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A friend of mine needed some help in his cabinet shop and was willing to trade my skills for an 8′x3′ ash slab.
I’ve always loved the look of live edges in furniture design. George Nakashima, http://www.nakashimawoodworker.com/, is one of my favorites!
I designed a table in my own style, inspired by Nakashima’s.
To flatten both sides of the table, I built a sled for the router to ride along using 3/4″ plywood.
The Wood Whisperer has a fantastic tutorial on building router sleds as well as more in-depth information on the setup and process of flattening wide boards with a router. http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/videos/flattening-workbenches-and-wide-boards-with-a-router/
I made rails using 2x4s by jointing two edges flat and at 90 degree angles-the edge that would attach to the sides of the slab and the top, where the router would ride. Then I clamped them to the table, making sure they were co-planer. (The Wood Whisperer also shows you how to do this).
After placing my router on the sled, I plunged the bit down until it barely touched the highest point of the table. Then I added 1/16″ to that depth and started routing. I moved the router back and forth in the sled and moved the sled along the rails until all the high points had been routed off. I increased the depth in 1/16″ increments until the entire slab was flat.
Here’s a great link to learn how to make and install butterfly keys, http://www.rockler.com/how-to/butterfly-key-joinery-part-i/
Filling The Cracks
I mixed silver pigment from an artists supply store with EnviroTex, a pour on finish, to fill the cracks. I covered the cracks on the top side of the slab using masking tape and wax paper. This created a dam so when I flipped the slab over I was able to pour EnviroTex in the cracks from the bottom leaving a perfectly flush surface on the the top.
Sculpting The Edge:
This was the hardest part! It took a lot of sawing and a lot more sanding.
Unlike oil and solvent-based finishes, water-based finishes are, for the most part, non-yellowing (acrylics are best). However, they don’t impart depth and richness the way oil and slovent-based finishes
What to do, what to do!? I decided to go with a whiter look and opted for water-based products.
1. Prepping The Surface
I sanded the surface using 100, 120, and then 150 grit paper.
Tip: You can tell when you need to change sandpaper because the machine starts to slide rather than “bite.”
I checked the surface after sanding by wiping it down with mineral spirits (wets the wood so any errant defects, glue spots, and sanding scratches are noticeable.)
When I was satisfied that the surface was properly prepared, I removed the dust and debris by vacuuming the surface with a soft brush attachment before blowing off the surface with compressed air.
2. Homemade Stain
The goal was to produce an even white-colored film over the entire slab and in the pores. To create this whitewashed look I applied the stain over bare wood. (Liming and pickling are applied over sealed wood so that the color stays only in the pores when the excess is wiped off.)
To make the white-colored stain I thinned some latex/acrylic paint by diluting 1 part paint with 5 parts water-I didn’t want the stain to be too intense which is why I diluted the paint so much.
I tested it out to make sure I liked the color. The Right side is before staining the slab, the left is after.
Next, I taped off the areas-using my awesome mustache masking tape-that I didn’t want the stain to touch.
Water-soluble stains dry fast so I had to work quickly when applying it. I applied the stain to small areas at a time using a synthetic brush and going with the grain. Before it dried I wiped it off with a clean rag. By working in small sections I was able to avoid stopping for too long in an area and overlapping, thus avoiding uneven spots. This also helped ensure that all of the stain was wiped away before it dried. This is super important because any missed areas will show up when the finish is applied.
3. Spraying the Finish: Satin 2001 Crystalac
I strained the finish, using a medium-mesh paper strainer, prior to spraying it. The gun was set up with a needle suited for medium-viscosity finishes (1.0-1.5mm). I sprayed the work with just enough finish so that the coat I was applying made the wood look wet and cloudy (slightly bluish would be fine too). If it looks white the finish is probably too thick.
I coated the surface only once because double-passing with water-based finishes is overkill and leads to drying and curing problems.
I designed the base using SketchUp and had it manufactured and powder coated by a local company. If you look at it straight on the pieces make two Ns for EnEn Design.
I sampled the legs on a different tops.
And finally: the finished table!