This past year I've taken on a number of interesting home projects. I’ve gotten to the point in my home renovation where the entire main floor is mostly complete… and so I’ve been able to work on other things like furniture and fixtures. One of my favorite projects thus far has been the construction of our dining room table. It took a rather long time (a few months) because I spent a lot of time looking for wood and a steel fabricator, but once that was selected the process was not that bad. First off, here was the initial design concept, which I modeled in sketchup:
I wanted to create an industrial piece, using C-channel steel and simple connections. The steel was custom made from a company called Blue Ridge Metal works, who conveniently sells and markets their products on etsy. The fabricator, Jon, was extremely easy to work with and was able to build the table legs based on the sketchup model and sketch I put together. Here is the sketch I sent him:
The wood was purchased from a Cleveland-based small business called Razing Cleveland. They specialize in deconstruction, and occasionally have their products available for sale in their warehouse. They had an open house one day, so I figured I’d go check them out. I met the owners, Holly and Ray, who were very supportive of my efforts to use reclaimed wood (instead of new wood) and gave me a great deal on some wood boards that were previously used for framing a Cleveland home in the late 1800’s. The wood was a mix of maple, oak and cedar. My intention was to keep the dark worn surface and to do minimal sanding in order to keep the character and look of the wood.
Before going to razing Cleveland, I explored different wood suppliers and types of wood. I didn’t always want to use reclaimed wood. At first, I looked at using maple and/or some type of exotic wood. I found a few local suppliers who were willing to work with me. But the process would have taken a little longer in order to dry the wood—approx. 6-10 weeks—and the price was a little more than I was looking for—about $4-6 a board foot. If you are looking for a more finished look, I would recommend going this route. I also looked at butcher block, but that was quoted at being approx.. $2100 for everything—so I crossed that off the list very quickly!
So when I finally settled on the wood I began mapping out the cuts. First, I cut the wood slightly larger than the final length—76” instead of the final 72”. Then I laid out the boards on saw horses according to how I wanted it to appear as a finished product. When the wood was laid out I noticed that most of the boards varied in depth—which was a problem. So to account for the slight difference in size I planed the underside of the wood until all of the boards were about 2” in depth.
Once all of the boards were the same depth I used a biscuit joiner to join the boards together. I cut out notches in the side of the boards every 6” and used wood glue and clamped the boards together 2 at a time. This process took a rather long time because I only had 4 clamps and had to wait 1-2 days for the boards to dry before I moved on to the new boards.
Once all of the boards were joined and dry I made one final cut on each end with a circular saw and did some light sanding with fine grit sand paper until the surface was very smooth. Again, I didn’t want to go too crazy with the sanding because I wanted to maintain the worn, dark look of the wood.
Once the sanding was complete I used a product called Swilleys All-Natural Wood Rub to enhance the beautiful wood grains and add an element of protection against liquids and other food. Once that was complete, I worked on the steel.
The steel legs were shipped to my house without any sort of protection or coating on them, so to preserve the beauty of the raw steel I used a product called Penetrol. It can be used alone as a base coat on bare metal and will fix the rust while preserving the appearance. After I applied several coats, I used a clear polyurethane top coat for added protection and a smooth finish. These two products working together makes the steel look completely natural. It is almost a year later, and I am still satisfied with the results. This table is quite heavy, but I know it will last a long time and is definitely worth all of the work!
Brandon E. Young