Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pedestal Table: Photo Tour

Anything I may have posted this past week would have amounted to watching finish dry, I'm afraid. In fact, the table is not completely done just yet, but I thought I'd offer an update all the same.

Here's the top with its low-luster finish.  I wash-coated the raw maple with 1 lb-shellac then water stained the top.  Several additional wash coats of shellac followed.  I rubbed out the shellac with 0000 steel wool, removed any steel residue with Naptha, and applied a coat of Minwax Antique oil.  A day later I applied a second coat of oil.  Two days after that I rubbed out the oil with steel wool, buffed with burlap and achieved the final desired sheen by buffing with a soft cotton cloth.

Detail shot of the apron with its vertically-oriented 
quarter sawn maple veneer and small cockbead.

The pedestal.

A view from above with the table in its extended position.

The underside with the table in its extended position.

The underside with the top closed.

Traditional table yokes hold the two halves together.  The leaf also has keepers so that the same yokes hold it in position as well.  Note how the keepers are at a very slight angle off parallel with the seam.  This pulls the halves together as the yoke is inserted.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pedestal Table: Beginning the Finish

Over the weekend I got started on the finish for the pedestal table I've been working on. The clients and I decided on a light honey color for the piece. At the point pictured, the table has been wash coated with a 1-lb cut of shellac, stained (with a water-based aniline dye), and topcoated with a few additional wash coats of shellac. I expect to build up enough shellac on the base today so that I can rub and wax it tomorrow. The top will be receiving a few coats of Minwax's Antique Oil, which I think creates a wonderful, tough, low-luster finish.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Veneering Curved Aprons

A few days ago I veneered the curved aprons for the table I've been working on.  Veneering curves along a large radius can be tricky, especially when there is no practical way to accomplish the task using a vacuum press.   I decided to break the veneering of each apron into several separate glue-ups.  This way I only worked about 1/4 of each apron at a time.  More on this in a moment.  

In the meantime, the photo below shows the set of tools I used for  this process.  In the picture you can see regular PVA glue, perforated veneer tape, a glue roller (or brayer), an Exacto knife, packing tape, a glue pallet, and a piece of sandpaper.  It's important to have all of the required tools close at hand before any glue is spread.

One of the most important tools in any veneering operation--but especially when veneering curves--is the caul one selects.  The caul helps spread clamping force equally across the entire surface of the veneer, ensuring good adherence to the substrate.  The trouble with cauls is that they almost always accomplish this task imperfectly.  Some people use thin packing foam, others use plain poster board, and many people use a layer of cork.  I've tried all of these with mixed results.  I was all set to buy a length of cork at the hardware store last week, when I saw a roll of the material pictured below.  It's sold as "floor liner" and appears to be the stuff you wipe your feet on before entering a building on a rainy day.  I immediately thought it would make a terrific caul.  The rubber material has just the right ratio of rigidity to give, and the "kerfs" along the backside allow it to follow a curve well.  Besides all of that, it's marvelously inexpensive and it resists glue.

I attached a piece of the rubber caul material to a length of 1/4" plywood with one centered piece of packing tape.  I had made sure earlier that 1/4" ply would bend around the radius of the apron without cracking.

Long before I spread any glue on the apron, I cut and taped my 3" lengths of veneer.  I had purchased quarter sawn maple veneer which came in three 8' lengths.  I used two of these lengths, cutting 3" pieces from each one, numbering as I progressed.  Thus I had two #1's, two #2's, and so on.  I then taped together four pieces, bookmatching the edges.  

Perforated veneer tape is still my choice for building-up any kind of veneer panel.  Getting the moisture level just right for the tape can be difficult, but I find that a sponge with as much water wrung out of it as can be done by hand provides just about the right level.

My next step was to figure out how to hold the apron substrate in position so that I could apply as many clamps as possible to it without causing it to twist and break.  I decided to clamp it on blocks to my work table in three places.  This felt pretty solid.

This next shot shows all the clamps in place squeezing the 1/4" ply, the rubber caul, and the veneer against the substrate.  Before I got to this point, I had masked the area of the substrate adjacent to the beginning of the veneer panel using packing tape.  That way, when I removed the clamps I could simply peel the packing tape, leaving glue-free substrate for the next panel.  I worked my way around the perimeter of both aprons this way until they were completely veneered.

Next, I scored along the back side of the veneer along the edge of the apron with my Exacto knive.  I then bent the veneer towards me, breaking its fibers.  A quick snap away from me, and the excess veneer broke off. After a light sanding with 120 grit sandpaper along the edges, my veneering was complete.

If any of this is unclear and you'd like more detail, just leave a comment, and I'll be sure to respond!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pedestal Table: Almost There!

I expect to finish the woodworking on this pedestal table tomorrow. It will be a full day of planing, scraping, sanding, and sweating. Today I finished applying the quarter-sawn veneer to the curved aprons (more on that topic tomorrow), finished installing the table slides, and attached the cockbead.

Here's a detail shot showing how the vertically-oriented grain of the aprons relates to the rest of the piece.

Soon it will be time to shift from the woodworking to the finishing phase of this project.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pedestal Table: Final Sizing of the Top

This morning I cut the three top pieces for the pedestal table to their final sizes and shapes. Whenever I am making a top with multiple pieces, even if the pieces are rectangular, I like to complete whatever method of attachment I've chosen while the pieces are still only rough-cut to size. For example, when making a drop leaf table of any kind, I complete the rule joints and install the hinges before the top pieces are cut to final size and shape. The reason for doing it this way is that no matter how well one measures for hinge mortises or leaf pins, tiny amounts of slop in the marking, mortising, or boring can lead to misaligned tops. So in the case of this table, I got the leaf pins and sleeves set before cutting the top to size. The first shot below shows the pins I used for this project.

After I was satisfied with the alignment of the leaves, it was time to cut the three pieces to final size and shape. I used a router compass to cut the radius along the perimeter of the two outer pieces. The specific rig I used allowed the compass to index from the same lines I made for boring the center pin and sleeve. That way I knew that the two pieces would create a perfect circle when slid together. If I failed to use the exact same center points, I could have ended up with two outer leaves which aligned perfectly along the center (thanks to the pins and sleeves) but which were off at the ends.

After ensuring that the two half-round leaves were aligned the way I wanted, the next step was to cut the center leaf to its final length. To do this, I simply placed it between the two outer leaves, slid everything together so all the pins and sleeves were aligned, and used my Festool circular saw to cut a straight line across the center leaf between the ends of the outer leaves. In the past, I've used a variety of methods to make this crosscut, but this was by far the easiest and most foolproof method I'd employed so far.

Here is the table where I'm leaving it today. Tomorrow I'll veneer the curved aprons, finalize the attachment of the slides to the undersides of the outer top leaves, and begin the process of flattening the top. Hopefully by the day after tomorrow I'll have all the woodworking completed and can begin on the finish process.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pedestal Table: The Guts

Today I made the center leaf for the table and began working out the details for the extension slides. I've decided to make slides with heavy-duty drawer slides and maple milled with a channel to accept them. The series of photos below show 1) the table in its closed position, 2) the closed position slide setup, 3) the extended position, and 4) the extended position slide setup. Note that none of the top pieces are cut to exact size and that none of the parts shown are glued, so if things look a little cattywompass now, don't worry--they won't when it's all said and done.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pedestal Table: Curved Aprons

I've decided to make the curved aprons for this pedestal table the old-fashioned way. These days, aprons like these are often made from several laminations of bending plywood--a perfectly viable method--but I felt that the traditional approach would be more appropriate for this project.

The first step in making traditional curved aprons is to make a pattern for the outer and inner radiuses. I like to make the initial pattern a little oversize and then trace it onto stock that has been surfaced on two sides, as you see in the photo below.

It's important to know the circumference of the apron so that you can estimate the amount of stock you'll need. Once I've traced as many pieces as I'll need, I cut the boards into manageable sizes and begin sawing out the blanks.

As I cut out the blanks, I begin stacking them in their approximate final position on the roughed-out top. Notice how the seams in the aprons do not line up. That's the whole point of building aprons in this manner rather than just sawing some curves out of thick stock. By staggering the joints this way, you're overlapping the relatively long grain towards the centers of the curves with the shorter grain of the extremities. Short grain is very prone to breaking; by overlapping short and long grain, this tendency towards breaking easily is overcome.

The next steps will be to flush-trim each blank to an exact template, then assemble the aprons. After that, I'll veneer them with vertically-oriented quartersawn maple.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Pedestal Table: Days 3 & 4

Here's where things stand on the pedestal table. More details coming soon.