Congratulations to my youngest daughter, Michelle, and her husband-to-be, Robert. We are working on the details of their wedding, planned for January, and along the way we’ve brainstormed ideas to make this uniquely their celebration. And that includes the unity segment of the vows which traditionally involves candles and flames. Michelle has another idea, and, though I will not spoil her big reveal, I can share that she will need a table suitable for the occasion.
I combed the web for ideas for table designs focusing mainly on Pinterest which is a woodworking-dad’s treasure trove of material. I created a board called, Wedding Pedestal, and pinned pictures of those tables which might work. Pinterest allows me to share the board with Michelle as well as Shawn so they can also pin their finds. With a healthy collection of ideas the bride waded through to pick the aspects she liked from various tables. We rarely build a project without customizing it.
Michelle’s favorite design is this angled table although we both knew our version would require substantial changes such as a larger top. I moved the image to Google Drive on my Android smartphone (another useful shop tool) and downloaded it to my Gallery where I could sit and stare at in my idle moments. I considered additions, subtractions, modifications, materials, construction techniques, finishes, and so on.
I’ve created several projects using rough wood slabs, old barn wood, and just about anything we can upcycle. I was certain that a live-edged slab would be perfect for the table top. This gem came from KallaKreations, an Etsy entrepreneur. It is Pennsylvania sycamore, and its grain pattern is out of this world. Scott, the vendor at KallaKreations worked with me by sending photos of his inventory then sizing the slab I chose fairly close to my dimensions.
After examining the slab in person I decided to trim the larger end to reduce the overall weight of the finished table as well as remove some large cracks forming there. I found that my power saws were not up to the task. In the end I resorted to this old handsaw which once belonged to my wife’s grandfather. Two twenty, two twenty one, whatever it takes.
The lumber offerings at the home center include pine, oak and poplar. I chose poplar and glued up pieces to make the 5/4 table legs.
“Don’t worry about the glue,” I told myself. I wiped it with a damp cloth and discovered at the time of staining that even with extensive sanding I missed some. A better choice is to go easy on the glue then use the table saw to slightly trim the edges of the boards to remove residual glue. (Sounds like the project had a second iteration. Stay tuned to find out why.)
My design calls for brass rods as the decorative accent, and my search showed they are priced out of my budget. In the end I found these sections of brass tubing designed for use in a sprinkler system, and they worked great.
Here’s my design of the sides of the table support. And, yes, I do text with my customer often during production. Using the smartphone I can send pictures, describe decisions, and gain quick agreement. I’ve learned that in the shop my wife and daughters offer helpful suggestions and share insights which make the difference between blah and wow.
The ever-ingenious Shawn came up with the idea of using the cornhole bean bags to support the parts. We added glue and tacked the wood in place using the trim gun.
Now we are seeing a table.
But how do I mount the top? I want the table to look like it was crafted rather than resemble a slab tacked to the stop of a stand.
A cardboard template of the support stand can be traced onto the bottom of the slab.
I use the lines to guide my careful chisel strokes. There are probably better ways but chipping away at the wood with a chisel gives one the feel of being a pioneer making furniture from the tree I just felled on the back forty.
My process was chisel, dry fit, check for wobble, check the table for level, adjust, and repeat.
And the table bottom mates with the top!
Hmm. How do I finish the table support without smearing stain and varnish all over the brass? Shawn suggested using cling wrap as a shield. What a wonderful moment when baking expertise and wood-working experience mingle to create unique solutions. I especially like when the baker drops cookies by the shop for a taste test.
And the support is ready to go! In short order I moved to attach the top and discovered that I was unable to drill the planned pocket screw holes inside the tiny triangle. I resorted to pilot holes and woods screws to make a solid connection.
Disaster struck! I moved the workbench to make room for finishing the top, and while I was under the bench setting the brakes the assembled table tumbled several feet into the brick steps. Why, oh why did I leave the table unattended?
The top was undamaged but the support structure exploded as the photo shows.
I did the only thing that made sense. I took a break, ate a snack, grabbed a long nap and awoke to declare the prototype phase complete. I vowed that version 2 would be better.
I added brass hardware to strengthen the joints.
I drilled the holes for the brass tubes deeper on the top so that tubes might stay on the bench until the table support is finished and mounted to the top. That protected the brass and gave room for my big hands to fit inside the structure. (This time I drilled my pocket screw holes for connecting the top to the support before assembling the top triangle)
Shawn and I experimented with the addition of feet for added stability. The wedding will be outside (weather permitting), and I would rather have the table tumble in the shop so we have time to recover rather than have an issue during the ceremony. Besides, once the table moves to an indoor location the feet could be removed.
The bottom of the slab was stained with 2 coats of Minwax Natural #209 and rubbed with three coats of Watco Wipe-on Polyurethane. I’ve used other wipe-ons and was impressed with the Watco product. Now if they could design a better top for their can. Push down while turning did not seem to work unless I added slip-joint pliers to the technique.
I am not sure where these suspiciously regular lines originated. They do not appear to be grain. Perhaps the panel saw overheated and charred the wood when the slab was cut? I thought I had removed them but the stain brought them back. I resorted to hand-sanding with several stages of sandpaper coupled with high-energy elbow grease in a 2-hour marathon.
The table is assembled, finished, and ready for the wedding.
OK, what’s next on Father-Of-The-Bride’s list?
Michelle’s wedding took place on 1/19/2019 in a beautiful outdoor garden. Thank God for the unseasonably warmer weather and the break between rains to give us a dry ceremony. The unity table awaits the arrival of the wedding party.