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Am I a woodworker?
I never considered myself a woodworker. Growing up, I had always been creative. I quickly learned and loved
to draw and paint, but was never exposed to anything like woodworking, BUT, I always liked to "tinker".
Nowadays, I read about and watch these popular woodworkers online and most were taught by or were
inspired by their dad, grandpa, great grandpa, uncle...you get the point. I didn't have this. My dad was an
accountant, and I was no good at math.
I suppose I was always intrigued by things that were handmade, things that were one off, things that were
custom. The creativity from the craftspeople behind these builds truly amazed me. I never thought to actually
set out and build something...
... until recently, that is.
THE SEED IS PLANTED
Last summer, my wife and I were in one of those "high-end", faux antique furniture stores. It's the type of
trendy furniture store that sells the public on that overpriced "weathered" look that everyone is into these
days. She calls it "shabby chic", and I do admit, I like the look. But I also realize it is not authentically
weathered and that pseudo-weathered look that you are paying for does not come cheap.
At this time in our lives, we are in need of a traditional dining table to replace a hi-boy, bar style dining table
with stools. When we had no kids, the hi-boy was great. Now we have two little ones, and boy the house has
changed (that is another story).
My darling wife falls in love with a farm style, trestle dining table that seats eight. It looks gorgeous, and she
wanted it, so I had to get it. I confusedly asked to speak to a manager because it seemed they had put the decimal
point in the wrong place on the tag. The tag read $3,999.99 and I thought, "Surely this must be a mistake.
The correct tag must be $399.99 for a wooden farm table such as this!". To my surprise, the tag was not
incorrect at all. In-fact, this tag was recently changed to an "on-sale" tag and the regular price was actually
$4,449.99!!!! I couldn't believe my eyes/ears!
I immediately told my wife the sequence of words that I am sure every woodworker in the history of Earth has told
their significant other at least one time before:
"Why should we pay for that? I can build that for you honey."
I took pictures with my phone and promised my wife that I'd get it done...nine months later, the table build still had not started. I thought she had forgotten all about it.
Here is the original table in all its glory. It looks weathered. It looks like many a family dinner has been had on this table. The joinery to me looked, well... complicated, but not impossible.
THE START OF A TABLE BUILD
The table build started very rudimentarily. A basic drawing inspired by plans taken from Ana White, using measurements specific
to our space. I went and bought a Kreg Pocket Hole Jig. Now before everyone lets out a collective "gasp! Metal fasteners! Yuck!"...at the time, I didn't know any better.
I started building out the trestle, "X" table legs, which were assembled with pocket holes, glue, stainable wood filler, and construction grade lumber.
At this point, I felt very proud of myself. For those of you reading, this is probably something you did on the 1st day of woodworking class, but for me who never worked any wood...this was huge.
I stumbled onto a video series from The Third Coast Craftsman, Chris Schoenberg on his Farmhouse Trestle table build. His video series opened my eyes to hand cut, traditional joinery without the use of metal fasteners. I was both intrigued by this and intimidated at the same time.
I set out to make the table top, BUT this time, I was inspired to do it without the use of metal fasteners.
Following Chris's video, I laminated a combination of 2x8 and 2x6 boards for the table top. At this time, I didn't
know about cupping/warping. I noticed after putting several clamps on one side, the table top started to
warp. I learned that I needed to put boards across the table top to prevent it from warping.
After watching, and re-watching, and re-re-watching Chris's table build video (and others), I was warned
repeatedly about seasonal wood movement and how a solid wood table top can tear itself up because of the
changes in temperature. One way to help stabilize the table top was to add breadboard ends. I didn't even
know what a breadboard end was until this moment. I was already way past my comfort level on this build.
Again, following Chris's detailed video on how to do breadboard ends (both with power tools and hand tools), I
soon realized, this is not impossible. His breadboards were a combination of tongue and groove and mortise
and tenon. He also used a technique called "drawboring" to bring the joints together nice and tightly.
I gave it a go.
Using a circular saw, I made several relief cuts into the table top. Then using a chisel, chipped away at the wood, and using a router, smoothed the surfaces out.
This picture shows the repairs I had to make using wood glue. I incorrectly routed the tenons too thin and had to thicken them back up using glue. I know, I know...
Then, I routed grooves and chiseled mortises to accept the tongues and tenons from the table top.
To attach the table top to the base, I copied Chris's technique and glued up mounting blocks to the underneath of the table top, again taking care to drill holes for drawboring.
We used a lag bolt and dowel pins to secure the table top to the base, which can easily be removed for transportation.
When it came time to choose the finish, mom did the honors. She selected a deep, dark gel stain that had excellent coverage.
So, there you have it. I have officially "worked wood". I used both metal fasteners and traditional joinery. I used both power tools and hand tools.
I avoided spending $4k on a dining table by investing slightly over $2k on new tools. Good trade off for me.
But the question remains... Am I a woodworker?
You can reach Jason by email at email@example.com
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