The romantic notion of building my own dining room table from walnut slabs harvested from my back yard did not become a complete reality. I got the project started (see post: The Real Work Started This Weekend and Covid-19 Is Rocking Everyone’s World), but after hosting another dinner on a folding table I decided to let an experienced shop finish it utilizing my new found stimulus check money. I’ll have to save the romance for my office desk and the mulberry slabs also cut from a tree that was in my backyard. Hopefully I learned enough to pull it off.
So the biggest thing I learned, if I’m ever presented with an opportunity to have slabs cut for me again is to leave them over 2″ thick. Randy Wipert, the gentleman I gave all the walnut logs to in exchange for cutting and drying enough for me to make my table, asked me how thick I wanted them. I really didn’t have a clue, so I told him my finished thickness of an inch. He cut my boards under 2″ thick as a result. With the mistakes I made and the natural warping/twisting of the boards, the shop that finished my table ended up milling my boards down to a finished thickness of just under an inch. My mulberry slabs are also under 2″, so it will be interesting to see if I can pull off that project.
Clearly Randy kept the boards with less knots and less sap (the white areas are the sap wood, the wood closer to the bark of the tree) or since he had more wood to work with he was able to eliminate his sap wood. The shop that finished my table told me that two of my boards were too twisted/warped to use, so if I wanted a minimum of 36″ in width, I’d have to keep the sap. In the beginning of the project I did not want any sap. I really didn’t know what it was and I had never seen a mass produced table with it. You don’t know what you don’t know. Everyone at the Manufactory that saw my boards said I was crazy to eliminate the sap. I guess I better grow to love it since it’s staying. I was able to provide input on board placement before they were glued. I will have just two strips of white.
I was at a friend’s house and the woman next door was being evicted and these vintage cast iron table legs were sitting in her driveway. She was a professed flea market flipper. I offered to buy them, but she gave them to me. This was over a year before I bought my house. When I saw them I immediately thought what an awesome table I could make with them (I was equally fixated on HGTV/DIY’s Fixer Upper and Flea Market Flip at that time). I had a vision before THE vision for my house. With the cast iron wall sconces in my dining room and the gunmetal chairs I bought, I knew I’d want to get the rust removed and returned to the silver color of new cast iron. A & B Deburring Co. in downtown Cincinnati sandblasted them clean for me. The shop finishing the top sprayed them with a sealant that should prevent them from rusting again.
When I dropped off the legs I was able to see my table glued up for the first time. They had just put on the first finishing coat. I must admit I was taken aback when I saw it. I’m still grappling with the sap wood since it was not in the vision I had for the table. The thinness of it and the curved shaped (I fashioned the shape of it after the dining room table I grew up with, which was a mid-century modern design) gives it a refinement, but the knots and sap makes it look rustic. My house isn’t rustic. The movement in the wood is not like anything I’ve ever seen, so one side of my brain thinks it’s super cool. This was growing in my back yard. Those knots are signs the tree was sprouting new limbs to grow and thrive. Those knots can be my symbol to embrace the new career choices Covid-19 is forcing me to make if I expect to continue to grow and thrive. The other side is still stuck on the image of mass produced products. It makes me wonder if an experienced wood craftsman would have ever considered my boards for a table and if the foolish romance of making my own table clouded good judgement. It wouldn’t be the first time “the romance of” has made me make poor decisions.
I thought the corners were too sharp, so I did request that they be rounded a bit more. Due to the final thickness they will have to attach a skirt/apron underneath my table to provide structural strength and support. Just three days later my changes were made and the table completed.
My friends Kyle and Bethany helped me pick it up and bring it home and my neighbors Paul and his visiting father helped us carry it in the house. Not 100% by my hands, but it is as seen in my mind’s eye (well almost given the sap wood). I’m grinning ear to ear. Another vision complete.