Introduction: The Two-Weekend Table

About: Vera Shur has a background in architecture, with special focus on exhibition and furniture design. Her investigations focus on the unexpected qualities of everyday materials and the back-and-forth of digital d…

My husband and I invited friends over for dinner and decided to build a table for the occasion. The invitation was set for two weeks from the day we bought the wood.

Step 1: Designing the Table

We used Rhino to design the table and determine the quantity of wood needed. All the pieces were then laid out and dimensioned in 2d, to be used for reference in the shop. We also created full-scale templates of all the table leg pieces from the 3d model.

Step 2: Choosing the Wood

We decided to use walnut for the table because of its beautiful color and grain pattern. For the table top, we bought a single 8/4 thick x 15" wide x 12' long piece of walnut. The legs were made out of a single plank measuring 8/4 thick x 6" wide x 10' long.

Step 3: Jointing and Planing the Wood

We jointed the wood on all but one edge, and then planed it all to 1-1/2" thickness.

Step 4: Building the Table Top

The two pieces for the table top were laid out so that the sap wood (the light wood on the outer rings of the tree, near the bark) would be on the edge.

We did a dry-run with all the clamps in place before we glued it together. Though walnut is a pretty hard wood, we put scrap pieces between the clamps and the wood as often as possible so as not to damage the surface.

The glue job was fairly simple - a generous helping of Titebond 3 Wood Glue on both edges of the joint and then a whole lot of clamps. We tried to wipe as much of the squeeze-out as possible while it was still wet.

Once the glue dried, we used the table saw to cut off the last edge, careful to take off as little as possible so that the sap wood would remain prominent.

Step 5: Making the Beveled Edge

The design included a long, shallow bevel along the table edges. The table saw would have been difficult to use because the angle on the bevels was more than 45 degrees, so we built a giant jig and used a Festool. The jig consists of a series of 90 degree triangles screwed to a long piece of plyboo. The whole assembly was then clamped perpendicular to the table top, with the track for the Festool laid on top. It took a few passes to get it right.

Step 6: Building the Parts for the Legs

The templates for the legs were laser cut and laid out on the wood with double-stick tape. The smaller pieces were cut on the band saw. We built a simple jig with a flat edge and two precise points of contact with the wood to create the subtle taper on the longer pieces using a table saw.

Step 7: Assembling the First Leg Joint

Did you know you could turn a drill press table 90 degrees on its axis? You can! It comes in very handy when you need to drill a hole parallel to the length of the wood.

To secure the first joint, we first glued it together, masking the area around is to make clean up easier. Then we drilled a wide hole to countersink a screw, and a deep, narrow hole for the screw to go into. After the screw was in place, the hole was plugged with a dowel, which was then planed flush to the surface.

Step 8: Assembling the Second Leg Joint

Unlike the first joint, which was in tension, the second joint primarily experiences compression. To ensure a strong connection, a hole was drilled through both pieces of wood and a dowel was hammered to the bottom of the cavity. We then sawed off the remaining dowel and planed it flush to the rest of the leg.

Once both joints were secure, the whole assembly was run through the table saw to ensure that the faces touching the underside of the table top were flush.

Step 9: Attaching the Levelers

The last step before assembling the legs to the table was to add levelers made from T-nuts and flat headed screws.

Step 10: Assembling the Table

We chose to screw, rather than glue, the legs to the table to make for simple dis-assembly. A stiffener piece was screwed to the underside of the table along its centerline, with two 45 degree angles on either side. Each leg was placed to sit against the stiffener piece.

Each leg was screwed into the table top in two places, and the outer-most leg pieces were fitted with dowels that fit into holes in the table.

Step 11: Finishing the Table

We finished the table with two coats of Aquazar water-based polyurethane, in clear antique flat. We were told that oil-based polyurethane tends to yellow the wood, and we wanted to keep it as close to its natural color as possible. The trade-off is that the water-based poly raises the grain and gives it a slightly rough surface, despite very diligent sanding.

The last coat finished drying just in time to set the table for dinner.