When I’m not
destroying renovating my home and going to my day-job that makes all of this magic possible, I take a furniture building class at the local City College. Since this blog is called “Building With Beth” I though that it might be an appropriate forum to show you what I’ve been working on outside of the house.
About a year ago we replaced a structurally unstable support column in the garage that is very similar to the one that still resides in the In Law unit:
Rather than throw this beautiful piece of old growth Douglas Fir into the garbage, I took it into my wood working class. There was something poetic about converting a historic piece of our house into something that could continue to be a part of our home. With that in mind, we really needed a good coffee table for our livingroom, so I got to work.
Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I’m a planner. I approach furniture building much like I approach DIY’ing. If I just started hacking away at a piece of wood hoping to build a table I’d end up with a toothpick. Therefore, the first step was to create the design using Google SketchUp:
With the design in place, and the wood ready to be whittled down, it’s time to get this project started. Here are some pictures of the transformation from structural column into reclaimed wood coffee table.
Here’s what I started with:
The first step was to make this small tree trunk as square as possible. Unfortunately, reclaimed lumber tends to be littered with shrapnel from years of abuse. You can’t run a piece of nail ridden wood through a mechanical planer or saw without risking damage to that machinery. Therefore, I had to square this beauty up using a hand plane, old school style.
Once I finally got things square I was ready to cut them to size. Since planing helped me identify both where the nails were and where my arm muscles were, I was able to take some pliers and pull out all the metal slivers that were scattered throughout the wood. Once I was confident the wood was free of shrapnel, I could start using the machines to do the hard work.
The table top is being built out of an old work bench that was in the garage. The workbench was as old as the rest of the wood in the house, so I imagine it was “reclaimed” as a workbench by the previous owner. As we know from the In Law unit, he too was a DIY’er.
To create the tabletop, I took a Biscuit Joiner and ‘joined’ the two pieces together.
Now that everything is cut to size, I can start to fine tune these cubes & rectangles into a coffee table.
Now that all of my pieces have been nicely refined, it’s time to glue everything up. Unlike my work in the In Law unit (where I shoot three nails for every pull of the nail gun trigger), when working on furniture I like to avoid using any metal. Therefore, all of the pieces will be held together using wood dowels and glue.
As you can see, between the cutting, planing and sanding, a lot of the beautiful old patina that makes reclaimed wood so special has been removed. In an effort to recreate the look of aged wood I’m going to create a faux-patina. How? You ask. Well, using fire of course!
Burning wood can go horribly wrong, for both my project and my classroom. However, after a bit of controlled flame-thrower action, we went from this…
Finally I’m ready to apply the finish. After consulting with my teacher, I’m going to coat the table in polyurethane.
After a few coats, and some light buffing, here’s the final product: