I needed to add about 5 inches of height to the legs to get the top of the table to 29 inches. I had a bunch of scrap ash, so I glued some pieces together and then trimmed them to the the same dimensions as the tops of the legs – about 2 3/4 inches square. I then cut them to the appropriate height.
The next big question was how to attach them securely to the tops of the legs. Gluing end-grain to end-grain is the weakest joint in woodworking, so I needed to reinforce that joint, lest the table split apart at one of leg seams one day. Yeesh, that would be a drag. Knowing my luck, it would probably happen when we were entertaining the Emperor of Japan and his wife, and steaming bowls of miso soup would land in their laps. Oh, it would be so embarrassing. They’d never want to come back!
Fortunately, the tops of the legs already had holes drilled into them, more or less on center. Handan discovered some old galvanized bolts I had kicking around the basement, and she further determined that those bolts fit snugly into the holes. Despite her crude British hand gestures, she’s not half bad sometimes!
I cut the heads off with my dull hacksaw. I do so little metalwork, that I always forget to buy a new blade. Been sawing with this one for over four years. Takes a long time to saw the simplest thing. But it’s a good workout for a pudgy schlub like me! 🙂
In case you’re ever wondering why I have, say, a picture of a relatively unimportant thing like cutting the head off a bolt, but no pictures of me attaching the end boards or the splines to the table, it’s because I generally work alone, and during critical or high-stress work, I can’t stop to take pics. If I’m lucky, Handan may be around to be my paparazzo, but usually I’m all by my lonesome. 🙁 Poor me 🙁
The bolt had a real tight fit in the top of the leg. I needed to wack it with a framing hammer. That set my nerves on edge, as with every tremendous whallop, I expected the antique leg to shatter.
I got lucky, and the legs stayed intact. But I had another problem. The holes that were drilled in the legs were not perfectly straight, and one of them was not on center. That was going to make the job of mating them with the blocks I had cut that much harder.
To solve this, I made the holes in the extension blocks wide enough to accommodate the slanted bolts and allow for a little wiggle room. I would fill up the empty space with epoxy, and along with the wood glue mating the two ends, I’d have a joint that should survive the Apocalypse.
…then spread out the glue and cram some epoxy into the hole on the extension piece, and I was good to go.
I clamped them up as best I could (it was a bit awkward with the shape of the legs) and let the glue and epoxy cure.
The next day, I set about repairing the gouges left over from removing the stubborn corbels. I used simple wood filler for Round 1.
Once that had dried and I had sanded it smooth, I noticed that there were more gouges to fill. For Round 2, I wanted to experiment with something new. Since these legs would be painted, I wasn’t worried about experimenting. I had read a lot of good things about Bondo as a wood filler. I knew that it is used extensively in auto body repair, but I didn’t realize they made a product for wood. It is a two-part filler that must be mixed together and used within minutes before it hardens.
I love it. It’s now my number one filler for anything that will be painted. It says that it is stainable, but the test piece I tried it on didn’t accept stain like the unfilled areas. But for pieces that will be painted, it’s a wonder. It goes on smooth and easy and dries quickly. Once dried, I find it much easier to sand than wood filler. A big thumbs up to Bondo! I will warn you though – wear nitrile gloves when working with this stuff. It’s pretty toxic, and it stinks to high heaven. But those are small prices for a filler this good.
Once I had the tops of the legs sorted, I needed to turn my attention to one of the feet. When we bought the original table, one of the clawed feet was missing a toe. It was time to harness my inner sculptor and Michelangelo that thing back into shape. My tool of choice was Handan’s Apoxie Sculpt – part epoxy glue, part modeling clay, 100% badass.
I put the leg in a vise and drilled two pilot holes for the screws pictured above.
The screws would act as anchors for the Apoxie Sculpt, much like rebar does for concrete. It would give it something to hold onto.
I scooped out equal amounts from each jar and kneaded them together with my fingers.
After I had them mixed together, I called upon my muse and set about my masterpiece.
Michelangelo himself could not possibly have done better!
Part 4 – The Apron
Most of the construction and repair of the legs was now complete. The only thing that remained was to route a large chamfer on one of the top edges of each of the legs.
That bevel would be needed in a bit when I would be attaching the legs to the apron.
The corner brackets I bought to attach the legs to the apron were 3 inches tall, so I decided to make the apron 3 1/2 inches tall. I had enough scrap wood for the 4 pieces I would need. Handan and I placed the legs where we wanted them, and then I made my calculations. I was very careful with my math, writing out the simplest of steps that I could have done in my head. I didn’t want to screw anything up. We were so close to the end!
I made those calculations one day and made the cuts the next. When reading from my calculations above, I read that “49 11/16” as “49 1/16.” When I was assembling the pieces on the table, I couldn’t understand why everything wasn’t fitting together in the proper way. When I discovered my error, I was afraid the legs would interfere with the side chairs, but my 5/8 inch mistake wasn’t going to affect anything. Phew!
The picture above was still just a mockup. Nothing was glued or screwed in place. Handan was dying to know how the table was going to look. I had snapped some pics and turned them upside down, but that wasn’t enough for her. She wanted to do it the old fashioned way.
I needed to cut channels in the apron for the corner brackets that would secure the legs to the apron and the fasteners that would secure the apron to the table. I marked the apron where i needed to cut the groove for the corner bracket, and I marked where I would need to drill holes for the hanger bolts on the beveled corner of the leg.
I set my table saw to cut a 3/8 inch groove and ran the boards through.
Before going any further with the legs and apron, I put two coats of shellac on everything. Handan would be painting it soon, and the shellac would not only protect the wood from moisture, but it would prevent the original legs from bleeding through since they were mahogany. I used brush-on shellac for the apron and parts of the legs and spray shellac for the intricate parts and corbels.
I had the holes marked for the hanger bolts, but I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to drill the holes nice and straight when I’d be balancing the leg on the opposite corner while I drilled.
I solved this issue by making a quick jig from some scrap wood. I drilled holes in the jig with my drill press.
I then fit the jig over the leg.
And then I drilled the holes.
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