Monday, November 28, 2016

Outdoor Table (Part 2)

In the first part of the outdoor table build, I started with the design, wood selection and then I began to mill the pieces for the legs. In this second part of the build, I am going to focus on milling the rest of the boards for the project. That means the top, the aprons and finishing the legs. From there, it will be off to shaping the legs and doing the joinery, then the finish.

The Top - Layout

This is my first time working with white oak, and so far, I like it. I'm not a big fan of oak in general, but that is just because I prefer other woods, such as walnut, cherry and mahogany. When working with the pieces for this top, the wood, in its rough sawn form, I find it a bit of a challenge to imagine what the pieces will look like after they are milled. This is a shot of the pieces prior to milling:

To me, it is not easy to see what is under there, but we'll mill it and see what we see. After the pieces are milled, I will work with all of the pieces to see what is the best layout for the top; which is most appealing. Here are the pieces after the initial milling:

I think I got some good grain matching, but I also tried to get the pieces paired according to their width. Here is what I came up with for the top layout; then off to the clamps.

I'm happy with the way this came out. Some of the pieces were pretty gnarly on the edges and so milling was a bit tricky. I tried to limit the amount of white, sap wood, and get nice grain. At this stage, I let the pieces sit overnight, then put them over the jointer and through the planer to their final thickness. Then, off to the clamps for the glue up. While that was drying, I milled all the rest of the pieces. Here is the final stack of all the pieces required for the table; note the giant laminated legs.

In the next post, I will cover the joinery used for the legs and aprons (hint: you can find that here). I will also dry fit everything and get it ready for final sanding and the finish. So, in part 3, we will wrap this beast up and get it done!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Building an Outdoor Table

A friend of mine recently bought a house here in town and the house has some really great outdoor space in the back. He has a nice deck, that leads down to a nice patio where there is a hot tub and a pool. The house has a large built-in gas grill, but he is more of a Green Egg guy, so he bought a really big cedar table that the Egg sits in and then has a large granite top; huge space. The one thing that was missing was a large table to entertain people outside after all that cooking on the two grills. So, he asked if I could build him a large dining table for the deck and I said "of course!".


He wanted a table that would be able to comfortably seat 6 people, with unobstructed leg room. He also wanted it to have look hefty; a.k.a, manly. We kicked around the idea of a trestle style table, but he wasn't keen on the idea of people potentially hitting their legs on the cross members. So, we decided on just a traditional 4 leg table, but with the legs pushed to the edges of the table for maximum room. The legs are going to be 5" square, BIG! I also had in my mind that we would put a little taper in them, but I wanted to wait until the legs were milled up before bringing up the idea.

The table was going to have smaller than normal aprons connecting the legs to allow for someone to pull real close to the table if need be. Lastly, the top was going to an inch thick with the boards running the length of the table, not laterally as is often done on long tables. For the top, I had recommended breadboard ends, which he ultimately did not want, but I think he may ultimate regret that (more on this later on). The reason I pushed for the breadboard ends is that it helps to keep the top flat by not allowing it to bow and cup, but still allows for the wood to move with natural, seasonal expansion and contraction. 

Wood Selection

Because this table was going to be used outside, I needed to select something that was going to withstand the punishment. Here in the South, we don't have extreme seasonal swings, but we do get a taste of all four season, but Summer is the most brutal with the heat and humidity. At first we were going to use White Cedar, but I could not source pieces thick enough for our use. My second wood of choice, which is what we ended up selecting, was White Oak. I had done a lot of research on the use of White Oak for outdoors and it had great results. I also figured, if they can build ships out of it, that last hundreds of years, why not a table?

So, off to my favorite wood store, Peach State Lumber here in North Atlanta. This is my go-to store because they have just about any kind of wood you want, in just about any size you want. So, I had done all the calculations of the amount of wood I thought we would need, and loaded up. 

As usual, I always get rough sawn wood and then mill it myself. I have the equipment and it saves money.

Bottoms up!

In building the table, I wanted to start with the legs first, for a couple of reasons. First, the legs were going to set the tone for the overall table. Second, to get the desired leg thickness, I was going to have to laminate 3 pieces together so this was going to require extra milling and glue time, which meant it was going to be the most time consuming part of the project. Once we joined and planed the pieces nice, smooth and clean, we glued them up.

Once the the glue was good and dry, I used a card scraper to get the bulk of the glue nibs off, and then I used a No. 4 to clean up the rest. 

Once I had the glue cleaned off, I ran the pieces over the jointer again, to ensure they were square, and then finished them in the thickness planer to mill them to their final dimensions. The result is some very big table legs! 5"x5" White Oak. Each leg probably weighs in the neighborhood of 40lbs.

Next Steps

The next part of the project will be to begin milling the boards for the top and the aprons. Once the aprons are milled, then it will be time to do the mortise and tenon joinery. So, come back for Part 2 of the outdoor table build and see how we handled that process. Thank you and be safe!