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Thread: Project: Large Natural Edge Black Walnut Dining Table Top

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    Project: Large Natural Edge Black Walnut Dining Table Top

    One of the clients I've been doing CNC work for recently asked me to help him fabricate a top for a dining table that he wants to present to his daughter and son-in-law for their new home. He's one of those folks who finds really unique material for his charcuterie boards that sets them apart and in his travels, he picked up a couple of large black walnut slabs for the table. They originally were 11' long but that dimension wasn't going to work for the space the table needs to live in. This is a build thread for the table top, although it will hopefully include the end result for a fabricated steel base that he had me draw up from some photos he supplied to accompany the top.

    The first step was to layout what 8+ foot section of the boards would be used for the actual table top. The natural edge contours and some cracks pretty much dictated that. Since these started out at about 2.5" thick and were uber-heavy, the natural place to trim things down was on the driveway outside of my shop. The client provided physical labor to help with that since at that point, no way could I lift one of these things by myself...it was a struggle for two people!

    IMG_5500.jpg

    The ends were cut off using my trusty old 1970s era Black and Decker circular saw followed by the Festool jigsaw with a long blade to get the last half inch or so. A simple board clamped to the slab served as a guide. These were cut about 6" longer than final to allow for best match at the join and to allow for potential snipe off the wide belt that they would pass through before final finish sanding.

    IMG_5501.jpg . IMG_5502.jpg

    At that point, they were taken to Bucks County Hardwoods to get properly flattened on their Lucas mill with a router. I just am not setup to do that for something this large, so subcontracting it made sense. Client cheerfully paid for it... When I picked them up on Friday morning, they were "perfectly" flat and at a hair over 2". Bucks County Hardwoods does this for their own slab processing which is a pretty extensive part of their business these days. (They are one of the suppliers to Nakashima) Next for me was straight line rip the edges to be joined, keeping the slabs as wide as possible. A chalk line was struck to help line things up on my slider. Prior to doing this, I made an auxiliary support table that attaches to the slider wagon as the slabs were too wide not to have that.

    IMG_5558.jpg

    Each slab was put on the saw, aligned for the cut-line, clamped down and then cut. The edge was perfectly straight and perpendicular to the faces, requiring no additional treatment before gluing. I'm thankful for that because while I could now lift one of these by myself, it was unwieldy. In fact, I had my CEO (Professor Dr. SWMBO) help with moving things around to avoid any accidents.

    IMG_5577.jpg . IMG_5578.jpg

    After ripping, the slabs went back to the bench to line things up and position the locations for a few 14mm Dominos that would serve to keep things aligned and level during glue-up.

    IMG_5579.jpg . IMG_5580.jpg
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  2. #2
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    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    I maneuvered the boards so I could cut the Domino slots, tight on the one in the middle and loose for the remaining four I used.

    IMG_5581.jpg

    With the Dominos driven into one side (dry), I positioned the second slab and got things lightly seated, using a few clamps as "extra hands/arms"

    IMG_5582.jpg

    I chose to glue using System 3 T-88 epoxy for a nice long open time, strength and the unlikely chance of "glue creep". It was mixed up, slathered on both edges (bench already protected) and then a whole bunch of clamps were used to bring things together

    IMG_5583.jpg

    Tomorrow, I'li get any residual epoxy off the top and then set things up with Bucks County Hardwoods to run the top through the massive old sander they have; one pass on the bottom to clean it and then one or two passes on the top as necessary. I don't want to get much below the current 2+" it is now because of scale.

    BTW, here's what the slabs looked like after processing on the Lucas mill...

    SGRZ6312.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 09-22-2019 at 6:13 PM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    Bucks County, PA
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    564
    That is awesome Jim! Nice work.
    And there was trouble, taking place...

  4. #4
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    Feb 2019
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    Averill Park NY
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    Great job! Looking forward to following this.
    Some Blue Tools
    Some Yellow Tools
    And a Pet Grizzly
    ShapeokoXL
    Blue and White 50 Watt

  5. #5
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    Aug 2015
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    N. Texas
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    I'm thinking a little oil, and the figure in photo #2 will be stunning(...just in case you were unsure ).
    Molann an obair an saor.

  6. #6
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    Jan 2004
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    Lewiston, Idaho
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    That's going to be really pretty!
    Ken

  7. #7
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    Feb 2003
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    McKinney, TX
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    1,667
    Very nice. Looks like a fun job
    Steve Jenkins, McKinney, TX. 469 742-9694
    Always use the word "impossible" with extreme caution

  8. #8
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    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm McLeod View Post
    I'm thinking a little oil, and the figure in photo #2 will be stunning(...just in case you were unsure ).
    I'm not finishing this, but I agree with you. Most likely the client will be using Waterlox for the finish.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
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    Feb 2003
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    Yorktown, VA
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    That's a beauty, Jim. Quite a handful, but you did good!

  10. #10
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    Jun 2008
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    So Cal
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    Thatís a awesome looking table top. Itís soo nice you could set them up on a couple boxes from Costco and people would say what great looking table.
    Everything great about a table is in the top.
    Aj

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    WNY
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    That's going to be a very nice table top, Jim.

    In case you didn't know, white vinegar cleans up wet epoxy easily and completely. I read that on the side of a T-88 bottle, IIRC, and it definitely works just as well as lacquer thinner. I've glued up several house doors with T-88 now and like it a lot, especially for the really long open time as you referenced. Doesn't require much clamping pressure either which is really helpful on something like you live edge top.

    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

    John

  12. #12
    Man, I am super jealous of that slider.

    Beautiful.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    Bucks County, PA
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    564
    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    Man, I am super jealous of that slider.

    Beautiful.
    Me, too. His slider is about the side of my shop...
    And there was trouble, taking place...

  14. #14
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    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    John, I saw that note on the T-88 bottle, although I didn't bother because there was only a little squeeze out on the top and well, the bottom wasn't exactly accessible to me to clean while the glue was pliable.
    ----

    Prashun and Steve, that slider is nice, but these slabs pushed the limit. I intentionally kept them to 8' 6" for an approximate 8' finished table length because I can't cut any longer than that! A 10 footer would have been nicer. LOL I have to say, however, since the slabs were pretty darn flat and exactly the same thickness when I got them back from Bucks County Hardwoods, straight lining on the slider pretty much was like running them across a jointer accurate and the glue-up was one of the easiest I've ever done.

    Unclamped and the top joint cleaned of squeeze out. It will go back to Bucks County Hardwoods tomorrow morning when the client arrives to help me move it to my trailer and get sanded...probably one pass on the bottom and one or two on the top, depending on how a slight depression sands out on the top. At that point, it's up to the client to finish it unless he wants to pay a whole bunch of money for me to do it since my shop is paralyzed with such a big thing taking up my bench.

    IMG_5584.jpg . PCVG5253.jpg

    BTW, while the clamps did mark the edges slightly, a little spray with some water a couple of times, made the marks "decompress" and more or less disappear. One the client dresses the edges to clean them up, there will be zero evidence of the clamps.

    Mr. Holcolme introduced me to an idea while back around of putting a small radius on the end of a table. I really like that idea, especially for something natural edge so help soften things up at the ends...straight cuts can be so abrupt paired with the natural contours of the slabs used and a subtle curve does the job. My client also likes this idea as we have already used it on some of his natural edge charcuterie boards. So I cut a template on the CNC that I will use to apply a very slight curve to the ends...about 25mm/1" over 1168mm/46".

    IMG_5593.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 09-23-2019 at 10:21 PM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
    Jim,

    Thanks for the reference to Bucks County Hardwoods. I'm considering outsourcing the flattening of a kitchen island and table project.

    Regarding the final drum sanding, I'm curious why you're not just doing that manually. Prepping walnut slabs with a ROS would be straightforward and easy from here, especially since they are flat and your seams are level. Your client will have to do that anyway to get rid of the drum sander marks, and to break the sharp edges, no?

    I guess, why bother with the drum sander at all?
    Last edited by Prashun Patel; 09-24-2019 at 9:22 AM.

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