I had been interested and involved in woodworking for about a year or so, when I started making end grain cutting boards and chopping blocks. I searched the web for some videos on the topic and found The Wood Whisperer video on making an end grain cutting board. Since then I have found Marc’s website to be a very, very useful resource. The site is really setting the gold standard for educational, interactive woodworking websites.
As I gained skills (and tools!), I became interested in making furniture. Last year my partner and I traveled to our family cottage which has not had a coffee table for years. So, I decided that I would make one for the cottage. I really like the mission style – the simplicity of the lines and form, with the emphasis on the wood itself.
This table is made with quartersawn white oak, which I really like. The flecks and pores really appeal to me, especially with a mission style, old fashioned look. The joinery is dowels, courtesy of the Dowelmax doweling jig. I have to say that it was very easy to use and the joints appear to be plenty strong for this table. The tabletop is attached to the base via z brackets, which use screws and fit into a kerf in the table skirt.
I ran into some bumps along the way, specifically with sanding. After doing this project with a poor quality belt sander and finish sander, I decided to invest in the Festool 150 dual action sander, which I think will be a huge step up in terms of power sanding. I tried to use the belt sander with high grit (220) sandpaper to smooth out the table top, but it just left marks all over the top. I was being a little too hopeful, thinking that a belt sander would be okay in this case. I ended up sanding it all by hand, which achieved very good results, but was a LOT of work.
I wanted to make a table with breadboard ends, and again the joinery I used was dowels. There are 4 dowels in the center which are glued, then another 2 or 3 on each side of the breadboard that are glued to the table top, but not to the breadboard end. The holes in the breadboard for those dowels are actually wider, so the top can expand and contract, but is still held from vertical motion by the breadboard end. I did this by sliding the doweling jig over from the original hole and drilling another hole, then repeating until I had what looked more like a mortise with rounded ends.
I did lots of research on how to finish QSWO and came up with this process. It is a little different than most that I found, in that I applied pigment stain first, then dye. Most of what I read said to apply dye, then shellac, then pigment stain as a glaze (or something along those lines), but I did some experimentation and it seemed to work well. After sanding to 150 grit, I raised the grain and sanded to 220 grit. I applied General Finishes water based pigment stain in walnut color. After it dried, I did a light sanding with 400 grit paper. It removed some of the brown color on the flecks, but left the pores quite dark. After that, I applied a mixture of General Finishes water based dyes: Amber, Cinnamon and Medium Brown in a ratio of 2:2:1. I actually applied this twice to ensure even color, as the first coat was a little blotchy. I did not sand after this step, as I found in earlier experimentation that it removed too much of the color for my liking. I then applied 5 coats of Tried & True Varnish Oil (polymerized linseed oil mixed with pine resin). The varnish oil is applied liberally with a rag, let soak for one hour, then excess is wiped off. Cure time is 24 hours between coats. Between each application of the VO, I would simply rub (hard) with a clean cloth. The table top got an additional 2 coats of VO with a quick rub of steel wool followed by a polishing with a clean cloth.
I had immense fun with this project and learned a heck of a lot – not to mention a table I am quite proud of!