Tuesday, October 15, 2019

American Trestle Table - Part X - Finished. With VIDEO

Hooray! It's done!
The finished table.
This might seem like a slow moving project. It is. My first post of the idea was from last Christmas vacation.

There were a few reasons this table took so long. The main one is I built it in Germany, when I live in Spain. We still own our place in Germany, and plan to go back there one day. In the meantime, we get back there every couple of months and I get a day or two to work on it. This time I had six or seven days to finish it.

The other reason it took longer than intended, is the wood for the base was changed from painted pine to American cherry. I love cherry, but it isn't quite as easy to work as pine. Also, I had to put a lot of brain power into matching wood grain for the laminations and stuff like that.

To start things off this time around I decided it was time to drawbore the leg assemblies together. After some testing, I decided to drive 13mm pegs into 1/2" holes. The measurments ensure that the peg is just a little oversize, and leaves a nice clean finish with no gaps.
Making  drawbore pegs with my Austrian dowel plate. Sorry, neighbors!
I was a bit worried using cherry for these pegs, as cherry isn't traditionally a good wood for this. For strength, one should use oak, ash, or something that rives well. I decided to use cherry for aesthetic reasons.
Surprisingly, all seven attempts survived the dowel plates. I sorted them and the best four are on the left.
This seemed to work out really well. Perhaps I was lucky. The slightly oversized pegs helped make good looking joints.
13mm peg in 1/2" hole.
This was the last of the joinery.

Pretty much.

The next job was the decorative job of adding chamfers to every edge that will be exposed. I used a block plane and a Stanley #2 for this job.They worked well. I then used scrapers to get to the corners not reachable by the planes. I paid extra attention to the   ends of the feet and upper supports so the corners look right.
Mock up after all the drawboring and chamfers.
Now it's time to think about how to hold the top onto the base. I chose buttons, and you can read all you ever wanted to know about buttons in the last post. What I didn't show was making the corresponding mortises in the base. Layout was important for this. I used a mortise gauge to mark one line 3/8" away from the edge, and another line about 7/16" above that. I then used a second marking gauge to mark the center point between the two lines.

My buttons are 1 1/4" wide, so I made my mortises about two inches long. I used a 3/8" brad point bit, and started the mortise by putting the brad point in the center line. Then it was just a matter of drilling out the waste, and cleaning up the sides with a chisel. I left the ends of the mortises round to save a bit of work.
Cleaning up the sides of the mortise.
Once I got the first two done, I used them to layout the rest.
This side done. I'll turn it over and do the other side.
Once the mortises were complete, I could finish everything with a coat of tung oil. I'll let the oil cure for a couple months, and when I next see the table at the client's house I will give it a coat of my special paste wax.
Base is done.

Here's a shot showing the buttons installed.
Now that the base is done there is not much to do to the top. It was one solid piece, after all. No need to laminate long boards together or anything like that. What a treat! Luckily Nils had the plank flattened by CNC before I bought it, so it was nearly ready.

The only thing I didn't like about it was there were some tension cracks in the middle where the figure was the strongest. I decided to mix up some epoxy with some brown tint to fill the cracks in.
Epoxy is dry. This seems to be an efficient way to remove most of the extra.
By the way, epoxy with brown tint has the exact same consistency of chocolate syrup. I swear it smells like it, too.
Here is that same spot after card scraping and a coat of tung oil.
After all the epoxy was flattened, I scraped the whole top. It didn't take long, and I'm impressed with how much more figure can be seen on a scraped top than when it had been sanded.
The finished table.
Overall I would have to say this was one of my favorite projects of all time. Mostly because of the single slab top, but I always wanted to make this style of table.

If I could do something over on this table, it would be to re-think the tusk wedges. They look great and were fun to make. The problem is one glaring flaw: if they ever come loose, the top will have to be removed in order to tap them home again. Perhaps I can make some wedges to mitigate this, but I would have to say that this style of trestle isn't ideal because of that.

It's not enough to ruin the table. Perhaps next time some wedges that tap in from the side would be more appropriate.

Lastly is this unusual video. I'm now back in Spain, and the client will pick up the table next weekend and drive it about 1 1/2 hours to it's new home. Just to make sure she would be confident in putting it together, I made a video explaining every possible thing I could think she would need to know in it's assembly. I added it to this post as I thought you might get a kick out of it.
Note: I'm not really cross-eyed. I used my phone to make the video, and it is hard not to look at the screen while filming. If I do more videos like this, I'll have to get used to looking at the spot where the camera is.

Note #2, I didn't really re-assemble this table after breaking it down. I taped everything in reverse order. I actually disassembled the table, and re-arranged the video clips to show it coming together. Only one screw has been in it's hole more than once. It was fun trying to think what I was going to say in the next segment so I didn't sound like an idiot saying everything twice.

Let me know if you like the video, perhaps I will do more in the future.

Here are links to all of the posts from this build:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX

Monday, October 14, 2019

American Trestle Table - Part IX - Solid Wood Buttons by Hand

Or: Practice Cutting Tenons While Making Buttons.

Modern technology has given us many ways to attach a table top to a base. Traditionally a table top is mounted to a table base using buttons, which allows for seasonal wood movement very elegantly.
A button that holds on a table top.
Making buttons with a table saw is easy, but you either have to use plywood for a strong button, or make a million extra cuts into the end grain in order to make the grain go front to back. You might be tempted to do a quick and dirty job with a piece of solid wood, but if the grain goes side-to-side, your buttons will break and your top won't be  mounted for long.

I suggest you go ahead and try it with hand tools. It isn't that much more difficult, and I think the extra time used doing it this way can be justified: making buttons this way practices skills you will need in cutting tenons by hand - one of the most difficult jobs to do with hand tools. I have decided that next time I make a table, I'll make the buttons before doing any of the mortise and tenon joinery as a refresher course.

What is a button? It's just a little block of wood with a tab. The block is screwed to the table top and the tab goes in an elongated mortise on the base.

They can be any size, but making them consistent means you don't have to fit each button to an individual mortise on the base. Mine are 3/4" thick and 1 1/2" long, with a 3/8" tab (3/8" notch) that is 1/2" long. The width can be anything from probably 3/4" on up. Mine are 1 1/4" wide, because that's how thick the board that I sawed them from was.
Sawing 3/4" button stock from a 5/4 board.
Make your stick as perfectly as you can. This is good practice. It's not the end of the world if your buttons are different thicknesses, but other parts of your table might need more precision. This is a perfect opportunity to practice thicknessing stock by hand.

Once your stock is ready, plane chamfers that will be on the outside of the button. Making these two chamfers now will make your buttons look more consistent than if you do them at the end. There are a total of five chamfers that I made on my buttons, and the two main ones were done at this stage.

There is only one thing on a button that needs to be relatively precise, and that is the distance from the table top to the underside of the button's tab (in my case, 3/8"). Accurate layout is key. set a marking gauge to 3/8", and register it from the bottom side of the button. Even if your buttons wind up being slightly different thickness, this measurement will ensure all the buttons hold your table top on nice and tight. Set this marking gauge aside and do not adjust it again until all of your buttons are completed.

The very first button has the cross cuts marked with a ruler and a marking knife. After that, use this first button to mark the others so they all are the same.
Accurate layout is the key.
Accurate saw cuts are now important. One trick to assist is to make a little trench in the waste with a chisel. A crosscut saw now will track in that trench making this cut a breeze.
Notice that my "trenches" go opposite ways. I'm only carving away the waste.
Only make the crosscut for the tab at this point. Leave the button attached to the rest of the stock. This will help in removing the waste for the tab.
A saw tracks in this notch very nicely.
Once the crosscut is made, just like a tenon, remove the waste.
Sawing the waste.

Alternatively, split the waste. Paul Sellers has a nice YouTube video on how to do this.
Once the tab is done, then you can cut the button to length. In reality, the button will work no matter how ugly this crosscut is. However, try to do your best work for practice. Making a crosscut perfectly square is difficult, and a good skill to have.
Cut to length.
If you choose, you can clean up the back of the button with a shooting board. Here also is where you finish the chamfers: three on the backside of the button. This will leave a rounded surface on every corner that could be touched once the button is installed.

Regardless, take time now to square up the crosscut on the remaining bit of the stick. The rest of our buttons will come from this stick, and a square tab end will aid in looking neat (but is not strictly necessary).

Now we have a button that only needs a hole for the screw. The hole should be a little larger than the screw threads, so a screw can be pushed through the hole freely. I used counter sunk screws, so I added a countersink for the screw head to sit flush, and a tiny countersink on the table top side just to clean up the surface and ensure a stray fiber doesn't get in the way of the button seating flush to the table top.
My hand-powered countersink.
All that needs to be done now is to repeat the process for as many buttons as you'll need. I made twelve for my table, which is overkill.
Do they really need to look exactly the same? No, but making them this way builds many skills that are needed for other things.
To mount the table top, I made mortises in the corresponding parts of the table, drilled pilot holes in the top (ensuring not to drill all the way through), and screwed them in.
I think that solid wood buttons add a little flair to a boring part of the project. No one will ever comment on them, but you know they are there and that they were done right. I think the biggest benefit to using them is the skills you will hone. Face it: no one likes to practice things like tenons in scrap. Here you can practice making a dozen tenons exactly the same, and use the offcuts for a practical part of your project.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

A Tree with Conections Quercus suber L

A Tree with Conections
Quercus suber L 

Since I was a young boy, I’ve always seen “sobreiros or chaparros” (portuguese name for cork oak trees) around. Being a Mediterranean kind of tree it can be seen all around the country - Portugal. It’s only when traveling south that you can see vast areas of woodlands where the cork tree is predominant. It’s called “Montado”.
Typical Montado landscape
I must ask you to forgive me, I’m being rude. Let me introduce myself.
Hello, my name is António. I’m from Portugal. As you may guess by now, Brian invited me to write a bit about cork trees. (I’ll send the money later Brian).

I’m lucky enough to live in a very tiny hamlet surrounded by woodlands. Some times it is quite scary because of how common forest fires are. During my morning walks with our crazy dog Luna, I like to talk to trees and take a few pictures. This summer I got lucky, some of the trees got undressed. It was the strip for the decade... (pause for reflection)

Nothing dirty I’m afraid. 
Just a couple of days after the stripping
You see, the cork oak tree bark was “harvested.” That only happens to trees that are over 25 years old, and only once a decade. How do they keep track? Quite simple, a bit of white paint.
Defying gravity with a big burl
No matter how many times I see it, it still amazes me. Taking a big chunk of the tree’s bark by hand with a special kind of hatchet (no pictures this time) and the tree’s fine with that for the next 150 to 200 years.
The little bush is a baby cork oak tree in the foreground
The APCOR (Portuguese Cork Association) data reports that 33% of the cork bark worldwide production is located in Portugal and growing every year. A great deal of industry is reliant on the obvious and humble cork, such as insulation for construction, electronics, shoe industries, fashion industries (wallets, purses), even umbrellas, which are made out of cork because of the natural waterproof properties and natural fire resistance. The areas of Montado are simbiotic to other plant species, wild animals and small live stock like black pigs, goats or sheep that provide lovely and smelly tree food…
The same tree before and after the stripping.
Last but not the least, the connection… Only when I began my woodworking journey did I discover that the cork tree is an oak cousin. It’s a thin one but they both belong to the Fagaceae family!
New tree alongside her mother
In case you want to dig in a bit deeper, there are a couple of links in english:

Until next time,
Cheers to you all!