Monday, December 16, 2013

Walnut Dining Table

I have no idea why, but this project has elicited very little excitement from me.  I'm sure it will be cool when I am done, but the motivation to work on it has been low.  I bought the lumber about 18 months ago and basically all I have done to it in that time was run all the boards through a surface planer.

I decided that this has to change, so I recently started working on it again.  I am hoping that putting it up on the blog will give me that extra "have to" to finish it.

Lately, I got the boards laminated together for the top.  I spent a couple of days when I first got this lumber laying it out to make it look pleasing, and I think I did OK with what I had available.  It was now just a matter of jointing the edges and gluing them up.

Doing a big table top (this one is a bit over 150 cm long and 90 cm wide) increases the complications with gluing up a panel exponentially.  Add to that, that I wanted to do it all with my LV BU jack plane just because I could, and I was busy for a few days.

Edge jointing for the laminated table top.
Most of the joints went together easily, but there were a couple that took a while to get right.  It is weird how that works.  All went OK and I got it all glued up pretty much to the standard I envisioned.

Last weekend I got to start working on flattening.  I started on the underside.  There were a few boards that were proud of the others, but overall it was a good glue-up.  I was happy.  I continued to use my BU jack, but I did use a toothed iron to go cross-grain for heavy cuts.
Toothed iron for cross-grain material removal.
I haven't ever flattened a panel this big by hand before.  My bench top is less than two feet wide, and that makes a big difference.  Pushing this plane across the grain for more than 90 cm was a real workout.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the table had a bit of twist in it that I had to plane out, too.  Luckily the underside doesn't have to be that pretty, as it was definitely functionally flat as opposed to a glass-smooth surface.

Now it is time to plane the show surface.
When I started the show surface, I knew from experience that there was a lot of wood to remove, but I had to be careful not to let any of the massive tear-out occur that happened on the underside.  After a few careful passes with my toothing iron, I gave up.  This particular walnut has some spots that either are soft or the grain is going crazy, or both.  There is no way I can bring the surface down with this plane making it look neat with no tear out.

Did I mention I was doing this at the Army's woodshop on my post?  No?  Well, I was working this piece at the Army's woodshop on my post.  This small shop has few machines, and pretty much none of them would I use on a piece of furniture I would put my name on.  Especially, there is not a machine that will surface a table top.


There was an old Stanley #5 there that was rescued from the dump who knows how long ago.  I asked the owner if he minded if I grind a radius in the blade, and he didn't as he has had that plane for decades without ever having used it.

I ground an 8" radius on the blade, and honed it to a state of "sharp enough."

I am amazed.  I haven't ever used a vintage Stanley like this before, and it worked pretty much perfectly to flatten out this panel without gouging out giant chips from deep within the middle of the panel like the toothing iron did.
Stanley #5 and an iron sharpened with an 8" radius for rough work.
I have used in the past my scrub plane, which has a 3" radius.  I would say the difference is stark.  The scrub with the 3" radius is perfect for actually reducing the thickness of a board, where this did a fantastic job of doing the rough part of flattening this giant panel.  It is a thick top at 40mm, but I wasn't looking to bring it down to 4/4, just bring it down to a state of flat-enough-for-a-dinner-table.
Here is where the top stands now.  Note the wavy lines left from the jack plane.

I have taken the parts for the legs home to my own bench to get them ready.  I am laminating the legs together.  Each leg will be however square I can get them laminating two 40mm thick pieces together.  Probably about 75mm square or so.  I am planning on veneering some walnut veneer on the edges of the legs that show the lamination joint, similar to how I did the legs for the in-law's oak table I finished about a year ago.

Not sure if you can see it, but this laminated leg has veneer on one face to make quarter sawn figure show on all sides.

The Frau votes against this idea, she thinks that it will be obvious that some of the leg faces are veneered, but I think it will look better than showing that big lamination seam.  I'll have to test it to find out.  In the end, I think it would have been better to spend a bit more money on some thick stock to make the legs from one piece of lumber.

The other thing I haven't settled on yet is the final design.  More on that in a following post.


  1. A scrub plane or jack plane with a radius blade is one of the true marvels of this world.
    I think the table tob looks fabulous.
    I have never worked walnut. It isn't a traditional tree whe I live, but I really like the look of it.

    1. Hi Jonas, I agree about the radiused blade.

      American walnut (juglans nigra) is always available at the lumber yard I go to here in Munich. In fact, it is cheaper than European walnut (juglans regia). At 1750 EUROs per cubic meter ($5.68 per board foot), I can get it cheaper than many people in the States.

      It's funny, though, new furniture sold here in American walnut can fetch twice the price of the same furniture in European beech (fagus sylvatica).

      Online lumber converter:
      latin lumber names:

    2. Walnut is my favorite wood to work. It's easy to work with and finishes very nicely. Walnut is very plentiful where I live, yet at the same time manages to be just about the most expensive domestic wood we have, so unfortunately I rarely use it. I do have some pieces stashed away that I am saving for...I don't know what.

  2. Hi Brian,
    Have you got a #80 Stanley scraper or an equivalent? They work very well for squirrely grain like walnut.

    1. Hi Ralph,

      Now that you mention it, I do! I forgot about it. I was planning on using my 38 degree blade in my jack, and if that didn't work the 50 degree one. But, once I get it sort of flat, the #80 is a great idea!

  3. Hey Brian
    The table looks great so far! Walnut is one of my most favortitist woods. A walnut desk/table is very high on my woodworking bucket list. So looking forward future posts on this build. Keep up the good work!

    1. As the Germans say, this table is relatively "0815," or rather plain like every other table out there. The wood itself should make this table (or break it, if this tear out continues).

      I'm a bit more excited about the project after this, which will be a corner bench for some seating around this table. I think I have a good idea what I want to do for that one.

  4. This is going to be a beautiful table. You might just have to make me one next! You could just ship it over on the next flight out of Germany! Hmmmmm? Good job!

  5. Sis you finish this table yet, Brian? Can't wait to see what it will turn out like. Beautiful, for sure!