Behind the Build - Part One
What does it take to build a beautiful 16ft long table with a full length epoxy feature?
I've decided to break down each section of the build to give a fairly in depth look at the processes involved and things I wish I'd known. Follow along and feel free to reach out with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also leave your questions and comments in the comment bar below.
First things first!
After you've sourced your slabs, it's time to flatten them.
This table was comprised of 5 slabs, all of which from the same boule (group of slabs from one single tree). The drying process creates a lot of cellular tension and can cause the slab to develop twists, cups, bows, etc. To bring the table to a working state, these imperfections have to be fixed and the best way to do so for large slabs like this is with a router sled setup.
A router sled is a simple concept in which a router sits within a track system allowing it to slide back and forth as well as along the length of the work piece, removing small amounts of material at a time. There are A LOT of different ways to set up a sled and they all work. Some increase efficiency and some just get the job done. Mine fell somewhere in between.
Now for those of you who aren't aware, my business is based out of the great city of Denver, Colorado. So how then did I end up building this table in Memphis, TN? Grab me a beer down at Wiseacre and I'll tell ya. Life is interesting. That said, I had to get creative with a shop setup.
An absolutely wonderful old friend-family allowed me to use their vacant barn as a temporary workshop. I didn't plan on making residence their so I needed to be mindful of their space and my needs.
After some research, I took note of a YouTuber by the name of The Samurai Carpenter and the router sled setup he adapted for a recent build. I'll put a link to the video here.
The idea was simple. Create a sturdy platform (4x4's supported by saw horses) to support the slabs and run rails (strips of MDF sistered together) perpendicular to the orientation of the platform for the sled to ride on. Some forethought is necessary to determine the height of yours rails in relation to both the height of your work piece and max depth of you router/bit combo. Beyond that, get ready for some of the most monotonous hours of your life...
Back and forth, nudge to the left....
Back and forth, nudge to the left...
Back and forth, nudge to the left...
Get a few podcasts downloaded because you've got some brain power to kill.
I made sure to spend the money for proper tools on this build. Far too often people make the mistake of buying cheap numerous times instead of buying expensive once. I went down to The Woodwork Shop, Inc. (http://www.thewoodworkshopinc.com) in Bartlett, TN and invested in the Amana Tools RC-2250 surfacing bit to help get the job done faster and it worked out pretty well. The only change I would make is to invest in a 3HP router for hardwood flattening projects. I own the Bosch 2.25HP plunge/fixed base combo and it didn't seem to have the muscle I wish it had.
Because of that, I took vary small increments of material off at a time. About an 1/8" depth and 3/8" width. I even changed out the blades on my Amana flattening bit a few times to make sure I kept as much load off the router as possible. The plus to the bit though was that it left minimal tear out which cut down on sanding time later.
As you can see to the left, tear out is still visible. I'm assuming it has to do with the rpm to power ratio of the router but I could be wrong. Might just be how the cookie crumbles. Regardless, I was a very happy man after getting all slabs flattened on one side because that meant something wonderful. It meant I could take them to a buddy's local slab milling/slab sales/furniture building company downtown and run them through his enormous planer. Matthew Wrage of City Wood in Memphis, TN was an incredibly influential aspect of this build. I truly couldn't have done it without his advice, his crew's help and his support. Cheers bro! (http://www.city-wood.com)
Since I had flattened one side already, I created a flat "template" for the planer to work off of, ensuring both sides were flat and the slab maintained uniform thickness throughout its length. If I hadn't flattened one side, I would still have a twist in the slab after it was all said and done.
I got the slabs back to the barn and began the process of laying out measurements for dowel placements. I used a self centering dowel jig to place the holes and made a batch of 3" oak dowel pins to help line up the joints and add a little more stability. I found that putting them in your drill and sanding them down a bit helps when it comes time for inserting them into the glue-laden holes.
I thought about investing in a Festool Domino rig but couldn't justify it. Just too expensive. Many people drink the KoolAid and I get why. Their products are awesome! But only because they have the market control through copyrights and patents. From what I understand, they expire soon and I'd like to see what other companies have up their sleeves before I toss a few thousand dollars at Festool. #ThereGoesAnySponsorshipOpportunity
Well, that's about it. There are many more nuances to this part of the build as you can imagine but I hope I produced a picture concise enough for you to enjoy. If you did enjoy this little rambling of mine, give me a little pat on the back and comment below or share this blog on some of your social media. Be sure to check back for the next part of Behind the Build.
Thanks for the read!