I designed and built a big harvest table for the house out of reclaimed wood.
Step 1: Reclaimed Beams
I recently built a new house and wanted to add a big harvest table to it. I used a large reclaimed beam for the fireplace mantle and was so impressed I decided to use reclaimed wood for the entire table. This is one of the starting beams. It is old growth Douglas Fir from a warehouse that was disassembled. This beam is 22 feet long, 6 inches thick and 11.75 inches wide. I wanted to preserve the old saw cuts and rustic nature of the wood.
Step 2: Trestle Ends
I cut the beam and made the trestle ends by splitting the wood into 6 x 6 pieces. I used my circular saw to cut the beam lengthwise, then flipped it over and cut again. This left a 1.5 inch piece in the middle which I cut with a Sawzall (a big reciprocating saw typically used in demolition). I have lots of hand tools and I tried using them for most of the work but occasionally power tools were used. A big jack plane cleaned up the cut edge nicely.
Step 3: Table Top Wood
The top of the table and some of the supports were 14 feet long, 2 inch thick by 13 inch wide boards. I wanted to make the table 44 inches wide but as I laid the wood out I found it too far across to be comfortable. My last table was 39 inches wide and that seemed perfect (also I did already have three 13 inch wide boards that looked good).
Step 4: Clutter
In the middle of the project I needed to move all the stored stuff in other parts of the house into the garage so I could finish the basement of the new home. Let's just say things got a little bit cluttered at this stage. I actually had a car parked in this spot a few days earlier. You can see some of my planes on the beam. I should also say that I enjoyed using hand tools as they are quiet and relaxing to work with and I was mostly working on the table in the evenings.
Step 5: Main Tenons
Here you can see me cutting the tenons on the end of the stretcher beam. I have a big knot that I am about to cut through with the hand saw. Once I cut the knot out, it dropped off then tenon, so I epoxied it back into place. It was not needed for strength as the tenons were extremely strong (I just did not like having a gap where the knot was).
Step 6: Fit the Trestles
Here I am just fitting the trestle ends on to see how the joints look. I have to say that working with the old growth wood was very satisfying. The grain was very dense, making the wood really heavy, but it cut really smooth and the mortise and tenons were just about perfect (another thing that is easier to achieve with hand tools). The main mortises were all cut with hand chisels and each one took about 2 hours (one an evening).
Step 7: Another View of Trestle Ends
I wanted a trestle table so you can put a chair anywhere around the table and not have to worry about where the legs are. I think this is my favourite table style. The entire table is my own design and was largely based on the wood I was working with.
Step 8: First Full Stretcher Mockup
Here is the table base set up for the first time.
Step 9: Table Top
Here I have epoxied the top three boards together and I am just cleaning up the edges and joints. There is a one inch thick baltic birch plywood sheet on the underside of the boards to ensure the boards remain true and don't warp. The plywood is routed one inch deep so the bottom is all flush. I used a power router with a CNC up spiral bit (highly recommended) to cut the one inch depth about every 4 inches in a grid and then used hand chisels to pop the blocks out. Final clean up underneath with a big jack plane and then the plywood (epoxied in place).
Step 10: First Coat Epoxy
Just painting on the 2 part epoxy. I tried a roller and it was a miserable failure as it filled the epoxy with a myriad of small bubbles. A decent quality brush seems to work best. The epoxy is one hour with a suggested working time of 40 minutes. I found that it remained soft for much longer as the temperatures were just above zero Celsius outside (32 F) and I needed to use a propane heater in the garage to keep things warm enough for the epoxy to set. This epoxy needs at least 10 C for the chemical reaction to harden the epoxy. I did a test piece with a very light stain earlier but found the colour was just too dark for my liking. The epoxy is clear and it seems to bring out the wood colour really well without any stain at all.
Step 11: Setup Stretcher Beam
Putting the table up in the house. The stretcher beam is 6 inches by 11.75 inches and is10 feet long (including the tenons on the ends). It takes 2 people to move it.
Step 12: Trestle End
The trestle end are two 6 inch by 5 3/8th pieces with a cross board top and bottom. They are pretty heavy as well, but it all disassembles for easier moving. The joints are probably the best I have every done with no slop in them at all. The table frame is finished with 3 coats of satin polyurethane.
Step 13: Felt Pads
Popped on felt pads under the legs so the hardwood floor does not get scratched. The table is so heavy that it doesn't move.
Step 14: Trestle End All Set Up
Just waiting to lift the stretcher into the mortises.
Step 15: Keys
The mortise and tenons have simple keys to lock them in place.
Step 16: Check Table Height
I ran a string from end to end to check my height. I cut the center two verticals one inch longer than needed so I would have room for any final height adjustments. As it turned out I needed to trim exactly one inch off them to perfectly align the heights (I have never been that accurate before). The two center verticals are mortised 3 inches deep into the stretcher and are perfectly solid. The cross pieces for both ends and the two center supports are 32 inches wide (table top is 39 inches wide).
Step 17: Keys In
Keys are put in place. I have not tapped them into final place as I am letting the table and wood settle a bit first. I am completely happy with how it is all fitting together and have not seen any movement of the wood so far...
Step 18: All Done
Table all ready for Christmas dinner. It is 12 feet one inch long (I gave myself an extra inch which I thought I would trim later if needed, but it was not needed). It is 30 inches high and 39 inches wide. It weighs almost 500 pounds in total. You can comfortably seat 16 adults at the table (18 in a pinch). It fits the house very well. I have just a couple of small bubbles to deal with once the epoxy if fully hardened (3 more weeks) and I will most likely just use a buffing wheel to buff them out. I am thinking I will never move this table again (or have to build another one in my life).
My total costs were $2,300 Canadian for everything I used. This includes a new set of mortising chisels and a couple of sharper saws, plus misc bits and sand paper and finish (including 5.8 litres of expoxy (1.5 US gallons) for $330). I have one more 11 foot by 6 by 11.75 inch beam and some smaller pieces left over for something else in the future.
This is my first instructable and am relieved to be able to post it as the total elapsed time from start to finish was just a hair over a year...