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Floating-Top Table


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A month or so ago, a neighbor texted me from Ohio, on a search for antiques, saying that she had run across two big planks, advertised as chestnut logs from a 200 yo cabin. Knowing that I liked to do Woodworking. She sent me pics with a description written on a piece of cardboard, stapled to the logs and asked if I was interested, they would fit in her van and she would bring them back to Houston for me. Knowing that real chestnut was a rarity, I said heck yeah. I wish I still had the original pic with the sign but here is what the surface of one side of each looked like. E642CA90-F3DE-428C-8A24-B09ADEA821B8.thumb.jpeg.e64b5996c1655ecfdac556408e0f68e3.jpegThe log itself had somewhere down the line, been cut in half length ways, so each piece, weighing approx 90#, was smooth on one side and this hewn surface on the other. I had no idea what I was going to do with these but figured having real 200 yo  chestnut planks would certainly be a feather in any woodworkers hat. What would you do? 

I agreed to the asking price of $75 each and she was glad to bring them back to Houston for me. 

Before making an “A” of myself and declaring my prize, I sent a pic of a crosscut of one end to a well respected authority on WTO, phinds to confirm that it was indeed, chestnut. He said it looked old but was definitely not chestnut but more than likely, white oak. Aside from being the proud owner of some chestnut, I had no idea what I was going to do with these monsters and now it was even more undecided. So I took them to a small time mill close by and had them sliced into more usable pieces. One plank into 3 ea. 1” thick boards and the other, into 1 ea. 1” thick and 1 ea. into a 2” piece, thinking maybe legs of some sort. 

After they came off of the saw, I realized I probably had, including milling fees, $200 of fire wood. 


These things were butt ugly and I would never have considered buying them from a yard at any price. We have a fireplace but with Houston’s weather, it has never seen anything but artificial logs so that wasn’t an option. 

I figured what the hell and started dissecting the fire wood from the possible salvageable wood. This stuff had some nasty cracks everywhere! After several hours of using my Milwaukee Fuel jig saw and an incredible Bosch HD blade, ( thanks @Chet) I was able to obtain some useable pieces and by definition, that’s iffy! 

Instead of making a $200 picture frame or paint stir sticks, maybe I have enough to make a table of some sort for our patio, so I started laying out the pieces. I found a floating top table on FWW made by Michael Pekovich and thought that would be a neat project, if only these s*#t pices were enough. 


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I knew that the legs had to come from the 2” thick board so I started there. Every board had the nasty checks and cracks and the 2” was no exception. I ripped it length ways and then quartered it to manageable pieces. 


After several trips back and forth from the bs to the jointer, I had possibilities. I’m still hoping at this point. After sending the potential legs thru the planer, I was on first base. As the legs are joined to the rails vis bridle joints, I laid out the baseline with a marking knife. 


i cut the shoulders at the bs, rotating each leg 90* to insure that the slot is centered. Then on the drill press, I used a 1/2” Fortsner bit at the baseline, to remove most of the waste.


I then used a chisel to square the base of the slot, rotating halfway, to finish squaring the opposite face. 23A55B83-0B24-4813-AA9C-A864E3DAEECD.thumb.jpeg.e2bbb57d07842e7db6d0f099422ccd21.jpeg

All four completed.


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As this will go on the patio and be used as a serving table when we have cookouts and friends over, I decided to have a shelf below the top made of slats. So I will have four side rails attached to the legs with thru tenons. I cut the mortises for the tenons on the dedicated mortiser. 


There are a couple of serious cracks on two of the legs that I thought needed attention before they got worse. Due to the small size of the legs and the quantity required, I opted to do bandaids instead of butterflies. I cut the notches out on the ts and cut the strips to fit. With the glue dry, I shaved them down with a block plane and sanded them smooth.


There are still a few minor problem areas and I will fill them in later with epoxy.

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On the bench that I built recently, I had to add a 2” piece to each leg to bring it to a comfortable height. I liked the looks of the contrasting woods so I thought I would add cuffs to these legs by design. 

As the legs are too long for the drill press, I used a dowel drill guide from Rockler and cut a 3/8” thick spacer to get the hole centered to the width.


I then drilled the 3/8” holes into the cuffs on the drill press. I use 3/8” stainless rods for the dowels and epoxy them into place, using blue tape to secure them until the epoxy sets.2BEF371F-BD7E-4923-BC17-6DDD785E17EC.thumb.jpeg.efff52b0ce9f9e846c4eb50d243fa1fa.jpegD1874959-3763-46B2-965C-9E8D812D3E1C.thumb.jpeg.adca1b8a1c8a72ee194569fc306e0eb0.jpeg

As the cuffs were cut a smidge too wide, I planed and sanded them smooth.


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I turned my attention to the 4 ea. 4/4 boards to make sure I had enough usable wood for the top before concentrating on the narrower rails and supports and I think I will have enough. I milled the boards for the top to 1” and stickered them until tomorrow. I milled the boards for the rails and supports to 3/4” and cut them to rough lengths. As suggested, I started on the base that will support the top. The front and back rails will receive an arch but for reference points for the mortises for the support rails, I will do that later. I hate changing blades so due to laziness, I notched the tenons on the rails on the ts using a conventional flat tooth blade. Next was to cut the 4 end rails to length and cut the thru tenons on each end.


Then I dry fitted these rails into the mortises in the legs and the front and back rails and drilled them for the draw bore pins. This dry fit allowed me to get exact shoulder-to-shoulder length of the support rails.


Next, I laid out for the mortises for the thru tenons for the 3 top support rails.


I removed the majority of the waste with a Fortsner bit and used a chisel to square up the holes.


 The thickness of the tenons of the support rails was again done on the ts. The cove on the tops of the supports was originally cut at 1/2” radius but as my table is several inches taller than the pattern I’m going by, I cut mine at 1 1/8”, using a hole saw and removed the waste on the bs. I then cleaned these up on the oscillating spindle sander.


With the edges of the two rails still straight, I referenced off of the bottom edge to locate the tenons on the supports and cut them using a backsaw and cleaning up with a chisel.


To be continued.....


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Bryan, actually I’m almost thru with it, thus the reason for lack of many pics as I forgot to take them. I wanted to make sure I had enough usable wood before starting the journal. I should have just kept quiet and accepted the compliment though! 😀

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There are several table top boards that need serious epoxy fills so I did that next after cutting them to final width. Two of the legs were included in the epoxy treatment.


After scraping and sanding down the epoxy, I laid the boards for the top out to give me the best look and glued them up using Dominos.


After the glue dried, I cut the ends to length using my poor man track saw.



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I decided that the original table looked nice with the squared edges on the top and did not do a bevel on the underside. I am sanding the entire piece only to 150 with the idea that it would absorb the finish better than if I took it to higher grits. Not sure if that is sound logic or not? So I sanded the top and knocked the sharp edges off with a block plane and set it aside. I beveled all of the ends of the thru mortises and assembled the support rails to the front and back rails and again, apologies for no pics. 

The remaining piece of the puzzle is the lower shelf. I like the original table with the simple lines and no shelf but this will be put to use on the patio so I chose functionality over beauty and will add one. Where the table will live is against an outside wall, under the covered patio where our only receptacle is located. I had to choose to locate the shelf above or below the receptacle and for access, I chose the lower location. 

At this point, I am out of usable material for the shelf and took a trip to the lumberyard to find the price of white oak to be an unbelievable $12.30 bf for the rough cut plain sawn boards. I found some hard as heck hickory for under $4.00 and bought it. Milled to cut to desired dimensions, I attached the slats to the end rails with dominos. The outside slats are vertical and the inside are horizontal.


With this shelf assembly dried and out of the clamps, I dry fitted everything together. I wasn’t real sure of the sequence but I found that laying the shelf upright on some sawhorses and attaching a leg, that everything would clear the floor. One end at a time,I added a leg to the shelf, then the upper end rail, then the second leg. I repeated this on the other end. The upper front and back rail assembly with the support rail will slide down into the bridle joints from above. With a plan in place, I disassembled all of the pieces and reassembled using TB III and clamps. 


The only draw bore pins are those that attach the upper rails to the legs. The end rails receive simple pins thru the legs to continue the look. 6369F1B0-E027-42FC-A1BC-7EE1E30222D1.thumb.jpeg.7275dcc54943fa82cf111b2d4d5f89ff.jpeg

With the glue drying, I trimmed these pins off with a flush trim saw.


After this dried overnight, I inverted the base, and blue taped a damn around the feet of the legs and added a small layer of epoxy.


Almost time for the final chapter! 


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With all dried and out of the clamps, the next step is to trim the legs to fit the curves of the top rails. 


Now to remove the blue tape reference guides and clean it up in preparation for the finish.

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The example that I am going by suggests three screws per support rails into the top to secure it. With his being in a climate controlled environment, this may be well and good for wood movement. I decided on one screw in the middle of each support and figure eights on the outside. After going overboard with the figure eights, I eliminated the screws. 


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The Teak Oil was applied per the directions. Flood the wood and wipe dry after about 30 minutes. The color was not as clear as an indoor finish but not as orangish as some outdoor finishes I’ve used. However, due to the late evening sun, it doesn’t do it justice.


The top on the downside, then the show side.


And this is where it will live.


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