The legs of this table are made from douglas fir purchased at my local big box home improvement store. The table top is made of hard maple that i purchased from a local mill. I modified the dimensions from the original plan because i really liked the look of the 4x4 legs. The douglas fir is relatively inexpensive material and because the legs for the most part unseen once you have chairs. I chose hard maple because i have three kids under the age of 6 that can destroy anything in their path. So having a kitchen table that could double as a nuclear bomb shelter was high on my priority list.
I recommend you purchase your wood from a local mill. There are few technical terms you will need to learn before heading over to purchase your wood stock. For example, lumber mills sale their wood stock by the board foot (width x length x depth) and if you want a 1 inch thick board you will need to ask for 5/4 board (pronounced five quarters) Marc Spagnolia (aka: The Wood whisperer) has a great 5 minute video that gives you all the information you need to walk into a lumber yard with confidence and purchase what you need. KEY POINT: make sure your boards are straight and square. If your boards are not straight and square, it will cause you problems down the stretch. In order to achieve this you must joint and plain your boards. Since I do not have a jointer or plainer, I asked the lumber mill if they could help me out and they were nice enough to do it for an extra $25 dollars. Well worth it in my opinion.
I did purchase one tool for this job, a biscuit joiner. A biscuit joiner makes small cuts in the sides of your boards. Small wooden biscuits are inserted in these slots and help keep your boards level when you glue up your boards. They do not add any strength to your glue joints, but will save you a lot of time sanding your table top perfectly flat. I won’t go into a lot of detail on how to glue your boards up. There are lot of great YouTube videos that give pretty good advice on the glue-up of your table top.
After you get your table top glued up, it is time to sand. KEY POINT: Sand by sight, not by feel. Your table top may feel really smooth to the touch, but when you go to stain, small swirl marks can make your final product look lackluster. Invest the time in sanding. I suggest getting some hallogen lights and put at the end of your table. These lights help you see those imperfections that need to be sanded out. Also, I recommend using an orbital sander. Be sure not to put any downward pressure, let the sander do the work. Putting downward pressure is so tempting, but ultimately causes deep gauges in your wood that take even longer to sand out.
So one thing that I did learn when doing this project was that hard maple is one of the toughest types of wood to stain. The wood is a very dense with tight porosity. This is what makes hard maple extremely durable and pretty, but unfortunately very difficult to stain. Most stains leave the maple looking blotchy (dark and light color all over the boards). It was really frustrating trying to figure out how to stain this type of wood. I searched the entire internet looking for tips on staining hard maple with very little luck. So if you’re interested in using this wood…here is my playbook that produced pretty good results. First of all you should really avoid the pigment type stains. These are your run of the mill stains you find at your big box store. I also had terrible luck with gel stains as well. The best way to stain maple I found was to use a dye stain. Dye stains have the ability to penetrate into the tight grain structure of the hard maple and leave you with a pretty nice color. I used general finishes “dark brown” dye stain with the following steps:
- Sand up to 120 grit, then take a shop vac ( I know it sounds crazy) and vacuum all the dust up from the top of your table. The shop vac pulls all the dust out of the pores and allows for better penetration. Then take a tac clothe and wipe down your table top. I used Minwax sanding sealer 1 to 1 ratio of sanding sealer to denatured alcohol. This helps prevent blotchiness. Please note that I tried prestain conditioner, dewaxed shellac and a few other products, but got significantly better results with the sanding sealer…..
- After letting the sanding sealer dry for 2-3 hours, I then proceeded to make 4 passes over the table with 220 grit sandpaper with my orbital sander. I proceeded this sanding with the shop vac and tac clothe wipe down of the entire table top. I also did a slight wipe down with a clothe towel and denatured alcohol. This helped raise the grain slightly/open up the pores of the wood.
- Finally I took a spray bottle with my stain and sprayed over the entire table top putting a nice even coat of stain. This really worked well as my table was 7 foot wide. I quickly and gently wiped the excess stain off the table.
The results were really great. The dye stain makes the figure of the wood “pop” and the sanding sealer keeps the color relatively even across your top.
For the top coat, I started out putting minwax high gloss poly. I put several coats of this poly on the table, sanding with 400 grit sandpaper in between coats. I really like this product. I recommend putting it in the Fridge for 4-6 hours before you start working with it. It will give you more time before the product sets up. My final 2 coats I used behlen’s rock hard urethan satin varnish. This product was truly rock hard, but once you put it on it sets up really fast…then it takes a long time to completely set up. You had better work pretty fast using this stuff. I used a roller to roll on all of my poly applications then evened it out with a really good paint brush. I built up layers of poly starting out with high gloss first, then switching to satin. If you start out with satin and apply lots of coats, it can give a plastic type appearance to your finish that I do not like.
After 3 days of letting my final coat dry, I rubbed out the finish by taking 4 (0000) steel wool and a product called mohawk wool lube paste. The steel wool evens out the finish and gives it an even sheen throughout the entire table top (see pictures). The wool lube keeps you from burning through the finish with your steel wool. Head over to Jon Peters Art & Home and he has videos on how to do this.
Hopefully this post helps some people. Let me know if you have questions.
Behlen Rock Hard Eurathane Varnish