More than a Table…{Eighteen}

I know, I know, I haven’t posted in forever.  In fact, the last post was from Allyse, and even that was back in late July.  I’ve been working on so much stuff around the house, and blogging about it wasn’t really high on my list.  Well, that ends today (happy, Mike?).  I just finished a project that I’m really proud of, so here’s the story of how I built us a new table for our dining room:

First, some a little background.  At our previous two apartments, we didn’t have a a “formal” dining room, and the table and chairs we had was pretty small so it could fit in a small place.  At our new house, we have a decent sized room (about 12′ square) and our table simply looked out of place.  As we began our search for a new dining set, we quickly discovered how expensive dining room tables are.  With that in mind, I decided that I’d build us a new table, but with limited tools and experience I needed something that wouldn’t be overly difficult to build.  We wanted something modern that would seat six to eight people, so I decided on making a wooden top with simple metal legs.  Here’s what I ended up with:

The finished table!

The finished table!

Now back to the beginning: I started by picking the wood.  I wanted a hardwood top, so I decided on American Maple.  Menards happened to be running a sale on hardwood planks, so I stocked up with 1×6 boards to build the top.  I chose maple because the grain is so beautiful – even unfinished – and the hardwood should stand up to the abuse that a dining table will have to take.

Laying out the boards at the store. Each was individually wrapped in plastic…weird.

Once home, I realized the scope of the project I was getting myself into.  I don’t have long bar clamps at home, so edge gluing the boards was going to be a task in itself.  I bought a Kreg jig for drilling pocket holes on the underside, so at least I would be able to use the screws to help attach them together.  Through the whole process, I think gluing them so the boards were flush was the hardest part.  They were a little uneven, but hey, it’s a handmade table…it’s got “character”.

Gluing up the edges proved to be harder (and much messier) than I expected.

Gluing up the edges proved to be harder (and much messier) than I expected.

After several days of gluing and clamping and drying, it was time to start sanding.  I sanded this table for what seemed like years.  Part of the problem was that the boards were a little uneven, so I wanted to be sure to knock those down a little bit, so it was at least a little bit smooth.   All I had was a little 5″ random orbital sander meant that it was going to take some time to sand down the whole table.

After sanding for 2 weeks, things were finally starting to come together.  That grain!

After sanding for 2 weeks, things were finally starting to come together. That grain!

Since I was using 6′ long boards (and they weren’t all exactly 6′), I had to do some trimming to finalize things.  I only shaved about a half inch off each side, so it’s still about 6′ long, and I used 7 – 6″ wide boards so the overall size is about 71″ x 42″.  Not too bad, and things are really starting to take shape at this point!

Starting to look like a table, maybe I could keep it on sawhorses next time?

Starting to look like a table, maybe I could keep it on sawhorses next time?

A little more sanding, and then it was time to build a frame for the bottom of the table.  It’s 1″ thick (actually 3/4″) maple, but I wanted to make sure this thing was rock solid so I built up an edge around the underside with 1×2 maple, and then built up the rest of the frame with select maple boards.

This is how the maple "frame" is built up along the edges of the underside.  It wasn't perfect, but I'm cutting all this wood by hand, so it looks worse than it is.  Also, you can see one of the pocket holes I used to screw the edges of the boards together on the bottom side.

This is how the maple “frame” is built up along the edges of the underside. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m cutting all this wood by hand, so it looks worse than it is. Also, you can see one of the pocket holes I used to screw the edges of the boards together on the bottom side.

After sanding the edges (and man, am I getting sick of sanding at this point):

Since the maple I was using varies from board to board, there's a little difference in color and grain, but I like how it looks that way.  Game 6 in the background...go Sox! (sorry Mom...)

Since the maple I was using varies from board to board, there’s a little difference in color and grain, but I like how it looks that way. World Series game 5 in the background…go Sox! (sorry Mom…)

With the frame all set up and sanded, it was time to start the finishing process.  I decided that I didn’t want to mess the the natural beauty of the wood by staining it, so I chose a finish that would really enhance the grain and color of the wood.  Enter, oil and wax finish:

Oil and wax - brings out the beauty of the wood while creating a hard, water resistant surface that I needed for a table.  Plus, much easier to apply than stain...win-win!

Danish Oil and wax – brings out the beauty of the wood while creating a hard, water resistant surface that I needed for a table. Plus, much easier to apply than stain…win-win!

Oil is applied in a little different way than stain; the idea is that you flood the surface with oil and let it soak into the wood for 30 minutes, and then wipe off any excess.  Repeat this process a few times (with at least 24 hours dry time in between)  until it’s not soaking up any more oil, then it’s set to wax!

The oil I chose doesn't have much of a sheen to it, but it looked really cool while I was waiting for it to soak in...

The oil I chose doesn’t have much of a sheen to it, but it looked really cool while I was waiting for it to soak in…

After a few days of that, it was ready to assemble.  I bought some metal hairpin legs from a company based in California called Define Modern (definemodern.bigcartel.com).  They shipped them quickly and in a matter of days, I had some really nice looking legs (for the table….).

Finally had the whole thing done, and it was ready to assemble.  I wanted to put it together in the dining room, because it’s size would make it difficult to get it up the stairs with the legs on (did I mention I was doing all this work in our basement?)  I’m really happy with how it turned out, and thing it fits our space perfectly!  Here’s a couple more of the finished product:

I had a lot of fun building this, and start to finish, it took about a month.  Using what I learned from this project, I’m sure I could do something again, much faster and with better results.  Part of the process right?  If you know anybody who wants a table (or something else), hit me up!  It doesn’t have to be something in this style, I’m up for a new challenge 🙂

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