The result of this project is what your wife or girlfriend would call a “Rustic,” “Barn,” or “Ranch Style” dining room table. I call it a man table, because it’s made from inexpensive wood, can take a beating, and one day your grandchildren will be serving their kids Thanksgiving dinner on it. Being the man that built that table is, well, manly. I’ve found a few similar tables on Craigslist and furniture sites, starting at around $1200. That’s absurd. I built mine for less than $200, including the chairs I bought for it.
After sanding, I wiped down the table to remove any dust. Then I stirred the polyurethane and brushed it on the table top, including all four sides. After the polyurethane coating dried, the table was ready to be used. I used the poly coat because the table is being used on an outdoor porch. It is a covered porch, but sometimes there is a blowing rain. I also wanted a protective coating because the table is being used for food and drinks. I didn’t want to worry about anything being spilled on the table.
The next part of the custom woodworking transaction is a visitation to the actual site where the furniture is going to be placed. The woodworker determines if the design is doable. If it is, he advises the client of the final cost. Once the design is approved and the contract is signed, the construction of the project can begin. Some woodworkers require advance payment before the construction can commence.
An assortment of chisels should be part of every workbench. Chisels are not just for wood carvers. Any woodworker will need chisels to clean out joints and saw cuts. Look for chisels made of high-alloy carbon steel or chromium-vanadium alloyed steel. Hardwood grips are best, especially if they have metal caps on them. This will keep the end of the handle from becoming malformed when you hammer on it.
Be sure wood is dry. Material from a job site or floor joists that existed in a crawlspace may have high moisture content; material from a conditioned space should be dry. Wood can be dried in a kiln (ask your local lumber mill) or stored inside through the winter. If time does not permit, stack wood in a hot dry place with 1" spacers between layers. Allow to dry for a minimum of two weeks.
Although it’s tempting to use a random orbit sander to smooth your table top at the final stages, I never do. Finish quality is the reason why. Random orbit sanders often leave behind swirl marks that don’t show up until finishing time. A better option is to complete the sanding process by hand, using 180-, then 220-grit paper only in the direction of wood grain. The finish of a tabletop is more closely examined than wood finishes anywhere else, so you need to eliminate all flaws.
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