Introduction: How to Make a Sculpted Table
I have been dreaming of a project for quite some time now where I could utilize fire to naturally create features on a log for a side table. The seed for this project came from a project by Ben Uyeda, his DIY Log Stool. I have had the vision, but I needed to wait at least two years to allow the logs that I have on hand to be dry enough to not crack either during the burning or after the project was complete. That two-year time was finally up this fall so it was time to make a table!
To start creating the table, I started with a walnut wood log, approximately 12 inches in diameter, and 22” tall. I used my electric chainsaw to make a few cuts about 8 inches deep in one end. I needed to make enough cuts with a wide enough kerf (width of cut) to lay some small kindling in to start a fire. I was careful to not make any one section of the outer part of the log too thin, or the risk would be that I would end up with a table not structurally sound.
After making the cuts in the log, I added some small twigs and pieces of bark along with some of the dried walnut chips created when cutting with the chainsaw. I then used my HomeRight Electrolight to get a fire started on the end of the log. Using the Electrolight made it quite easy to get the fire started while keeping a safe distance. Once the fire was started, I kept and eye on it, adding more kindling as needed to keep it going until I felt it had burned away enough to create 4 solid legs for the table. Then I just used a gallon of water to extinguish the fire and sat aside the long until it was fully cooled off.
With the log safely cooled off it was time to remove the bark from the rest of the log and level out the top. To do this I used two different attachments with my 4.5-inch angle grinder. The first one I used was King Arthur’s Tools Lancelot, which they call the chainsaw blade. This is used to remove a lot of material and fast. Next, I used the King Arthur’s Tools Holey Galahad which also can remove a lot of material but in a much more controlled fashion. I checked frequently using a level to know when the surface was relatively flat and level.
Now that the log top was level, I used both the Lancelot and Holey Galahad attachments again with the angle grinder to carve the log table to my desired shape. I wanted the shape to have a very organic form to it and follow the flow of the grain. To clean up the underside of the table, between the four legs, I used my King Arthur's Tools Merlin II, a mini grinder with attachments to smooth out the rough spots. The mini grinder was a life saver here, as the larger grinder just would not fit between the legs.
The log has several long cracks, and though they will not propagate any further because the wood is dry, I decided to put in epoxy resin ties across one of the more aggressive cracks just for extra safe measure. I used my King Arthur’s Tools Merlin II, the mini grinder with attachments to carve out three oblong shapes to fill with resin. Here again, the smaller tool allowed more agility and flexibility in creating the shape of the ties.
I mixed Ecopoxy UVpoxy with some Ecopoxy Glopoxy and blue tint to fill the ties on the table. I then poured the epoxy and allowed 24 hours of cure time. To get rid of the air bubble in the resin, I used my HomeRight heat gun. I also had the table in my small HomeRight shelter with fan and filter to eliminate free floating dust that could fall into the resin while curing. This was the first time I used this method of pouring the epoxy within the shelter. I think I will do that from here on out where it is possible because there was absolutely no dust particles found in the epoxy after it had cured.
After the epoxy resin had cured, I used the mini grinder to smooth out the overpour of the resin. I used a 60-grit sanding attachment with the mini grinder to then even out any remaining rough and high spots on the table. There was no need to go any finer with the sanding grit because I intended to burn the stool to highlight the grain.
I really wanted to highlight and darken the grain of the walnut as part of my design. So, I used a propane torch to scorch the entire table. And here is where I learned a valuable lesson. I had let the epoxy for the ties cure for 24 hours. I should have let them cure for 48 hours. Also, by applying heat around them after curing, it caused the resin to crack and it also caused the resin to become black. Now I know, if I want to do the ties in the future, I will need to scorch the wood first, then pour the resin in. Lesson learned. Though in the end I don’t think that it takes away from the finished table at all.
After the table had completely cooled, I used a 240 Grit Nyalox Flap brush with my electric drill to remove the soot and highlight the grain. This also served as the final sanding step and made the table smooth. I did this with the table again in the shelter with fan and filter so I did not get covered in black soot while removing it from the table.
Lastly, I wanted to add a pop of color to be in contrast to the now blackened walnut. I again used Ecopoxy resin and mixed in a metallic red pigment. I put a piece of tape around the lip of the top of the table, but did not cover all of the cracks. I wanted to pour the resin and have it flow and drip down the piece. After I poured the resin, I waited a few minutes and removed the piece of tape. In order to get rid of the air bubbles in the resin I again used my HomeRight Heat gun. And again, I had the table in the small HomeRight shelter with fan and filter to keep free floating dust and particles from settling in the resin while it cured.
After the resin had cured it was time to apply the top coat and brand. I went with my go to, Howards Feed ‘N’ Wax. It smells like oranges and it provides a great protective finish without deterring from the natural feel and texture. I also attempted to apply my brand to the underside. Unfortunately, I just did not have a flat enough surface large enough for my branding iron to leave a mark. I think it’s time to get a small branding iron for just these types of situations!