I saw a neat looking simple table design in the Oct/Nov 2013 issue of American Woodworker magazine.
I decided to build this table using red oak stock I already had in inventory.
The first step was to rip saw and make the 4 legs on the table saw. I made them about 1" long to leave stock for the 3.5 degrees angled ends. I then cut the top and bottom of each leg at 3.5" degrees to net a length of 25.25".
I got out my dado set for the table saw and started trial & error cutting to set the correct width to match the 3/4" wide shelves. Using no shims gave me too wide of groove. I ended up using all copper shims plus making a new tin shim. It took me 6 trial cuts to achieve the final setting. It did not help that my on-off button on my 1968 Sears table saw decided to quit working in the middle of this.
Here are the 6 trial cuts I did in pine.
A while back I bought a kit which lets you use a 5/16" diameter steel bar(s) as a stop-block attached to the miter gage. It worked well as the stop block for cutting both lower and top dados.
Tapering the Legs
The plan called for band-sawing the legs, then sanding to the cut line.
Here is my old Sears band saw I used:
I recently purchased a 3 inch diameter 3 inch high drum sander for the drill press from SuperGrit.com. It worked very nicely for sanding to the cut line.
I then drum sanded a 1/2" diameter radius at the bottom of each leg.
1/8" Router Round-over
I set up the router with an 1/8" round-over bit and routed a radius on the legs.
Here are the finished legs, ready for final sanding and polyurethane:
I did not follow the pattern in regards to hardware selection. I chose to use #8 brass screws. I used 1-1/4" to attach the false top to the real table top (I chose 1-1/4" length because it was less than 1.5" thickness of the 2 boards.
I chose 1.5" long #8 brass screws to attach the legs to the shelves.
I learned on past projects using oak, it is best to first use a steel screw in each hole before using the softer brass screw. I also drilled 11/32 inch diameter pilot holes, plus used paraffin wax as a lubricant.
I got my hardware from the Fairbury Ace store.
You can buy paraffin from your local grocery store. I have had the same box of 5 pieces for 35 years.
Below is using the steel screw first, before using the softer brass screw. If you use the brass screw first, you will probably twist and bend it, based upon my past experience.
Gluing up 3 Blanks
The next step was to purchase some more red oak from Menards. It is about $15 per board, each board is 3/4 by 5.5 inches by 72 inches.
Then I sawed the red oak to about 1 inch longer than final size. To make sure the pieces fit against each other well, I rip off the edge on the table saw. I move the fence to the other side and saw the appropriate side. The slight error in the blade angle from 90 degrees is offset using this method.
I marked each leg so I put the same leg back in the same position. I use an awl to punch 1, 2, 3, or 4 marks. Below is 4 marks. They will not show on the finished table.
Below is the bottom shelf of the table assembled. I like the look of round head brass screws.
Assembly of fake top shelf and scribing arcs
I used 2 rubber bands to hold the tapered legs in while I added the shelf.
I recently bought a new tool, a fancy compass basically. It worked very well on this project to make the arcs on the table shelves.
I then rough band-sawed the 2 shelves to the arcs, leaving stock for the drill press drum sander. I sanded to the arc lines using the drill press drum sander.
Making the top shelf
I decided to route the top shelf using a compass attachment for the router. I thought this would give a perfect circle versus sanding to the line using the drill press drum sander.
This method worked ok, except the 3/8" straight carbide bit I used slipped out of the router collet. My old collet is probably worn out. I made the cut in 3 passes, about a 1/4" per pass.
I bought a new 5/8" round-over router bit for this project.
I was going to use it on my router table, but found the table ID was not big enough. I had to freehand route the outside of the 20" top shelf. I divided the stock removal between 2 cuts. Again I had trouble with this big bit slipping out of the router collar. Time to buy a new collet or router maybe?
Complete table cut out and assembled before sanding
Here is the table assembly without the top:
Here is the complete table.............
I sanded all of the pieces to 220 grit and burned my name and date under the bottom shelf. I used a wet rag to remove all of the sanding dust before staining.
I decided to use Spanish Oak color of stain........
Here are all of the pieces stained........
Polyurethane Used on this Project
I decided to try something different on this project. Usually I do not use any type of grain filler on my projects. I just do 3 to5 rounds of 220 grit and polyurethane on my project.
On this project, I am going to try filling the oak grain on the table top only. I ordered some Behlen grain filler from Garrett Wade......
Item: 99P03.11 - Pore-O-Pac Natural Qt. - - 1 - $22.50
Item: 99P03.09 - Grain Filler Scraper/Spreader - - 1 - $5.95
Item Subtotal: $28.45
Standard Shipping: $9.50
Order Total: $37.95
We will have to see if the $40 expense was worth it or not as we try it out on this project!
The sequence of using this Behlen grain filler is:
1. sand to 220 grit
2. stain the wood
3. mix same stain with grain filler
4. apply filler using plastic applicator
5. Allow the solvent to evaporate. This usually takes 10-15 minutes depending on the weather. Wait for the filler to lose its sheen. This is called flashing off. A moist residue will remain.
6. Remove the excess filler by rubbing across the grain with a coarse cloth, such as burlap. Rubbing across the grain minimizes the filler being pulled out of the pores. Continue rubbing until the surface is as clean as possible. If the filler becomes hard before you are able to remove all of the excess, dampen a cloth with solvent and wipe the filler. (I did not buy any solvent)
7. Working with the grain, wipe the surface with a clean soft cloth to remove any cross-marks from rubbing.
8. Allow the filler to cure overnight. During times of high humidity, this may take a little longer. Large pored varieties such as mahogany and oak will require double-filling the pores to achieve a level surface. Reapply the filler as above with or without a washcoat in between. Allow the filler to cure thoroughly, up to three days depending on the weather.
9. Sand lightly with 320 or finer sandpaper to remove any remaining cross marks.
10. You are now ready to apply your finish. Multiple thin coats are better than thick coats. If the finish is lacquer, apply a washcoat of shellac first. Lacquer thinner softens cured filler, causing it to swell.
This did not start out well. The 1 quart can had some type of plastic ring on the top, I supposed to keep the lid from coming off in shipment? It was a pain to get the plastic ring off.
I then opened the can and was dismayed to find the solids had completely separated out!! The liquid at the top was extremely thin in viscosity.
I tried using a paint stirrer bit in my 3/8" drill, but the speed was too fast and my hand is not big enough to hold a 1 quart can.......so I spilled the thin liquid all over the work bench. Some "salty sailor" terminology was then uttered on my part!
I then resorted to my drill press. I changed the belt pulleys to slow it way down. I put the paint stirrer bit in the chuck. I was able to mix it ok, but it probably took 15 minutes of gradually lowering the stirrer until I got to the bottom of the can.
I sure wish they told you it required significant stirring when they sold it to me!
Trial Runs of Using Wood Filler
I used a 3/4 x 3/4 inch oak piece as my sample for the grain filler. On 1 edge I applied the white filler right from the can. On the other edge, I mixed filler with my oil based stain, then applied it. After 10 minutes I wiped across the grain using burlap cloth.
After setting for about 12 hours, I lightly sanded with 220 grit. Here is how the sample edge with pure grain filler, no stain added to it, looked like on red oak..........
There are little white flecks where the grain filler did fill up the depressions in the grain.
Here is the other side of the sample, where the grain filler had the stain added to it before applying it to the wood.
I was curious to see if I re-applied the stain to the wood, would the white flecks from the pure grain filler be stained to match the original wood. I did this and found the white flecks did stain fine. It matches the original wood before any grain filler was added......
This means I do not have to mess around and added stain to the pure grain filler, I can just use the pure grain filler and re-stain when done. This avoids a messy step in the process :)
I wonder why I could not just apply the pure grain filler to the red oak after 220 grit sanding, but before applying any stain to the oak?
I ended up filling the table top, the bottom shelf top, and the outside of the 4 legs using wood filler. I applied the plain white filler with no stain added. I wiped it off after 10 minutes across the grain using burlap. After it dried, I hand sanded with 220 grit, then applied stain again. The white filler stained fine.
I followed this with several rounds of 220 grit and polyurethane.
I deviated from the plans slightly. I left the brass screws proud on the table legs. They were 1.5 inch long brass screws. I drilled the pilot holes, then ran steel screws until tight......because you will strip the brass screw if you do not make the thread with steel screws first.
I did not glue the legs onto the shelves, I just used 2 brass screws on each leg.
I attached the top with the grain the same direction as the top shelf, so they would expand and contract with the same movement. I used 1-1/4" steel screws, 4 of them, to attach the top to the top shelf.
Stay tuned as I finish this project............
Lessons Learned on This Project
If I make more of these tables, I should use the miter gage stop block kit when I cut the 4 legs to length at 3.5 degrees. This will help to insure all 4 legs are exactly the same length.
The 5/8" round-over router bit can not be used in my router table, it hits the ID of the table. When using it in the router, take 2 stock removal steps versus just 1 when freehand routing. I had trouble with this big router slipping away from the router. Therefore, be sure and tighten the router collet nut well.
I also had trouble with the 3/8" straight bit pulling away from the router when routing the big 20 inch diameter for the table top. Again, make sure collet is very tight on the router.
If I don't use the Behlen grain filler very often, I will need to stir it on the drill press before I can use it.
On future projects, make sure to sand out any imperfections of the joint between pieces on the top and shelves. It is difficult to determine if the 2 surfaces are perfectly level until you apply polyurethane, then it is too late because you have to redo everything.
This project was challenging because I could not do it all at once. I was in the middle of 2 major remodeling projects for relatives, so I had to do a little at a time.
The finished table really came out very nice looking. I would conclude it was worth using the grain filler on the key surfaces of the table. I have never achieved a finish in red oak where you can see the reflection of a coffee cup before!!
Project Follow-Up Note:
After I got done with this project, I went to YouTube to see if there was a video about using the Behlen grain filler. I found a video made by Behlen:
It was interesting to note, that on the video, Behlen tells you the first thing you must do is to mix the can because it will have settled out!! I wish I had watched the video before using the product! You should watch the video if you plan on trying the Behlen grain filler.