Monday, November 7, 2011

Meanwhile back at the Ranch

My nephew showed up with an urgent project. He is leaving town in a few days and wants this butcher block  thing he bought turned into a desk.

He's over a barrel so I am gonna give him the family discount. (He gets to pay retail like everybody else, hehe.)

Here it is in the shop holding up some coffee as we discuss the process.

As you an see it has had a rough life, and was built to industrial strength to take it. The top had hundreds of scratches, nail holes, nails, staples, bolts and other metal objects imbedded in it, as well as a fairly big chunk of wood missing in one end.

Not to worry. The small nails were driven about a quarter inch deeper into the top with a small punch. The others were pulled. There were several holes drilled into the top to mount machinery in the distant past, and some fine fellow installed a sort of rough and ready shelf under the top which served to prevent the leg trestles from spreading under the weight of the loaded table.

Big holes were drilled out and wood dowels were glued in to fill them, smaller holes were filled with a slurry of sanding dust and wood glue before planing and sanding the top smooth, if not completely flat and level.

see the process below part way done. click to enlarge.

To fill the missing chunk, first I chiselled and planed the gap flat, then cut a piece of maple to fit the space, and glued it in. Later when the glue dried, I cut away everything that didn't look like the table.

The process of flattening and filling the top was long and boring as well as fairly loud what with the vacuum and the attached sander droning in my ear.

Meanwhile as the glue dried on the top I worked on the base. Since the ugly shelf just had to go, I wanted to retain a connection from one side to the other, as only four big bolts hold the bottom bits to the top.

My wood bin produced an old chunk of pine suitable for the task. It was going to be a foot rest, and connect both sides of the base. I sanded it very smooth so it could receive bare feet without danger.

First I cut some tenons at the ends of the piece of wood.

Then I marked out to cut the mortises for the tenons. I used what the French call a faux equerre (false square) made about a century ago by Stanley Rule and Level, which allows me to marry the odd angles of the joints to the angles of the legs.

And below are some views of the new piece married to the old ones, and tricked up a bit with some wood stain and gentle abuse to make it look all one of an ancient piece where the tenon pierces the leg to the other side. It is also wedged  into place to make it more solid.. 

I cut recesses in the legs to receive the ends of the foot rest so they could reinforce it against the torque of feet pressing on the angled bit.  

The last shot is the completed base ready to support the top. All together the whole thing weighs about two hundred pounds, top included.  It should last, and be resistant to theft.

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