Neal’s Slab Dining Table
By Neal Lackritz from Framingham, MA
Added on September 14, 2016
When we cleared the land to build our house 6 years ago, there happened to be a single cherry tree about where our dining room was to be situated. To commemorate the tree, we had it sawed up into slabs and let it air dry for several years. Because we did not have enough cherry, I combined it with walnut to make a live-edge slab top with breadboard ends roughly 7′ by 4′.
One of the most interesting aspects in the top is the joinery between the walnut and cherry pieces. I wanted to keep the natural shape of the cherry pieces, so I had to mate curving pieces together. I did this by first roughing the cherry pieces to near final shape. Then, I attached a piece of MDF that significantly overhung the edge of the cherry piece. Using a router with a straight bit and a guide bushing, I then plunged into the MDF and made a “positive” and “negative” template in one go by guiding the bit along the cherry.
At this point, I found a problem with the approach—the negative and positive templates did not match perfectly, especially along the curves where the inner-diameter and the outer-diameter radius of the curves were different by the thickness of the router bit! My solution was wood filler (Bondo)! Per a great suggestion I read in the forums, I put down plastic wrap, applied a thick layer of filler, covered it with the plastic wrap, and then pushed the positive and negative templates together. The plastic wrap prevents the positive and negative templates from sticking and the result was a prefect match. I could then route the walnut using the modified negative template.
With more talent I might have been able to cut the template using my bandsaw, resulting in a thinner kerf and less error on the curves. But Marc makes smooth curves look pretty easy and I have some more practice before I get to that level! All my prototypes looked pretty poor…
The finish is about 7 layers of wiping varnish.
Thanks to Marc for all the great advice. I could not have done this without watching a lot of videos on the site.