Introduction: How to Make a Pecky Sinker Cypress Table
Tools I used:
- Epoxy Resin - http://amzn.to/2t1XPUc
- Orbital Sander - http://amzn.to/2sNDQ7e
- Belt Sander - http://amzn.to/2sNEB0o
- Table Saw - http://amzn.to/2sNEvpe
- Japanese finish saw - http://amzn.to/2tctI7C
- Biscuit Joiner - http://amzn.to/2sNOcE7
- Pocket Hole Jig - http://amzn.to/2ugm1Cr
- Electric Hand Planer - http://amzn.to/2ugq3dP
- Benchtop Planer - http://amzn.to/2tbJOhL
- Glue - http://amzn.to/2ubSEAd
- Wood Putty - http://amzn.to/2tbIlYD
- 3M Silver Foil Tape - http://amzn.to/2tLif0A
- Premium Tack Cloths - http://amzn.to/2sO8bml
- Oil & Urethane TopCoat - http://amzn.to/2u6C4Ci
- Brad Nailer - http://amzn.to/2vadSff
- GoPro - http://amzn.to/2tcktEB
My mother-in-law brought over 3 slabs of her Bald Cypress tree that was cut down from her front yard. She asked to make an outdoor bench or kitchen table from these slabs. These wood slabs were cut horizontally and very unevenly by an arborist with a cheap chainsaw. I quickly realized this wood could not be used for a bench, a table, or anything except firewood. Additionally, the wood was very brittle. This made it even more difficult to work with. Christmas is only a few months away & the adults in our family pick names to exchange gifts. I made sure I picked my mother-in-law’s name so I can make her a table.
I searched for cypress table ideas for about a day. The unique look of sinker cypress quickly grabbed my attention. This wood is fairly common in my part of the country (South Louisiana) & I thought it would be a great choice of wood for this table. The wood is not only beautiful and unique, but it also has a lot of historical/geographical significance. My Mother-in-law would appreciate the historical value.
I called a friend of mine who knows the best places to purchase reclaimed wood in the New Orleans area and he referred me to Riverside Lumber. I visited Riverside Lumber the following day and noticed they not only had sinker cypress, but they also had pecky sinker cypress. Charles at Riverside Lumber was very helpful during my visits and I would highly recommend them if you live in the area and in need of exotic or any type of lumber. “Pecky” refers to a fungus that causes hollow tubes to run vertically throughout the tree. The fungus grows while the tree is alive and only germinates when the tree is around 125 years old. The fungus dies when the tree dies.
Step 1: Preparing the Wood
I decided to purchase these 2 slabs to make the pecky sinker cypress table.
However, I later realized I needed an additional slab after my wife informed me 2 slabs were not wide enough to make a suitable table, so I went back and got another. I also brought the first 2 pieces back with me to get planed down b/c the slabs were about 2.5” too wide for my planer. I didn’t realize this when I purchased the first 2 slabs (smh). The pieces didn’t need to be planed down to any exact depth, but I wanted the surface as flat as possible b/c they were very rough and uneven. Below are the 3 pieces for the pecky sinker cypress table:
Next step was to remove the soft/damaged wood from the pockets. I accomplished this by scraping as much of the wood out as possible with my wood carving tools. This was quite a time-consuming process b/c many of the soft pockets caused by the fungus were much deeper and longer than I anticipated. I scraped each pocket on both sides of each board and used my shop vac to remove the debris. It may have been easier to use an air compressor and blow-out each pocket after scraping.
Once all the debris was removed, it was time to break out the belt sander and orbital sander to get both sides of each board as smooth as possible. I started with 150 grit sand paper on the belt sander and finished with 220 grit sand paper on the orbital sander.
After the boards were sanded and cleaned, it was time to square the sides of the boards in preparation for them to be joined together. I need to upgrade my table saw soon with a nice table to make ripping long pieces of material easier. I don’t have a jointer, so I used my table saw to rip an equal amount off of each board to make the table 36” wide (each board would be 12” long). This worked out really well b/c 2 boards were 14” wide and 1 board was 15” wide. Next, I ripped 2” off 1 side of the first board, 1” on each side of the second board & 3” on one side of the last board. I saved the 3” board I ripped off of the last board to use on the table legs (more on this later). I didn’t care if the outer edges of the table were perfectly straight b/c it is a reclaimed table. Perfectly straight outside edges on the table were not important considering the irregularities of the wood.
The 3 slabs lined-up nicely, but I was concerned about which joinery method would be best to use. Some of the ‘pecky pockets’ in the wood tunneled the length of the board and close to the edge. I figured the strength of the table would be at risk if I used pocket holes or mortoise/tenon methods to join the pieces near one of these tunnels. I decided to use biscuits to join the 3 slabs b/c I can place the biscuits in solid parts of each board & the width of the #20 biscuits provided extra stability. Most importantly, I had an excuse to go buy a new tool b/c I did not own a biscuit joiner.
It took me a while to figure out where to put the biscuits and how many to use. I decided to use 6 biscuits per join (12 total). There were a few biscuits that were visible on the underside of the table, but that was the best I could do.
Once I got over the pure awesomeness of my new biscuit joiner & how easy it was to use, I clamped the pieces and let the glue dry overnight.
There were very minor creases between boards where I joined them together. I lightly sanded the surface one more time, but I elected to use the dust bag attachment that came with the sander instead of connecting my sander to my dust collection system. I mixed the sawdust in the bag with glue in a clear plastic cup to a putty-like consistency – this was so easy that I was able to talk to my wife on the phone and mix at the same time (view pic below). I’m a man, which means I’m not very good at doing 2 things at the same time. Next, I liberally spread the mixture over the creases and gently wiped off the excess with a popsicle stick because it was the closest thing within arm’s reach.
I lightly sanded the surface of the table one more time to remove the excess glue/dust mixture and the creases disappeared – gotta love when little tricks like this work out. Next, squared off the each end of the table with my circular saw to make it an even 76” long.
I used a damp towel to wipe the surface in order to raise the grain of the wood a small amount and lightly sanded again with 220 grit sandpaper. Next, I vacuumed the surface again and used a tack cloth to make sure I get all the loose debris. I used 2 tack cloths to wipe down this table while making sure to use a clean side of the cloth for each wipe.
Step 3: Sealing the Table
Now to the tedious part. I flipped the table top over and began taping the indentations and pockets with HVAC foil tape. The idea was to pool the epoxy resin at the bottom to fill the cavities and prevent the resin from dripping through when poured on the top. I chose this tape for 3 reasons:
1.) I had an extra roll laying around my shop.
2.) It sticks really well to any surface & it is really strong.
3.) I didn’t know any better.
Instead of tape, a plastic sheet secured tightly to the bottom of this table should work as I’ve read epoxy doesn’t adhere to plastic. H owever, I didn’t feel like running around the house or the big box stores searching for plastic and figuring out a way to secure it to the bottom to prevent sagging. This process took me roughly 2 hours, which isn’t too long. It just seemed like this took FOREVER probably b/c I was excited to start using the epoxy. I made sure each pocket in the wood was covered completely even if the cavity seemed contained. As I mentioned previously, many of the pockets formed channels in the middle of the wood that ran from one side to the other. I also used a flexible plastic spreader to flatten the tape on the wood.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This information will be included in a future step, but it is worth mentioning now to save time. The ends of the table top had open cavities so I decided to create a straight edge with the tape. This was a MISTAKE. When the epoxy resin is poured the weight of the epoxy causes the tape to ‘sag’ a bit, which causes the edge to buckle inwards (towards the table). I recommend using a plastic strip to form the edge &/or tape secured to the bottom to ensure the epoxy resin pools. Don’t worry about creating an edge if the sides or ends of the table don’t have pockets where epoxy could leak out. Rather, let the epoxy resin roll off the table during the pour.
Before I move on to the next step, it is worth mentioning a subtle mistake I made that could have easily been prevented and saved me a ton of time. I poured the epoxy resin on the table while it was resting on saw horses. I did this b/c I wanted to make sure there were no major leaks through the bottom. Ultimately, I should have trusted my taping skills (if there is such a thing) and placed the table on a flat surface (work table) covered in a plastic sheet. This would have saved a lot of sagging and less material to fill the pockets.
Step 4: Resin / Hardener
I used this Resin/Hardener for this project as it is cheaper than the stuff from the big box stores. This is a 1 gallon kit (1/2 gallon of resin & 1/2 gallon of hardener) and I used 3 of these for this project. There is also a ‘table top’ version of this on Amazon and I used 1 gallon of this during this project for the final coat. However, I didn’t notice any difference between the ‘table top’ version and what you see in this picture. I had no idea how much resin/hardener I was going to need for this project before I started, so I bought 4 kits (totaling 4 gallons), but I only needed 3. Keep in mind, this wood had a LOT of cavities/pockets – more than the typical Pecky Sinker Cypress slab I have seen. This product has a formula to calculate how much material you will need; however, this formula is based on using the material on a flat surface.
The best advice I can give regarding using resin/hardener is follow the manufacturers instructions. Most men tend to glance over instructions and sort of figure it out as you go (I definitely fall into this category), but you WILL have problems if you do don’t follow the instructions with any resin/hardener. I’m not going to fully explain how to use this stuff in great detail in this post as this information is covered in the product’s instructions, which vary from product to product.
I started by mixing 1:1 ratio of resin/hardener that totaled 8 ounces. I knew this was a very small amount, but I wanted to make sure I got the hang of it before jumping to 10oz, 12oz or even 20oz mixtures. This step is VERY important as most underestimate the amount of mixing this stuff needs. I mixed (no whipping as this will create bubbles, which creates more work later) until the material was clear.
From reading the instructions, I decided it would be best to apply the epoxy resin/hardener mixture in 3 stages (instead of 2 stages as recommended in the epoxy manufacturers instructions), which I listed below. I will refer back to these 3 stages often - here is a brief explanation of each.
1.) Seal coat = this coat would basically ‘wet’ the entire surface of the table top and seal any potential air pockets in the wood. The mixture is poured onto the surface and then worked into the surface with a rubber squeegee. There should not be any material build-up with this coat. If the seal coat goes on too thick, air bubbles can get trapped in the cured epoxy.
2.) Fill coat = this coat will fill the cavities/pockets in order to achieve a level surface. This stage is specific to this type of wood. If this was a flat surface, this would be accomplished in stage 1.
3.) Flood coat = this is the final coat and should be poured in the middle of the table and settle outwards (towards the ends). This coat self-levels (no squeegee wiping) up to 1/8” thick. If you desire more than 1/8” thick, multiple coats need to be applied at least 4 hours apart. A squeegee or foam brush may be used to ‘guide’ the material around the surface, but no wiping.
Step 5: Seal Coat
The pictures below depict the seal coat. 8oz basically covers 1/3 of the surface.
Some of the material in the seal coat dripped into the cavities, so I used a blow torch 6 to 10 inches away from the surface.
Seal coat part 2.
After I finished the seal coat, I used a brush to ‘seal’ the edges of the table. This can also be done in stage 3 (flood coat), but either way works.
Here is a picture of the table after the seal coat.
Step 6: Fill Coat
Now on to stage 2 (fill coat). I did the first fill coat immediately after I applied the seal coat and I increased the mixture from 8oz to 16oz. I used a squeegee during this stage as well to guide the material into the cavities and fill them. This took some time b/c I did experience minor sagging with the tape in some spots. I had to do the fill coat twice to get the pockets level before I applied the flood coat. I let this coat dry for 24 hours.
Since I let this coat dry for more than 4 hours & I wanted to achieve a flat, uniform surface, it was time to sand. I started by sanding with a 120 grit belt sander to knock down buildups. Next, I used an orbital sander with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface. Finally, I carefully wiped down the surface with acetone (don’t use paint thinner!). After wiping with Acetone, I wiped the surface down with a tac cloth. Note: I was worried after I sanded the epoxy b/c it turns to a hazy white color and imperfections are more visible, but this goes away once the flood coat is applied.
Step 7: Flood Coat
It was time for the flood coat (stage 3) & I was really excited to see how this was going to turn out. I was also a bit nervous since this was my first time working with epoxy. The flood coat was mixed in 2 batches. This made sure I could adequately stir the mixture. I poured the flood coat slowly to make sure it covered the half of the table top. The material is rather thick so it merges nicely together. It also runs over the sides (as planned) so be sure to put down plastic to protect the floors.
As soon as I poured the first batch for half of the pecky sinker cypress table, I began mixing the second batch. I wanted it to blend/merge well together. I took a brush and gently wiped each of the 4 sides of the table to spread the material and prevent any drips from hardening.
Here is the table right after the flood coat. I only put on one flood coat as I really didn’t see a reason to add more thickness. Please note: It may be wise to find a way to protect the table from dust/debris when the epoxy is drying.
I used a blow torch to remove the bubbles as I did in a previous step.
Step 8: Remove Tape
After allowing the table to dry for 48 hours, it was time to remove the tape from the underside of the pecky sinker cypress table, sand, and stain. I picked the table up and flipped it over onto the white picnic table. I recommend to get help before attempting to flip the table over by yourself. I’m 6’7” and I have long arms so I was able to grip the table fairly well. This is the only reason I attempted this step without help.
This process was not as bad as I originally thought it would be. It took me about 1 hour to completely remove the tape. A few small pieces stuck to the epoxy on the underside, but the belt sander removed the pieces easily. Overall, I’m happy with the way this tape performed during this project considering I chose to use it b/c it was laying around my shop.
I used the belt sander to smooth the underside of the table and used a brush to wipe off the dust. Yeah, I know - I forgot to wear my dust mask.
Step 9: Finishing Underside
I used this Oil & Urethane sealer/topcoat to seal the bottom of the pecky sinker cypress table. The go al was to bring out the grain a bit without sacrificing the natural color of the wood. I would have used this coat on the top of the table if I planned to keep the table, but my mother-in-law preferred the shiny/glossy finish of epoxy.
Again, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using stain or sealers. On the first coat, I made sure to get inside the pockets in the wood as they had a few on the underside of the table that did not protrude through the top. I had to use a q-tip in some of the cavities to make sure everything was covered. I lightly sanded the table with 220 grit by hand and applied the 2nd coat.
Step 10: Table Support
On to the table supports. I actually found a few table support designs that caught my eye online. Howe ver, the plans called for holes to be drilled in the table top which I did not want to do. I decided to use no plans and rely on my imagination.. My mother-in-law likes farmhouse & country style furniture, so that is the style I hoped to make. It is very difficult to find untreated pine 4x4s near my home, but I ran across some at the blue big box store. I decided to purchase 4 8’ pieces, which was more than I needed for this project. It was exciting to learn I can now buy untreated pine 4x4s where I live! In the past, I used 2-2x4s glued together to make a 4x4 - pain in the rear.
I try to buy wood from local sawmills when possible as the wood is mostly chemical free. Most wood from the big box stores needs to be lightly sanded in order for the stain to properly penetrate the surface. I ran each side through my planer as the wood was sort of in rough shape anyway. This also helped form a 4 straight edges on the wood instead of random rounded edges. I wasn’t concerned about getting the wood perfectly flat/straight b/c the character of the Farmhouse table would hide many imperfections.
I notched each leg for a cross-support brace on both support legs. The ‘H’ design looked a bit plain and boring, so I measured to cut 4-45degree support arms for each support bracket. 8 support arms total.
I glued each piece in place and used my nail gun to secure them in place. Next, I pre-drilled 4 pilot holes in each brace and used screws to secure the 45 degree braces in place. I filled all holes with wood filler.
Once the wood filler dried, I sanded down the excess with both my orbital sander and belt sander.
Once everything was sanded down, I decided to distress the wood a bit before staining. I used various tools to distress the wood as there is no one method that is best. I scraped the wood with the grain using a flat head screw driver. Next, I dented the wood using a hammer, a hammer with a screw, and a hammer with a roofing tail. I also used a very small drill bit to put holes in the wood.
After I gave the wood a fairly good beating, I clamped each support brace together to find any uneven spots. This would cause me heartache later on when its time for the table top be put on. Luckily, I didn’t have that many noticeable uneven spots.
I used my Japanese finish saw my wife gave me last Valentine’s Day (I think it was V-day) to trim off some of the uneven spots. Next, I lightly sanded both support braces again with 220 grit sandpaper before attaching the foot pads.
I had a few pieces of cedar leftover from a previous project that I decided to use as the footpads for each brace. After trimming each one with my table saw, I drilled pilot holes, applied glue and attached them.
I decided to use an upright 2x4 to tie the 2 support braces together b/c I had an idea of how I wanted the bottom to look. My electric hand planer made quick work of the rough 2x4's on both sides. I used my Kreg Jig to drill 2 pocket holes per side of the 2x4.
Next, I attached the 2x4 to the bottom of each support brace & filled the pocket holes with paint grade pocket plugs and glue. Once the glue dried, I used my Japanese finish saw to remove the protruding plugs and sanded down to a smooth finish.
Step 11: Finishing Underside
I put a lot of thought into what color stain to use on the pecky sinker cypress table braces. I really had no idea b/c the wood on the table is medium & very dark brown in the cavities, so the table braces need to be one of those colors. My wife is really good at picking out colors and she recommended I use an ebony or antique black. The Pro Series wiping stain by Minwax was my stain of choice. Since I didn’t stain the pieces prior to assembly, I needed a stain that would be ‘thicker’ in order to prevent dripping. Additionally, it provided me with more control over the staining process. I used staining cloth & a chip brush to reach the crevices. Next, I applied the stain to approximately half of 1 support brace and wiped it down. I repeated this process 3 more times. This stuff goes on really well and it only needed 1 coat.
I used the wood I ripped from the original pieces of sinker cypress for the table braces. Earlier in the project, I wiped these scraps with a paint brush from some excess epoxy. They are about the size of a standard 1x3. I used glue and my brad nailer to secure the piece.
Step 12: Tweaking the Fit
Time to put the table on the support braces to see how it fit. There were a few wobbly spots that were easily fixed with wooden shims. I marked the shims with a black line at the cutoff point. Next, I placed an ‘X’ of the side that needed to be discarded.
Next, I used my Japanese finish saw to gently saw the shims at the line I marked.
I secured the shims with glue and brad nails.
I had no idea how I was going to secure the table to the braces without drilling holes in the table. The pecky sinker cypress table needed to be removable. I chose to make an outline of the upper 4x4 out of 1x2s and glue them in place. Next, I placed the table on top of the braces and measured all 4 sides to ensure there was equal distance between the front/back and left/right. Once positioned correctly, I traced the outline of the braces on the underside of the table. I then cut the 1x2s to size, glued them in position, and stained them to blend in with the support braces. I was actually very surprised how securely this fit and how well it worked out.
Step 13: Conclusion
Here is a picture of the finished pecky sinker cypress table. My mother-in-law was happy and I was very satisfied with this table. It is definitely unique with a touch of local history as well.
I hope this project provided you with some value because this is, and always will be, my ultimate goal. Please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and visiting my website for more projects and other fun stuff.
Feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions. I'm happy to help!
Until next time – Imagine…Create…Share