Putting it together.
We needed a table on which to stand our new TV. In previous blog posts I talked about making a table top, a shelf and a pair of legs. Time to turn them into an actual table. Then our TV can have something nice to sit on and our cat something nice to stare at.
Before that, I almost forgot. I’m not quite done with the top and shelf yet. In the first part I got them flat, and gave the top its basic shape, then paused work while I got on with the legs. Before I can assemble, I need to round off the edges. For this I need the Router and a couple of Rounding-Over Bits.
The coffee tables, on which this TV table is being styled, have asymmetric curves around their edges. That is, the top of the edge is quite a sharp curve (small radius) while the bottom is a shallower curve (large radius). I decided I should copy this for the TV table.
Running the router around the table-top is fairly easy. Rounding-over bits have a bearing that rolls around the edge of the wood and keeps the bit at a constant distance, ensuring an even shape over the length of the piece. So, a few laps of the top gave me the form I was looking for.
The shelf is a little more tricky to shape. I want to have curves down the front and back sides of the shelf, but can’t have them on the ends as these must fit flush with the legs. I solve this by clamping the shelf on its end, then using a large radius rounding-over bit on the corners to make a curve between the ends and the sides. I then clamp a straight strip of wood to the shelf that will keep the router bit in a line, even as the wood curves away at these corners. The effect is that the rounding-over on the sides smoothly and evenly fades into a square edges on the ends. Not easy to describe, or even photograph, but the effect is nice.
Of course, I need to make two further pieces to complete the shelf. Somehow, I would need to connect the shelf to the legs. I settled on constructing a pair of support braces. These could be screwed onto the legs, then the shelf could rest on them and be attached with more screws. I made these braces from some of the Ash wood used for the legs themselves, and curved the ends of the braces to match the curves of the rest of the table.
The first run through for assembly was done upside down. I used boxes and wood blocks to rest the shelf on so that it sat a suitable distance below the table-top, and then fiddled with the positions of things until I felt that the everything looked right. I could then mark up positions for holes to screw the pieces together. Final checks with spirit levels, with my levelling sticks and with a ruler and I was ready to drill the last few holes and join it all up. Then I had a table!
I checked the table on a variety of surfaces around the house. My key concern was to ensure it was robust, stable and flat. It shouldn’t wobble or rock, and should take a reasonable weight. Everything seemed to pass muster without requiring any additional structural work or anything taken off the legs.
So, with everything fitting correctly, I dismantled it again. It was time to sand, polish, and apply a finish.
I had kept the surfaces of each piece as smooth as possible while working, through repeated and careful use of different grades of sandpaper. I had the following to hand:
- P60 : Very Coarse. This stuff would change the shape of the wood, like using a file. It helped for things like getting jigsaw cut marks out of the curves of the legs.
- P150 : Medium. This would get rid of scratches on the surface, and tidy up places, particularly around knots, where the plane had nicked the wood.
- P240 : Fine. This turns the feel of the surface from rough to smooth. It would take out any remaining marks and leave a finish that is nice to touch.
- P600 : Super-Fine. Now we’re getting smooth! This makes the wood feel like silk.
- P1200 : Is this really sandpaper?! I’m sure I’ve used tissues that are rougher.
Actually, I got these last two grades to go in my kit for sharpening and polishing the chisel and plane blades. I’ve no real idea if they had any actual effect on the wood, but psychologically speaking, surfaces felt so perfect after I’d used it.
When sanding, as with planing and chiselling, you should go in the direction of the grain, otherwise the paper can create marks instead of removing them. Unlike when planing, sanding can cause scratching and marking if you work across the grain. Also, for the fine and super-fine sanding, it helps a lot to sand, then wet the surface, then sand again. Wetting the wood gets rid of the dust, and more importantly causes the top grain to swell slightly. Any imperfections reveal themselves as bumps which can then be levelled out with the further sanding. After a few days of this, I was bored to tears, but the wood looked and felt amazing.
The people at Oxford Wood Recycling recommended Osmo oils to finish and protect the wood. This stuff is not cheap, but I was assured it was worth every penny. The smallest of tins should be enough to build up the finish, and draw out the colours in the cherry and ash wood.
I decided to run a test, to see how it would come out. I selected one of the off-cut pieces of cherry, and planed, sanded and polished it smooth to match how the table-top would be. I then applied a coat of Osmo to one side and end of this off-cut to see how it would look. As the picture below shows, It comes out very nicely indeed.
Two coats of clear satin Osmo Polyx-Oil and the job was done. I owe OWR several favours after this work.
I’ve tried and failed to capture the surface in photographs, so you’ll just have to trust me on this, but the effort of hand planing, sanding, polishing and oiling to capture that finish was absolutely worth it.