The Family Furniture Wish List

by Dick Rank
Atlanta, GA

For better or for worse, members of my family know that I am a reasonably good woodworker. They waited patiently for me to use up my first ten years of retirement restoring old wooden aircraft from the thirties and forties. That pastime brought together my two major interests - woodworking and aviation, and it was really fun. It was a special challenge because there are very few straight lines in aircraft construction.

However, when one knows that at some point, one is going to sit ready for takeoff in the airplane at the end of the runway, one does get very careful to do everything as perfectly as humanly possible. Ten years of trying to be perfect and three test flights was finally enough. It was time to move on to making furniture – no risk in sitting in a freshly finished chair to see how it feels, and woodworking has been very relaxing and fun since making the transition.

Meanwhile, my wife and four daughters developed a rather long furniture want list. I was seeking a new challenge that would provide me with a chance to learn more about woodworking, and I agreed to build a dining room table in Jacobean style. My daughter already has a “Welsh cupboard” (sometimes called a hutch) that I made for her years ago, and she asked for a matching dining table.

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Fortunately, I already had a pallet of 2 inch oak offcuts I purchased at an auction, which would provide most of what I needed for the base. Timing was also in my favor, because a local woodworking store had some really nice 1x10x48 offcuts at a good price, which would be perfect for the tabletop. But as usual, the table design was a major task. I had to work within a 42x56 top size, and it had to be expandable for two additional leaves. Again, a local store had tabletop slides for half price, saving lots of time trying to make them myself. Studying pictures of Jacobean antiques provided some design features I liked, and they came together nicely in the design for the table.

Finishing the top became a problem. Coloration of the oak varied from piece to piece, and that became very evident once they were stained. I had mixed Jacobean and Red oak Minwax stains to get the proper antique look, but after staining, some boards needed color adjustment. After several hours of struggle, I wisely decided that the color variation made the table an even more authentic reproduction. Some errant scratches in the wood from careless handling were explained in the same way. That is part of the fun in creating “not so fine” furniture.

The greatest challenge to my sense of well being was destroying the perfectly smooth table top surface by repeatedly scratching it, pounding it, chipping the edges and using several different punches to create worm holes, all in an effort to make the table look much older.

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Happily, my daughter is very pleased. She is a wonderful cook, and I know I will get some really fine dinners presented on that table. Now I can buy another woodworking machine without complaint.


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