|The newly finished table|
A customer brought in a table that had seen better days. It needed its shellac finish refinishing. It was also a little rickety. On closer examination it was literally nailed together! There were no joints to speak of and it needed serious work to make it stable.
I told my customer it would need extensive work but as she liked it and it had no intrinsic value as an antique (laughs) she was happy to see it "remade".
To go about this I dismantled it completely. Not very difficult as the nails came out very easily. The top had been nailed on from the underside and had a dowel protruding from the top of each leg into the underside of the top. Needless to say over a period of years, moving it into central heated houses had resulted in the top splitting down the middle. She wasn't even aware of this as she covered it with a cloth and stacked a computer on it.
The front of the drawer was dovetailed to the sides but the glue had long ago disintegrated. In fact the single wide dovetail was the only thing holding the drawer front onto the sides! The drawer bottom was very thin plywood that protruded from the back. This protrusion had been used as a drawer stop on the inside face of the rear of the carcass! Also it looked as though a bottle of ink had been spilt inside the drawer at some time in its history. Fortunately only the drawer bottom was damaged and a few splashes on the inside of the drawer sides.
Anyway after it was all dismantled I set about correcting it. First of all all the ends of the stiles/stretchers needing squaring up and cutting to identical lengths. Originally they had been cut at odd angles and looks as though they had been chewed to length. It appeared to be made of English oak as it had prominent medullary ray fleck patterns. However it did not smell like oak when cut. I then thought it might be English sycamore which also exhibits ray fleck on quartersawn examples.
Next I made sure the legs were all the same length and squared off both ends. Then all pieces had their shellac removed with a cabinet card scraper. I also used a random orbit sander to 180 grit.
I set about cutting routed slots for floating tenons in the legs/stiles and stretchers. I don't have a Festool Domino but you get the idea. I also made some tenon stock on the router to the correct dimensions and rounded them off to fit the slots.
Dry fitA dry fit revealed that everything was OK. I cut some notches for the lower shelf. Then the lower shelf was cut to length and width to fit.
Glue up was simple making sure the lower shelf was free to float - no glue. I used clamping squares to make sure everything was ok
Next the ornamental brackets were squared up on the table saw. Again they had previously been chewed to shape! I glued them into place using Titebond regular but only on the long grain faces.
After leaving overnight something had moved and the table rocked slightly. A few passes with a block plane on the two offending legs soon corrected it.
The drawerThen this left a rail onto which the drawer front would go. As there had been a narrowing of the table caused by me cutting the stretchers square the drawer front was a little too wide. I cut the front to fit the "hole". I then set about cutting the pins slightly deeper. The sides fit in OK and just needed their rear ends cutting square and a rabbet cutting in the trailing edge. A new part of the drawer was the rear panel that I made from some scrap oak. I cut a wider drawer bottom groove in the sides and front to suit some 6mm birch ply I had in stock.
Then I glued the drawer back together and dowelled the rear on. As the dovetails were not very good I also dowelled the drawer front on and left it overnight to cure.
Next day I cut off the protruding dowels and planed the drawer to fit the table. Then a drawer bottom was made and slid into place. This was secured on the back edge with a couple of 2.5mm countersunk head screws.
I just had to glue in a couple of drawer runners and side packers to make the drawer run smoothly and without crabbing.
The top.I run this over the table saw to cut out the split. The original glue had given way long ago but it was still holding together ... just. I then run both segments through a jointer/planer to get them to a uniform thickness. Then using complimentary jointing method I run the jointer plane over the two mating edges. The top was then glued together with no issues and left overnight to cure.
The next day the top was scraped flush at the seam and the moulding imperfection on the end grain was scraped flush. The results were not perfect but I was not after perfection on this job.
Pre-FinishingEverything was sanded to 180 grit using a random orbit sander and the mouldings on the lower shelf glued and nailed back into place. I only glued the pieces in about 2" (50mm) at the centre of the end grain and rely on nails on the extremities. This will minimise it popping off when the wood expands/contracts across the grain.
My customer liked the original dark wood finish but was happy to let me do whatever I liked to it. So I decided to stay darkish brown. I chose General Finishes Early American waterborne stain as it was fairly close to the original. This needed to be applied in at least 2 coats lightly sanding between with wet and dry 600 grit.
The top coats were General Finishes High Performance Satin as it is another waterborne varnish but is colourless and hard wearing.
Finally the drawer runners were given some Renaissance Wax and the original drawer pulls fixed in place. I made some figure-8 table connectors from some brass sheet and secured the top to the frame. The job was then finished and returned to the customer.