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A Table for Thanksgiving

Completed Trestle Table

After nearly six months of work, most of which was spent with roughed out lumber stacked in the basement while it finished drying, the trestle table was completed in time to host Thanksgiving dinner. You can read earlier entries in the build process here and here. Additionally, I suggest taking a look at this article from Woodworking Magazine. This table follows the design from that article fairly closely, with only a few changes to top and the feet.

Painting the Base

Painted Trestle Base

After assembling, gluing up, and truing up the base of the table, I applied three coats of Soldier Blue milk paint from the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company. I find that milk paint adds color as well as texture and depth to a piece. Here, the paint was applied over the yellow pine base. While I don’t object to the stripey-ness of yellow pine finished with only a clear coat, there were several knots that were present in the table feet and stretcher. The paint did a good job covering those up.

Rather than applying paste wax as I had originally planed, I applied a few coats of danish oil over the base. This significantly deepened the blue color of the paint. It fits well with the colors in the dining room. In comparing the blue color from the photo above with the blue of the photo in the post, you can see just how much darker the blue becomes with the danish oil.

Finishing the Top

While the paint was drying on the base, I applied Tried and True Varnish Oil to the top. This was my first time working with a Tried and True product. The varnish oil has the consistency of honey. I applied it by wiping on a light coat and allowing it to penetrate the wood for about an hour. After an hour, the excess oil is wiped off and the table is buffed with a clean lint free cloth. The oil is then allowed to cure for twenty-four hours before applying each subsequent coat. A total of three coats were added here. In the future, I’ll plan on allowing more time for the final coat to cure.

Buttoning it Up

A wooden button used to attach a table top to a brace.

The top and base were then flipped over and placed on a workbench. After getting equal reveals around the base, the buttons were placed into the previously cut slots in the base and used to drill pilot holes into the table top. The buttons were then screwed in. These will allow the table top to expand and contract throughout the year while remaining firmly attached to the base. A total of six buttons, one on each side of each brace, were used.

The buttons were unscrewed to allow me to bring the top and base upstairs where they were then reattached. The table ended up over six and a half feet long and about 30 inches wide. Eight people can easily sit around the table with serving dishes in the middle.

All in all, this was a good build. I found working with the width and length of the table top to be a larger challenge than any of the joinery or shaping on the base. Jointing nearly seven foot boards with only a short-bed jointer required building jointing sleds for the planer. Even then, without a seven or eight foot workbench, sag in the sleds when leveling the boards with shims proved to be a constant battle. While biscuits were a great help for alignment, I expect that I’ll likely slow down and do one glue joint at a time in the the future to help the accuracy of the glue up. Similarly, for any future large table top, I expect I’ll take a different approach to finally flattening and try to rent time on a large drum sander rather than attacking it with a No. 7 plane and belt sander.

Even with all of the challenges in this build, I think the table came out well and we look forward to using it for decades to come. Now I just need build chairs to match to the table.

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Table Progress

The stretcher tenons have been fitted and cut and the mid-brace has also been cut and fitted. The stretcher had already been face jointed and thicknessed when I ran the parts for the legs through the machinery. A quick check with a straight edge and winding sticks revealed no movement over the intervening few weeks.

The next step was to edge joint the strecher and rip it to width. While my powered jointer works well for shorter boards, this five foot board would be a bit of a challenge to get perfectly flat. That meant going to the workbench with my Union #7 jointer plane. I picked this plane up from eBay a few years ago and it has worked very well since then. There is definite pitting across the sole of the plane, but it has not affected the quality of cut or ability of the tool to function. A quick trip to the sharpening stones and then I look some wonderful shavings, getting a nice clean, flat cut across the full length of the edge. With one edge jointed, I then ripped to width on the table saw.

The next step was to lay out the tenons. Once laid out, I decided to try a couple of different ways to cut them. I cut the first tenon cheek with hand saws. Cutting the shoulder fairly easy. However, ripping down the face of the tenon cheek was a bit too difficulty. The tenon is 3 inches deep and 2.5 inches wide, so it was a bit too much to cut I cut the first tenon cheek using hand saws. I ended up straying from the line. After paring the tenon with a chisel, I moved to the table saw for all other tenons.

This post has been delayed a few times. Since I started it, I’ve moved to final glue up for the base.

The table top was glued up. When squaring it all up, I had some gnarly blow out from the router. It tore about a nine inch long piece off one edge. I was able to glue the piece back on, but eventually had to scab a small patch onto the edge. I decided to add breadboard ends. This is the first time that I’ve made breadboard ends. I started by cutting one long tenon on each end of the tabletop using a router, a clamped straight edge, and a straight bit. I then milled a groove into the edge of the breadboard using the dado stack on the table saw. The throat plate on jobsite table saws has some flex, so I cleaned it up with a plow plane to ensure that it was the same depth along the full length. I then marked out and cut three individual tenons into the ends of the tops, leaving a haunch that is as wide as the groove is deep. The breadboards were then placed on to the tenons so that I could mark the extends of the mortises. This was mortised by hand. Once everything seated acceptably, I marked locations for peg holes. These were drilled out on the drill press. The breadboard was then put back into place to transfer the locations of the holes. The holes in the outside tenons were drilled out and made oblong to allow for wood movement. Hide glue was used only for the center tenon on each end.

All that is left is to clean up the top, cut the buttons, and finish it all. We’ve decided on a Soldier Blue milk paint for the base. After a few coats of milk paint, I’ll top it with paste wax. The cherry top will receive Tried and True Varnish Oil. More photos to come later.

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Starting the Trestle Table

I’ve been meaning to build a new dining room table for our house since we moved in last year. A quick look at my /Now/ page showed that I bought the lumber for the base back in May. (It also shows I should probably update the /Now/ page.) It had been roughed out and stickered in the basement since then. Back in July, I made a trip out to Keim Lumber in Ohio and bought 5/4 cherry boards for the top. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, and plans to host at our house, I really need to buckle down and get this table done.

The mortises in the feet were cut pre-glue up using a dado stack on the table saw.

The plan for the table is based on a design published by Chris Schwarz* in Woodworking Magazine. The base of the table is made from yellow pine. The top will be made from cherry. After deciding that it had acclimated long enough, I started the process of milling it down on Friday, Sept 27, giving all of the boards a pass on the jointer until flat and then a light pass through the planer. They were then left to sit until Sunday the 29th.  The legs, braces, and feet were then milled to final thickness, and the mortises were cut in the feet using a dado stack on the table saw. These boards were then glued up.  The same procedure was done for the legs. The braces did not require any dados at this point.

As of yesterday, I had cut tenons on both legs and fit them to feet. I tried this by hand on the first leg with not horrendous, but unacceptable, results. The leg ended up snug but significantly twisted in the mortise. This was remedied by moving the operation to the table saw. I squared the tenon up using the dado stack and then glued on pieces to replace the previously cut away wood. This sat clamped overnight and I re-cut the tenon faces using the table saw again today.

A tenon at the bottom of the leg fits into the mortise in the foot. The brace is joined with a bridle joint.

In the meantime, the tenon was cut on the second leg via the table saw. I also took the opportunity to cut the bridle joint in the top of each leg using the band saw and a chisel, as well as cutting the mating piece in the braces using the table saw and dado stack.

By using the table saw, I got piston-fit joinery without too much hassle. At some point an upgrade of the table saw is on my list, if I think that the shop can stand losing the space to it. I’ve been working on a Ridgid R4513 jobsite saw for the past few years. I find that the accuracy of the saw, including blade tilt and height as well as fence accuracy just aren’t a great quality. That said, the saw folds down to save space, and in a 9 1/2′ x 18′ space, every inch that I can save helps.

Now on to shaping the feet and braces, and cutting the tenons on the stretcher.

* I have built a number of pieces that Schwarz has written about/researched/designed/built. I think this is a function of a few things. First, he is a prolific publisher. Seriously, the mere volume of written word on woodworking that he has put out there means that you are likely to find some piece interesting that you’d want to build or technique that you want to try. Second, the writing is amazingly accessible. He’s concise, but descriptive, easy to read, and amusing. Finally, the styles and techniques that he writes about are what grab my attention. Let’s face it, everyone has different tastes things, be it furniture, music, art, clothing, etc. In terms of furniture, I’ve now read, and own, three of his books (Campaign Furniture, The Anarchist’s Design Book, and Workbenches). I reference these books constantly in the shop and have found the styles of furniture that he gravitates toward to be the same style that interests me.