Michael’s Table of Ent
By Michael Finnefrock from Williston
Added on October 6, 2015
I found a piece of walnut on a website that I knew I must have. It was a perfect piece to make a waterfall edge table for my wife’s Christmas gift. (This was end of October last year) The slab was 2.25″ thick, 14-20”wide, 8.5’ long and had a huge sappy knot dead center. The figure was amazing and I knew she would love receiving it as much as I would enjoy making it.
This was my first experience with: live edge pieces, pieces as large as my shop (8.5′ long slab and 12′ long shop), lumber I couldn’t move, too big for my equipment and a design concept too complicated for my skill set. My designs are always too complicated and this time the complication was the bookmatch. I knew, if bookmatched just right, the knots and sap would make a beautiful face – like the giving tree or Ents (Lord of the Rings talking trees) or, as people now say, Chewbacca!
I worked on my shop floor; the only space big enough. I used a MDF track saw jig for my circular saw to straighten the bookmatch edge and found a nice man with a woodmizer who resawed the slab as well as a friend with a large jointer to clean the edge and glued it up using router-based loose tenons to keep it aligned.
Thanksgiving and Christmas were huge distractions and I was unable to get to work on the piece until early February! After 2 months the slab had relaxed and cupped over 0.4″ from center to each edge and 1.5″ end to end.
I ended up making a router jig out of MDF and aluminum extrusion to flatten the piece. However, the piece was only 1″ thick after the re-saw and I needed to remove 1/2″ to achieve flat! After removing about 0.2″ I gave up. To achieve flat I would destroy the work piece.
I brought my wife down, showed her her Christmas gift (late of course) and we brainstormed. We compromised on flat enough for a wine glass and plate. After all, it is a rustic, snarly looking piece of wood, no one needs absolute flat!
I rehabbed my father’s old hand planes from their 20 years of neglect. Removed rust, honed blades, and basically rehabbed them just enough to be serviceable and got to work. I hand flattened the boards until a plate wouldn’t wobble and a glass wouldn’t tip over if slid. (The weeble definition of flat) I then filled the knots with sawdust, dye and epoxy.
For the waterfall, I cut the ends off with a circular saw, the router made a 45° miter and the hand plane flattened the joint. I used CA glue to attach plywood clamping blocks. The glue-up went smoothly; I used dark brown/black stained epoxy for everything just in case the seam showed.
I tested 5 finishing methods on scraps before I settled on a base coat of a 1 lb cut of 1 part amber shellac and 1 part blond shellac. This really made the figure stand out more than oil mixes. I sanded the shellac back and applied 4 coats of Arm-R-Seal.
In the end, I am more than amazed at my accomplishment. My wife loves it and made it the centerpiece of the living room. It has earned its name “Table of Ent”.