would like to know recommendations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
So, I guess the big question at this point is where I can fix this with my Festool Rotex or whether we are better off to start from scratch and rip the table, replane, and rejoin things together.

As long as we keep the belt sander away from the table can a orbital fix this? I worry that some of the craters are so deep and the table is so large that it is going to take an extraordinary amount of time and effort to sand it down to the level of the deepest crater.

I appreciate any thoughts!
 

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"I worry that some of the craters are so deep and the table is so large that it is going to take an extraordinary amount of time and effort to sand it down to the level of the deepest crater."

I think your assessment is spot on. Unfortunately, it's not the craters you need to sand..... you need to sand the entire table down to the level of the deepest crater. If you can get the guy with the wide belt sander to level it, that would be the ticket.

I think the reasoning behind stripping the entire table top before sanding is that the finish will tend to badly clog sandpaper. If you leave finish on the underside and they sand the top, I'd guess there's a possibility it could bow as it absorbs or releases moisture unevenly.
 

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The whole top needs to be ran thru a wide belt sander to get a uniform thickness.If you decide to have the builder fix it stay home and out of their way.I owned a custom furniture and cabinet shop for 12 years and would not allow a customer to work in my shop nor would my insurance company.
 

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It looks to me like those depressions are the "telegrphing" of the biscuits. Are the all on or near a glue line?

What happens is that the waterbased adhesive they probably used cause the biscuits to swell. If the surface was sanded or planed before the biscuits had fully dried and cured the raised are was leveled. When the biscuits finally dried and cured, the biscuits shrunk in thickness pulling the surface above them down.

It's a problem associated with biscuits and most woodworkers who use biscuits are aware of the problem. It's associated with wood 3/4" thick generally. When using biscuits, I allow at least 5-7 days before I surface a 3/4" or less thick panel. By this time the adhesive on the biscuits and the area around them has fully dried and is no longer raised.

If the biscuit are not placed exactly in the center of the edge, "telegraphing" is more likely.

Unfortunately, I know of no way to recover.
 

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The whole top needs to be ran thru a wide belt sander to get a uniform thickness.If you decide to have the builder fix it stay home and out of their way.I owned a custom furniture and cabinet shop for 12 years and would not allow a customer to work in my shop nor would my insurance company.
+1. :yes: A wide enough drum sander would also work, or a stroke sander. Hard to believe the top left their shop, and they didn't see the condition.




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I think there were some imperfections in the boards, (tear-out, saw marks not planed out, etc.) and they sanded them out by hand.

Get them to remove the top and flatten it, fastest way is as suggested above using an industrial wide belt sander. There are other more time intensive alternatives also, but that should be their choice. Should not cost much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, my cabinet making friend has a drum sander that only goes to 42"....my table is 48". So, whatever needs to be done must be done by hand. I'm thinking we are going to have to knock it down with a belt sander to the level of the lowest crater. Even if we rip it, replane, and rejoin, you still are going to have to hit the glue lines with a belt sander.

The craters are not exclusively on seams. As a matter of fact, most of them are not. So, while the biscuits are a good thought, I don't think that is the issue.

As for staying out of the way, I understand where you are coming from. With that being said, both of these shops are personal friends and I've been in them many times--I know professionals hate amateurs coming to "help" but I can assure you with these guys I'm in tune to their thoughts and they are very eager and willing to come have me help. Again, I understand the general principle behind your thoughts and in general, do agree.
 

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Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, my cabinet making friend has a drum sander that only goes to 42"....my table is 48". So, whatever needs to be done must be done by hand. I'm thinking we are going to have to knock it down with a belt sander to the level of the lowest crater. Even if we rip it, replane, and rejoin, you still are going to have to hit the glue lines with a belt sander.
You'll only need to rip it once if his drum sander is 42". That leaves only 1 line to deal with; shouldn't be a problem.
 

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Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, my cabinet making friend has a drum sander that only goes to 42"....my table is 48". So, whatever needs to be done must be done by hand. I'm thinking we are going to have to knock it down with a belt sander to the level of the lowest crater. Even if we rip it, replane, and rejoin, you still are going to have to hit the glue lines with a belt sander.
With the lighting in that room, a hand belt sander will always show some imperfections. Besides the bigger dents, the uneven areas are noticeable in your picture.

Find a big cabinet shop within a 100 miles with a big wide belt sander and take the top there.

I do not see the need to rip the top apart again??

Personally, I do my tops with hand planes, on that size it would take 4+ hours and good hand plane skills.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Those are not bad thoughts. I can try to find a big cabinet shop that can accommodate my 48" top.

I had thought about ripping it just once and running it through the big drum sander. You will have one glue line to contend with--can that be done with an orbital sander?

Is there any chance that someone with experience with a belt sander could make it look good? I know a lot of folks do not like belt sanders because they are hard to use effectively. Just wondering if, especially given the light in the room, there is any chance of success using a belt sander with anyone running it.
 

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I don't see that the table is so hard to fix. It may be time consuming but doable. Once the finish is stripped off the wood can be sanded starting with probably 60 grit paper with an random orbital sander and progressively work your way to finer grits until you sand it with 180 grit or finer.

The problem with a hand held belt sander is the base of it is usually only 3 to 4 inches wide and about 8" long. In order not to make marks like that you have to keep the sander perfectly flat on the wood and move around a lot. With the sander running it's real easy to tip it onto one corner or another and not really notice it making dents. Then if the wood isn't thoroughly sanded afterwards with an orbital sander the spots are invisable until you have a few coats of finish on. Then if the sander has a defect in it where the metal shoe has a dent in it or has some debris under it then it is especially prone to make dents in the wood. Either way the bottom line is there was not enough sanding done with orbital sander. When you make a table top like that using a hand held belt sander you automatically assume there are dents there. I have a small shop too and can't afford a wide belt sander so I bought a stroke sander to prevent this problem.
 

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I actually think that they do not look all that bad. They give the table some 'life' and character.
 

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Cherry Table

I'm with cabinetman on this one; just can't believe it left their shop looking like this, those are totally unacceptable. You should be able to find a shop with a big wide-belt sander to take care of it, and you should not have to be responsible for getting it taken care of.

Bandman
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks again...the light in the room admittedly brings out the worst in the finish job. To be honest though, some of the craters are pretty severe....there are a few a drink wouldn't sit level on!

As for the underside, it actually looks better! They made the top the "top" because it was nicer (before we "finished" it). So, the nicer wood side is on top, plus, we already put screws into the bottom to clip it to the frame. Those holes I fear wouldn't look good filled since they are evenly spaced.

Steve-Would you do the whole job from this point forward with an orbital? I would think that you would need to knock the entire table down to the valley of the crater level and then use an orbital to get rid of the belt sander imperfections.

What is this "stroke sander" you speak of? I admit I enjoy an excuse to buy tools and often have no problem spending money on tools.
 
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