I then extended that small line across the length of the table end. I did the same process on the edge of the end boards. But in my haste and excitement, I pulled the router away from one of the end boards while it was still spinning. This caused some damage, and may have led to some screaming.
Here’s how my mistake looked when the two boards were together.
I texted this picture to Handan and proclaimed that I had ruined the whole project. I was feeling angry and a little melodramatic.
She told me to stop being an idiot and that no one would notice it. I knew better, but then I realized it was a pretty easy fix with some wood filler. Crisis averted!
I glued the spline into the groove on the table side and then attached the end board with glue. I hammered it into place with a rubber mallet and then used ratchet straps for compression. Ratchet straps are a great way to keep large or awkwardly-shaped pieces together for a glue-up. The clamps on the ends are there to ensure the tension from the straps doesn’t pull the end boards upward.
When the glue dried and the straps were off, I checked my work. Everything looked pretty good, but there were a few gaps on the bottom of the table.
Instead of wood filler, which never looks good with stain, I wanted to try something new. I had recently learned a new technique for filling wood that uses the sawdust from the project you’re working on and shellac.
I heaped some sawdust into my little mixing bowl…
And mixed it until it became a spreadable paste.
I used a splinter of scrap wood as a spatula to spread the mixture into the gap.
I let it dry, and then I sanded it smooth.
A perfect fill!
Once I had all the gaps closed, I stained the bottom with Minwax Weathered Oak and sealed it with two coats of polyurethane. Once that had cured, I started working on the legs and the apron. But to keep all the tabletop work in this section, I’m going to skip ahead to how I finished the top. We’ll take a look at the legs in the next section.
Our original plan was to stain the table only with Minwax Weathered Oak. It doesn’t give a lot of color, but it adds incredible depth and pops any latent colors in the wood. Before I stained, I sanded the whole top with 150 and 220 grits by hand. It’s nearly impossible to prevent swirl marks with a random orbital sander, and I didn’t want to risk it. Even if you don’t see any swirl marks with your naked eye, they have a way of popping out with the first coat of stain or the first coat of finish. Even with hand sanding, I found small areas of imperfectly-sanded wood only after I had applied polyurethane. Finishing is the biggest pain in the butt!
Okay, on to the staining. I applied the first coat of Weathered Oak.
Stain on. Wipe off.
It was a beautiful color, but we wanted something a little darker. I knew going darker would obliterate much of the beautiful grain and subtle colors, but we had to do it. We chose Varathane Kona to darken it up. I applied it only a few minutes after the Weathered Oak, so the table wouldn’t absorb as much. I also applied it sparingly with a rag while Handan worked behind me, wiping it off after only a few seconds.
Varathane Kona gives the purest brown I’ve ever seen in a stain. But as soon as I finished staining, I started to notice an odd and curious and terrifying thing.
Now, you may be thinking, did you use pre-stain conditioner?
No, I didn’t. But! But neither did I use it on the flip side, and it was fine. And the Weathered Oak that was already on there would act as a conditioner anyway. So it was a real mystery where these dark splotches were coming from. I found it equally strange that they appeared both in the softer (white) parts of the wood, and in the most dense parts (the knots).
I stared at the table in disgust while a vile geyser of vituperative language erupted from my mouth. At that moment, in every port on Earth, sailors covered their ears in shame.
Handan waded into my invective stream and tried to cut it short with some kind words.
“It looks okay my babes. You don’t really notice it.”
My fury turned towards her. “I NOTICE IT!”
With one last eruptive gout of foul language and anguish, my anger was extinguished. The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And I had burned so very very bright.
I stared down at the wretched thing before me. My misery. My failure. My monster. At that moment, I felt a keen kinship with Victor Frankenstein, as I looked upon that which should have been divine, but was instead a freakish mockery.
Those damnable spots.
And then, like the Phoenix rising from its own ashes, ideas blossomed in the scorched earth of my mind.
Sand out the spots.
Sand even more to create a “distress inversion,” or light showing under dark.
Re-stain with Weathered Oak to refill some of the distress inversions.
It just might work.
It would work, dammit!
“Woman! Bring me my sandpaper!”
Handan just laughed at me, so I got my own sandpaper.
A couple of hours and a few bags of sweat later, I had the table just where I wanted it. I had sanded out all of the spots, added some more areas of distress inversion, and lightened the tone on the entire table. Here’s how it looked after sanding, but before re-staining.
Now, you may be scrolling back and forth between the two pictures and saying to yourself, that Greg is so full of baloney! I don’t see that much difference between the two pictures!
Madam, I went through about 40 quarter sheets of sandpaper, and worked until my hands cramped into gnarled and twisted fists of pain. Removing stain by hand with 220 grit sandpaper is donkey work!
Anyway, madam, let’s get back to the issue at hand, shall we?
The sanded table looked good, but I wanted to darken those white areas just a bit. I was hoping that Weathered Oak wouldn’t disappoint. It really is a miracle stain.
It added back just the right amount of warmth. I loved it.
I let the stain dry for a couple of days, and then I started the finishing process.
Because I didn’t use any pore filler, and because there were both dense, knotty areas and softer, white areas, I wanted to go for a thinner wipe-on poly instead of a thicker brush-on poly. Since wipe-on polyurethane is simply regular poly (satin or gloss) mixed with mineral spirits, I decided to mix my own. It’s much cheaper that way, and you can control how thick or thin you want the poly to be when you apply it. I mixed three parts Minwax Satin Polyurethane with one part mineral spirits and applied it to the table with a folded cotton rag. I like to use old white cotton t-shirts for this.
Here’s how it looked wet, just after I applied it.
And here’s how it looked when dry.
I applied a total of four coats, and after the first, second and third coats, I rubbed the table with 0000 steel wool, applying medium pressure.
After the fourth and final coat, I sanded with 2000 grit sandpaper, applying only finger pressure. This was just to remove any dust spots or tiny raised areas.
Okay, that’s about it for the tabletop. Let’s get back to those legs!
Part 3 – The Legs
The legs posed an interesting challenge. Our original plan was to keep them as-is and incorporate them into the new design. We found out pretty quickly that that wouldn’t work out as planned. I had removed the legs in two pieces from the original table. You can see the two pieces in the picture below. Each piece has two legs, a curved crossbar support and a spacer support piece along the top (or bottom in the picture, as the table is upside down).
I had been messing around with how much more wood I’d have to add to get the table to the correct height (I was aiming for 29 inches – right in the middle of the recommended 28-30 inches). While I was doing this, Handan came down to have a look. She immediately saw what I did not: with those curved crossbars, the only way we’d be able to fit 6 chairs around the table would be if they were so far towards the ends that the heads of the table would have their feet resting on the crossbars. If we moved the legs in from the ends, then we’d only be able to fit 4 chairs. This was a major roadblock, and Handan wasn’t entirely thrilled with me at that moment for not accounting for this in my plan. The reason these legs worked with the original table is that the original table was much wider than the one I was building, so the legs were tucked far underneath the table no matter where you sat.
We tried all sorts of positions, but nothing worked. My only solution was to break down the legs even further. If we got rid of the curved crossbar and the top support, then we could position the legs wherever we wanted, say, at the corners. I reminded Handan that this was, in fact, supposed to be a “farmhousey” table, and farmhouse tables usually had their legs at the corners.
Handan agreed, and I set my attentions to demolishing our antique even more. Hehehehe. A rubber mallet made quick work of the corbels.
My bulging, chiseled muscles made mincemeat of the curved crossbars.
And my chisel helped persuade the last few recalcitrant corbels that refused to abandon their posts.
Handan declared the operation a success and celebrated with a fist pump…
…and by flipping me the bird, UK style, LOL!
We may squabble and bitch from time to time, but we always have fun. She’s my babes!
Click on “Next” to continue.