(Amy's note: if all the technical woodworking details from my long-winded sweetheart are a big much for you, just skip to the last paragraph and picture; it's beautiful! I kind of groove on all the how-to myself, but that may be an acquired interest...)
At this point in the construction of the table my family came for a visit and all wanted to see what I was working on. I showed them my progress with enthusiasm. I don’t think they understood what was going on, because with just two ends to the base, it still didn’t look like anything. You may be thinking the same thing. I confess that I am reluctant to show anyone works in progress (the same goes for paintings) because it seems like only the person working on it can make the leap from where the project is to where it will be.
I ended up using bed hardware to attach the two ends of the base together based on my brother's advice. With the hardware attached, I “dry-fitted” everything to see how it came together. It all fit very tightly and the whole structure was sturdy and didn’t rock or creak or twist!
The last step of the base assembly was to fit the stretcher into place and trace the edge where it came through the center panel in order to cut a hole in each end for the “keys.” A “key” is little more than a wedge that you tap in and it holds the tenon tight against it’s adjoining piece. Keyed tenons also happen to look primitive and cool.
The top was really quite a lot of work, but the steps were basic. I took the cherry planks that I traded my old boss for, then rip cut them into 1 3/4 strips, glued seven or eight pieces at a time together, butcher-block style, clamped them and repeated this step until I had enough sections to add up to 40 inches. I then planed each section to 1 1/2 inches and glued and clamped them all together being careful to keep the top surface really flat and even. From there it was just a lot of hand planing, and several rounds of sanding.
For the top, we opted for a natural, hand rubbed finish. Lacquer and urethane finishes look beautiful, but they scratch and we didn’t want to worry about keeping it pristine and shiny. That is another reason we made it butcher block style, for the ruggedness.
I used several coats of Danish oil and once that was dry, we used some natural paste wax. The look and feel of it are really pleasing. If in a few years if we want to sand off the blueberry stains and evidence of Sam’s art projects, and rub some more Danish oil into it, it will be really easy.
For the base I did use some regular polyurethane for wood floors. It completely sealed all of the chipping paint, and splintery wood. Sadly, it darkened everything more than I had hoped, but check out the finished product! The only things I purchased for this project were: finish, sandpaper and the hardware. There are ways to make useful, well-crafted things for next to nothing!
That was a lot to say about something so basic as a table. In truth, when you want something to be special, you either spend a gang of cash on it, or you build it yourself. And if you’re going to build it, put some love into it! Important things happen around tables; you eat, sew, read, make art, grow close to your family, get to know neighbors, celebrate. The table is a place to verbalize the bitter things and the good things about life. With luck, your great grand kids will gather around it someday for a game of scrabble and a piece of birthday cake.