Complete: Harvest Table

Harvest table from reclaimed threshing barn boards
6 feet long by 39 inches wide
Pegged mortise and tenon joinery
Dyed dark brown, and finished with oil/varnish blend and a top coat of beeswax
43 hours


Glued and Pegged

The base is glued up and mostly complete. These eight pieces of wood are now occupying most of the floor space in my shop. It’s good exercise climbing over the aprons to get from one side to the other.  Good for the hamstrings.

Since the last post, I fit the tenons then cleaned up the legs and aprons, adding a chamfer along all exposed corners.  I then made sixteen pegs from hard maple scrap using my home-made dowel plate.

The assembly was all drawbored – no clamps. I used an 1/8″ offset, which worked much better with this wood.  Not having to manage 6 foot long clamps and just pounding pegs in with a hammer was really nice. All the joints are tight. I think I’ll drawbore most of my mortise and tenons from now on. At least those that I plan to peg anyway.

I also used hide glue for the first time. Its a liquid hide glue (Old Brown Glue), so all you have to do is warm it up a bit to get the right viscosity. I liked that the glue helped the joints slip together easily even though they were very tight when I dry fit them. PVA glue has a little more tack, so joints can sometimes be more difficult to pull together than the dry fit. It has a longer open time, which wasn’t really needed for this assembly, but will be beneficial for more complex glue-ups in the future. I think I’ll start using liquid hide glue instead of my usual – Titebond III.

Drawbored joints and hide glue. Roy Underhill would be proud.

Don’t Like Routers Anymore

A little more progress. The legs and aprons have been surfaced and cut to final size.  The mortises are cut into the hefty legs, and the tenons are rough cut on the aprons.

I used a router to cut out the mortises. That’s my usual method, but I won’t be doing that anymore. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it just isn’t much fun doing it that way. I’m going to buy a mortise chisel and start hogging them out by hand. By the time I square up the corners of a routed mortise, I’m left wondering if i could have done the whole thing faster by hand. Routers are noisy, kick dust up everywhere, like to slip offline and ruin your work, and have been known to occasionally bite you. If I have to do a crazy number of mortises in a future project then i’ll consider buying a powered mortiser, but until then i’m going hand powered.

I have to cut the tenons to width, then fit each one. I think I’ll also add some sort of detail to the bottom of each apron.  Then I’ll be ready to assemble and start to finish.

I Made a Mess

On purpose.

But then I cleaned it up.

Top after flattening. All cleaned up.

There were several nail holes, gashes, splits, loose knots that needed some attention. I chose to fill those imperfections with some epoxy tinted to a solid black. The table will be dyed a very dark brown, so I think these black bits will look good, and hopefully natural, with a final finish on.

I used G2 Epoxy tinted to black with pigment from Curry’s, and thickened with regular wheat flour from the kitchen. It was a nice pasty consistency and as black as black can be.

Planing off the the epoxy left on the surface was about as hard as I thought it would be. A sharp iron cut right through without much problem, but the epoxy dulled it down pretty quick. After close to10 sharpenings I was done. I hadn’t flattened the top at all before this, so I cleaned up the epoxy and flattened the top all at once.

Hair line split and nail hole filled

Before all this epoxy craziness, i patched some of the uglier gashes with some new little pieces.

The top is done for now. Once everything else is done, I’ll give it a light sanding and ease the corners, then it will be ready for finish.

I’m ready to work on the base now. I’ll cut the legs and aprons to rough size and surface them next.

I’m hoping to have this completely done by the end of August. I *think* I’m on track.

Breadboard Ends and Drawboring

Wow, post #2. I am on a roll…

Last night I made some good progress after several weeks of no progress at all. Lately, by the time we get our 2 1/2 year old to bed it is pushing 9:30pm, so the thought of heading out to the shop isn’t as appealing as grabbing a beer and watching something on TV. Mondays/Tuesdays have been all about MasterChef lately. Call me what you will, but MasterChef is awesome.

Anyway, I was able to get the mortises in the breadboard ends cut out and fit onto the tongues/tenons running along the ends of the table top. I hogged out the waste with a forstner bit, then cleaned things up with a chisel. I needed to take a bit off the tenons using a router plane to get things to fit nicely.

The joinery on breadboard ends is all cross grain, so you can’t really glue the entire length. If you did, something would crack. I glue about an 8″ area that i want to remain stationary, in this case, the middle, then depend on pins to hold the rest of the joint tight. I normally clamp the glue-up, then drill out the holes for the pins and drive them in – all with the clamps in place. This time i decided to try a drawbore to really bring things together. I used a 1/16″ offset, which worked OK, but I think I should have offset more than that since I felt very little resistance when I hammered the pins in. I should have figured that. I’m using softwood. This was my first time drawboring, so i was a little chicken with the offset.

I used hard maple pins split from a piece of scrap, then driven through my ghetto home-made dowel plate. I used a pencil sharpener on the ends to get a taper, and gave them a light coat of paraffin wax.

Square pin becoming round

Square pin now looking pretty round

Next thing to do is patch all the rough spots on the table top. Some of these reclaimed boards were a little more beat up than i feel comfortable with so I’d like to patch up a few of the more unsightly areas. This thing is supposed to look rustic, but I have standards I need to uphold! I actually created a few gashes myself trying to coax out some of those 100+ year old nails. The steel was much softer than modern nails, so I had to get pretty aggressive with some of them. I had to sacrifice some wood to get at the nails that would bend up inside the wood instead of come out the other side.  Time to patch up the mess.

A Harvest Table

I’ve just started a new project, a super simple harvest table, and i thought it would be a nice idea to record the process here.  Who knows?  Maybe i’ll actually keep this up.  Or, maybe this will be last post…

Here’s a little SketchUp model of what we’re shooting for:

Very simple lines, no ornamentation, but I think the proportions are right.  It should be a pretty straight-forward build.

We’re going with reclaimed barn boards for the material, so I pressure washed all the boards to get rid of all the nastiness and let it sit for a couple of weeks before doing anything.

Reclaimed boards after a thorough pressure washing.

Since then, I’ve surfaced the top boards down to 1 3/4″ (from a little less than 2″), glued up the top, and cut the tongue at the ends of the top to receive the breadboard ends.  I’ve also run a groove on both breadboard ends, but i still need to cut out the tenons on the top’s tongue and mortise out the breadboard ends to receive those tenons.  Will probably be the most time-consuming part of the whole project.

I used a router to cut out the 1 1/4″ tongues that join the top to the breadboard ends.  Apparently I took too big of a bite on my first few passes since the shop ended up getting a little smokey. Signs of fire in a room that contains mostly wood and sawdust is a really bad thing.  I doused all the shavings and the end of the top with water and decided to change my approach.

I ended up chiseling out the bulk of the waste then finishing off the final 1/8″ or so with the router.  This probably ended up going faster than hogging out all the waste with a router and was at least 500 times quieter (could listen to the Jays game!).  The router didn’t leave a great finish, but i’ll be truing up the cheeks of the tenon with my router plane when i fit it anyway.  Lots of people think using hand tools is awkward, slow, tedious, etc.  But, that’s not the case.  The key is a sharp hand tool.  Chris Schwarz once mentioned that learning to sharpen is a gateway skill in woodworking.  Very true.

Chiseling out the waste

Now, i have a partially complete top sitting on my too-small workbench.  If all goes well, maybe i can get out sometime this weekend and get those breadboard ends fit.