Introduction: Black Walnut Trestle Table

I made this table for a coworker that fell in love with the first walnut table I made. She chose a trestle table build with a double pedestal design inspired by early french architecture. This project took around 6 months to complete, as I only build things in my spare time.

Step 1: Lumber!

Black Walnut is quite expensive locally so it took me a week or two to find a good deal on lumber. I ended up finding a guy a few counties over that had just what I needed, I just had to patiently wait for the wood to finish kiln drying (ended up waiting for about 60 days). I did my best to calculate how many board feet I would need for this project and added some extra just in case. I hand selected each board so I knew exactly what I was getting. I bought roughly 125 bd ft 8/4 thickness fresh out of the kiln.

Step 2: Choose Wisely...

One of the first things I learned from my previous walnut trestle build, was to pick out the boards for your table top first, before you start cutting other parts. This may be common sense to most, but at the time, my excitement for cutting pedestal legs on my new band saw ended up costing me extra lumber fees, because I came up one board short on the top. Word to the wise, Lumber in bulk is much cheaper than a single board especially 8/4 black walnut.

In late October, I decided to start working on the table top. After examining the boards, I made my selection, and prepared my work area for jointing/planing them down. I gave them a few days to acclimate in my shop, then proceeded to glue them up. Since the table top will be 72"x46", I knew I'd be unable to lift it by myself once it was all glued up, so I decided to glue it in 2 separate parts at first. This ended up being a wise decision for several reasons that I will go into later. As mid November approached, Christmas orders started flying in, and with this being my first official Christmas holiday for my little business, I was completely unprepared. I also learned that no matter how good I think I am, my ability to estimate project completion time is horribly poor at best. Plus on top of all of these projects, being the genius decision maker, I decided to remodel our fireplace and build a hutch for my wife. Needless to say, this was a stressful Christmas. Hence, this table was put on the back burner until mid January.

After a solid 2 weeks of cleaning the shop and preparing to get the table top back out, I set the 2 parts back up on my sawhorses, and stood in shock as I witnessed both parts warped in the shape of a crescent moon. I had multiple theories on why this happened, (probably acclimation or EMC) but instead of dealing with the causes, I tried to focus on a solution. I new the customer wanted the boards as wide as possible so I chose the widest out of the bundle. Each half had 3 wide boards glued up, ranging between 7-10" wide. After examining the halves, I quicky discovered that each half had one warped board. I had already plained the boards down to slightly less than 6/4 (started at 8/4!!), so the last thing I wanted was to plane the entire set of boards for the top, and lose even more thickness. Instead, I opted to cut the warp pieces off, and replace them. I knew I would be sacrificing lumber no matter which direction I took with this, so I tried not to stress over it. Since the two boards I was replacing were two of the widest in the bundle, I ended up having to replace them with 3 boards from the stack of rough cut, which really made me start to worry whether I'd have enough to finish the table. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pics of the warped boards since I didn't know I'd be writing all this at the time :(

After finishing the three freshly planed boards, I gave them a week or so to settle/acclimate for fear of anymore movement/warpage. The last pic is of the table finally glued up.

Step 3: Breadboard Ends Part 1

Next up, breadboard ends. I chose to go with three hidden tenons with hidden dowels to allow full seasonal movement of the table. I actually just spoke with my previous customer about her walnut table, and she measured nearly 1/2" of movement between summer and winter widths!! Since the finish date for this table will be in April, I have the luxury of not worrying about finishing the ends with a different width than the table. Here are a few pictures that show the breadboard end progression.

Step 4: Breadboard Ends Part 2

Here are some pics of the elongated dowel holes that will be installed through the bottom of each end. These serve 2 purposes, keeping the ends tight against the table, while the elongation still allows for top movement. As you can see, this is simply 3 drilled holes, then cleaned out with a chisel.

Step 5: Choose Wisely...(again)

Now that the top was to a manageable point in the process, I could deal with the rest of the table. First, I needed to figure out if I even had enough to finish. This suprisingly took an entire evening because no matter how I pieced them together, I still came up a little bit short. I ended up throwing in a few extra pieces from old projects to make things look right on paper. One doesn't think about the amount of wood required to make a leg that's 7" thick or a foot that's 5.5" thick. This also played a vital roll in how the templates were sized and drawn up, shaving an inch here, adding an inch there.

Step 6: Balusters

The legs were the next step, and fairy straight forward, as I just took what was too short for any other part and piled them all up. Obviously, matching grain color and avoiding sap wood are two of the main priorities when making the parts for the base. I was fine with leaving a small amount of sap wood to give the table a little character, but the color matching was tough due to the limited pieces left to choose from. I needed 7" thickness to make the legs work so 4 pieces were glued up for each leg. After planing and glue-up, I wrapped both pieces with duct tape, a trick that has served me well.

Bandsaw tips for balusters:

When cutting a unique shape like this, you have to keep the piece squarely on the saw table or you risk cutting angled and messing the piece up. So, my trick is to cut as large a piece as possible, ignoring the small details like corners or ridges. This way, when I flip the piece to cut the next side, I can duct tape the large pieces back on and still have the piece square to the table. I've used this method on 8 legs and it's never failed me!

Once I finished with the rough-cut, I started sanding them down, knocking out any bandsaw marks.

Step 7: Trestle Base Part 1: Glue-ups

for gluing the base top and bottom, I decided to try a different approach by using 2x4s as boundaries to prevent the wood from wandering during glue-up. The approach worked but I probably won't use it again simply because it seemed to over-complicate a simple idea. If you do ever attempt this, I recommend adding some painters tape to the 2x4s.

Step 8: Trestle Base Part 2: Making Square Mortises

I decided to use square mortises to attach the the 3 parts of the base together, then glue-up. I used a forstner bit to cut the depth, then used a sonicrafter and chisel to square the holes up. The legs were toughest, trying to clamp them down on my drill press was an ordeal to say the least.

Step 9: Trestle Base Part 3

Once the mortises were finished, I decided to give each piece a rough sanding pass since the parts would be tougher to handle after glued up.

Once test fitting was complete, I proceeded to glue-up the 3 parts.

Step 10: Sanding Top

Once finished with the base, it was time to finish sanding on table tops. I started with an 80grit belt sander and leveled out the top as much as possible. Once I was satisfied, I used a finish sander with 120grit to finish.

Step 11: Finish

For the finish, I used Waterlox (3 coats sealer, 1 coat satin finish). After each coat, I wiped the sealer coat down with #0000 steel wool, then brushed and vacuumed any particles off, then proceeded to the next coat. I applied it with a foam brush, which is hands down my favorite way to finish.