This table was the second piece of furniture I made, back when I was a graduate student. Like all my pieces, it is my own design. Part of the challenge is coming up with a design that looks good, is structurally sound, and is within the limits of my skills and tools.

I didn't really need a new table, but after making a coffee table, I was hooked on woodworking. I was so broke, I could barely afford the wood. I was so broke I coveted a $10 el-cheapo block plane from the local K-Mart, and couldn't afford to buy it. I was so broke I couldn't buy bar clamps, so the first thing I had to do was make some home-made bar clamps so I could glue up the top. Those bar clamps worked great, they not only allowed great clamping pressure (useful because I wasn't able to cut the boards perfectly straight on my little el-cheapo bench top saw), but they also clamped the top flat at the same time they clamped the boards side to side. They were a little awkward, but served their purpose well. The tools used were the table saw, an el-cheapo belt sander, a little plastic router, an el-cheapo jig saw, and a file. The router was a Christmas gift from a girl friend who had no more money than I, so it was an extravagant gift at the time, and my finest woodworking tool for a long time. You can do amazing things with an inexpensive router with enough creative thought. I still use it for light duty edge routing.

The table is primarily red oak, with two strips of cherry down the top and down the back edges of the legs. The wood is all 5/4 (inches thick), and was chosen for interesting grain and has lots of color variation. Even now, 15 years later, I like to sit eating my breakfast and look at the patterns and colors. It was stained using a mix of one part Minwax Golden Oak, one part Minwax Special Walnut, and one part Watco Natural Danish Oil. The dyes in this mix gave a nice golden brown that pulled out the colors rather than overriding them, and the pigments in the walnut settled in the pores drawing out the patterns.. The top coat is Varithane polyurethane of some sort. This table is where I learned about super high grit wet/dry sand paper and automotive polish. I was having a hard time getting that perfect smooth finish and began experimenting. If you can polish car paint (actually lacquer) with the stuff, it seemed like you ought to be able to polish varnish. Years later I found out that I had reinvented the wheel!

Here is a shot of the top. The strips of wood a thinner than I would use now, although not thinner than seen in most commercial furniture. I jointed the boards on my little 8 inch bench top saw with a hollow ground steel blade which made an ok edge, but it was impossible to get a truly straight edge over five feet of board. So, relied on the strength of the clamps to pull the boards together, which required that the boards not be too stiff. This is risky in the long run since this causes a lot of stress in the top which can lead to cracks and other problems years later, but it has held up fine for 15 years and the change in climate from Colorado to Massachusetts, and was my only choice at the time. Two boards were glued at a time, added to the outside edge, until the top was full size. The jig saw would not cut an accurate line in such thick hardwood (at least not with me behind the wheel) so I cut near the line and rounded over the edge with the router. Then using a coarse file, I shaped the now thinner edge into a smoother oval, and rerouted the edge. A few iterations and it was a nice smooth oval.