There is a coffee table that sits in my living room that I built years ago. The slab is from a tree cut from my dads, I believe it is a Chestnut Oak but not positive. The base is wrought iron that I made with the help of a friend of mine that is a metal worker. The slab is around 4 inches thick and was cut around 8 years before the table was built and had been air drying in my dad’s shop.
For the slab, I cleaned up the edges removing the bark and soft sapwood. Then planed and sanded everything smooth. I finished the slab with several coats of polyurethane and it looks pretty good. I have always liked the table but there were flaws that should have been addressed in the beginning.
I assumed that the slab was dry enough but never allowed it acclimatize in my own shop even though I brought it hear from a different state. Another issue was that I did not deal with a few deep cracks in the ends of the slab. The table has held up pretty well considering but over the years the slab has twisted slightly, causing the table to rock a little. The surface has also become uneven because of movement at the cracks.
Looking at the table last week, I realized that it was time to do something. I started by removing the slab from the wrought iron base, to my pleasant surprise that base went right back into place and sits perfectly flat and square once the top was removed.
The slab needed to be flattened and it was best to start with the underside first. I secured the slab to my bench and began removing material with my #7. I cut across and diagonal to quickly remove the wood and also ensure that I get an even surface. Using two 4′ levels as winding sticks I could see that there was a pretty major twist and marked the high corners with chalk, then began to plane them down. The process went much faster than I thought and didn’t take long before I had the bottom of the slab free of twist and perfectly flat…or at least as flat as it needed to be.
Once, the bottom side was flat I repeated the process on the top. As a precaution I decided to put bow ties through the crack to help prevent further movement. By this point I probably don’t need to worry about it as the table has been in my house for years but I like the look and just feel better about having them in place. I used Walnut for the bow ties to contract against the Oak.
I could have left the cracks alone but the table sits in our living room and my daughters are constantly eating off of the table. Food and everything else gets into the cracks and makes it difficult to clean. I decided to fill the cracks and holes with epoxy. I used a 45 minute epoxy and filled the top, bottom, and ends. As some of the spits go almost all the way through it took to coats of the epoxy to get the top surface level.
Next, I am going to do a little reshaping of the edges and then smooth all of the surfaces ready for finish. I will finish up this week so be sure to stop back by for the final before and after of this project.
Be safe, learn something, and have fun!