You’ve never seen a Farmhouse Dining Table like this one! We made a beautiful upscale farmhouse-style top and paired it with antique Gothic Revival legs!
Well, not really. I mean, it’s a table, right? Though that would be kinda cool. Or creepy. Or both. But it’s finally finished! After two years and eight months! It’s done! And you can’t blame me for the Frankenstein reference, because this table has a lot in common with Mary Shelley’s monster. Granted, it’s not a hideous and pitiable beast out to kill its creator for bringing it into the world (good thing for me!), but it was assembled from spare parts, much like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation. And the table from which I harvested the parts hails from the Gothic Revival period. Mary Shelley wrote her novel during the Gothic period. Coincidence? I think not! And the table itself represents the unholy union of two styles that were never meant to coexist in the same room, let alone in the same piece! Farmhouse and Gothic Revival? Are you freaking kidding me? What’s next? Cabbage ice cream? Polished Italian marble floors with orange shag carpet accents? Bubble gum and peanuts?
Here we go again. Greg, the Unplanned and Unthinking, launches headlong into another half-baked idea…
But this time it’s different! You’ll see! Come…have a look!
Part 1 – The Plan and the Wood Shop
Okay, for anyone here who hasn’t gone back and read the intro post like I asked (you know who you are!), here’s what the table looked like just after I began my first attempt to refinish it:
In that post, I called it a Victorian dining table. I was wrong (shocker!). It’s actually a Gothic Revival table. Anyway, without rehashing that post (that you should certainly have read by now, right madam??), I botched the job over and over again and then finally quit in disgust. I pushed the table to the corner of the garage and forgot about it for 2 1/2 years. But Handan had a plan for it. She wanted me to make a new top. A “farmhouse” top. That sure would solve the problem of refinishing the old one!
So with new plan in hand, we set about measuring our space to determine how big a tabletop I’d be building. Once we had our measurements, we headed over to Parkerville Wood Products – my source for quality domestic and exotic wood. I know that sounds like a paid plug for them, but I assure you, they don’t know I exist.
Handan had a vision in mind – a pretty standard “Restoration Hardware” kind of vision. You know the look: weathered pine, matte finish, and “farmhousey” out the wazoo. We looked through all the boards, and of course, Handan’s eye naturally fell upon the most expensive exotics like they were calling to her with the sweetest siren song.
“Oooooh, my babes! What is this one? I love it!” Her eyes shined as she stared at it.
“Yeah, that’s teak, my babes. We’d have to take out a second mortgage, sell one of my kidneys and rent Barish out as seasonal farm labor to afford that.” Her smile didn’t falter and the eyeshine didn’t fade. She looked at me, expectantly. Good lord, she was actually considering it!
Fortunately, my kidney and Barish’s back were saved by one of Parkerville’s employees who chose that moment to inform us we couldn’t possibly afford the wood on which my wife had started to drool.
Phew! Dodged a bullet there!
We told him what we were planning, and he no doubt thought we were a couple of total noobs desperately trying to hop on the next trendwagon to Hipsville. I let him keep that notion. Better to let him think I was a total idiot than to open my mouth and confirm it.
When she finally tore herself away from the teak, Handan took a keen interest in a stack of reclaimed wood. Our new friend couldn’t positively identify the species – it was likely over 100 years old – but Handan loved it. It certainly had that “weathered look” in spades. We may have even ended our search right there, but a quick calculation of my needed board feet showed that there wasn’t nearly enough of it for the tabletop. We’d have to pick something else.
Our guy extricated us from the exotic-and-reclaimed room and led us back to the mere mortal domestic woods. After shuffling through several species and being roundly rejected by either Handan or me, he finally suggested ash. It was one of the cheapest species they carried. I’d never worked with it before, but I was willing to have a look. Much of it was pretty boring and unappealing, but some boards had great color and grain. Handan and I looked at each other, shrugged and said, “Yeah, why not?”
We sorted through the stacks of ash, and pulled out the best 12-foot boards we could find. Our guy then cut them in half for us.
Parkerville is not just a wood store, it’s a full-service, large-scale wood shop, too. Every time I go there, I get a wicked case of machine envy.
I wiped up my own puddle of drool, paid for the boards (about $250) and hit the road.
Part 2 – Building the Tabletop
Back home, I lined them up for inspection.
Those shorter boards would be the end boards.
They looked pretty good standing at attention, but I wanted to see how they looked horizontally, so I plopped them on my work table. Since my table is only four feet square, the boards ran off the edges. I placed the end boards on top of the others, just to get a rough idea of the final form.
Okay, I could see a table in there. I arranged the boards into a configuration I liked, and then made sure I alternated the grain pattern on the ends.
You can see on the two boards shown above that the board on the left has downward cupping grain, and the board on the right has upward cupping grain. Since I would be gluing the boards together, it was important to alternate the grain like that to balance out the wood’s internal stressing, so the table wouldn’t warp.
Everything needed to be planed and cut a bit, so I pulled them off the table for a loooong session of planing.
I told you it was a long session. This was my dust collection bag after planing. The bag was about 1/4 full when I started.
Once the boards were planed, I cut them to the appropriate width and length.
Before gluing them together, I routed the edges with a chamfer bit. In layman’s terms, that means I put a 45 degree bevel on the edges. This would give a slightly “farmhousey” appearance to the table, as if there were a gap between the boards, when in fact there would be none.
The boards were then ready for glue-up. This was exciting! The table was about to start taking shape! I applied glue to the edges.
As I put the first two boards together, I realized that they were both a little warped. I don’t know how I missed this earlier, but it was too late for crying. I had glue on the boards, and they were going together, warped or not.
“Babes!” I yelled into the dusty air. “BABES!!”
Handan came running at breakneck speed, thinking I’d severed a limb or lost an eyeball or something. “What is it, my babes?? Are you okay?”
“Quick, climb up on the table! Stand on the boards!”
My wife’s bone-crushing weight was more than enough to straighten those boards out, lickety split! Handan’s dainty frame managed to push one of the boards down just enough to be usable. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than it was going to be otherwise.
This process needed to be repeated the next day as well. She was more prepared the second time, and used the ceiling joists to her advantage.
I’m sure former professional furniture makers all over the world are rolling around in their graves at our techniques. We always seem to do things a little differently here at The Navage Patch. None of my projects ever goes smoothly, a fact Handan finally came to understand with this project, as I often needed her help.
Here was the last glue-up of the main part of the table: the two double sides that Handan helped flatten glued onto the middle board.
Once everything was cured, I had a look. It wasn’t horrible, but it certainly wasn’t flat. This was going to take a bit of sanding…
…and periodic checking to see if it was level.
When I thought I had it properly sanded, I trimmed the edges so the end boards would fit flush.
But I just couldn’t get the end boards to match up flush with the end of the table. The board would always have a gap at the end. I tried over and over and over with my circular saw and edge guide, shaving off fractions of an inch each time.
Couldn’t get it.
I finally deduced that it must be happening because the top was not, in fact, as flat as I had hoped.
I needed professional help. I admit it. The problem was more than I could solve.
Barish and I loaded the table into the car, and Handan and I drove it to Parkerville so they could run it through their industrial-sized belt sander.
While they were at it, I asked if they could just square up the ends with their industrial-sized table saw.
They loaded the table back into my car, and I apologized for the puddle of drool I left in their shop.
Back home, I checked the fit between the table and the end boards, and it was perfect. I would be connecting them with a spline joint. That means I would be cutting a small groove down the length of the end boards and down the length of the table ends. I would then cut a strip of wood to fit in the groove. This would add strength to the joint. To make the spline joint, I used a router and a 1/4 inch rabbeting bit.
I first routed a small section to see how it was going to look.
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