I absolutely loved the process on this commission, because the client (thanks Kevin Hanson) had a brilliant idea, we bantered back-and-forth, and the result is (in my humble opinion) a really cool heirloom table with sentimental value that will be in the client’s family for a very long time. What a great conversation piece that table will be for years to come.
Where did it all begin? Kevin got the chutzpah to propose on July 4th, 1994 on a wooden porch swing owned by his girlfriend’s father. Rumor has it there was a shotgun involved, but that’s unconfirmed. Later they had the swing engraved with the date and moved the swing to their own home. After 25 years in the weather, the swing was taking a beating so Kevin wanted to salvage the best pieces and repurpose them into something special for his bride. Let’s take a look at the transformation…
First, taking apart the swing may sound more trivial than it really was. It took several hours to very carefully pry apart the boards with a flat pry bar while trying to prevent the wood from splitting. Once all the boards and nails were removed we were left with what you see in the picture.
It was readily apparent that there wasn’t enough solid wood left for all the pieces required in the table, so we decided to save the best for the table top and lower shelf. Then it was a matter of deciding on a complementary wood for the legs and aprons (cross pieces). We took a look at several species and settled on white oak, which is very hard and perfect for furniture. In addition, the light shade of oak contrasts nicely with some of the darker pieces remaining from the wooden swing.
Next, we had to plane down the boards to remove the old finish. After that we trimmed the edges to make them square and laid them out to align the nail holes and see which ones would look best on the table top. We used some 1 x 2s to create a rectangle (see pic) in the same dimensions as our desired top then moved the rectangle around until we had an optimal-looking top and shelf.
Our next step was to trim the top to 45 inches (finished length was 44 inches) then join the boards together with mortise and tenon joints (see pic at left). Our trusty Festool Domino made quick work of that task. After we glued everything up we trimmed the top to its final length.
As far as the legs, we went with 1 3/4 inch wide legs, and aprons of 3/4 inches by 1 7/8 inches by 38 1/2 inches. Cutting the legs to width and length was pretty straightforward using the tracks and mitre saw. We joined the cross pieces to the legs using mortise and tenon joints as well (there are no metal fasteners in this table). The table height is 36 inches, the length is 44 inches, and the depth is 17 inches. The shelf is 6 inches off the floor.
After we had the frame glued up, we glued on the top and lower shelf using Titebond III. Then we sanded the entire table with 80, 120, and 180 grit sandpaper using our trusty Festool ROTEX RO150 Random Orbit Sander. As far as the finish, we used our go-to finish of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal gloss using five coats overall with gradually increasing grits in between coats.
There you have it in a nutshell. Leave a comment with any questions and I’d be glad to answer them.