White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

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White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby Peter Person » Wed May 08, 2013 7:51 pm

During the October 2011 snow storm in CT the boys and I scrounged/gathered/received close to 18 cords of mostly red oak. Rudi received several 3" thick rounds of red oak at Cecil's last fall - all in the 30" diameter range. Erik's boss dropped off a load of 4' - 6' logs that a friend of his had cut up from several trees that had fallen. As I was cutting them up into 16" lengths getting ready for the log splitter, I had a "-d'oh-" moment when I realized I was cutting up the 3rd of 4 White Oak logs approx. 18-20" diameter by 60" long. Looking to save some face, I salvaged one of them, put it under cover and began planning how many boards I could get out of it. CTCubFest 2012 came and went without being able to get there and have the Zagray Farm sawmill crew cut it up.
I brought it with us this year and Sunday morning Art & Dave Chester and a couple of other QVEA volunteers demonstrated the 1873 Lane Saw Mill using my White Oak log.
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I need to "stick" the boards and let the moisture content drop to 10-12%. The plan is to bring them to Cecil's in the fall and run them through his thickness planer and turn them into 1" thick finished boards. The two (2) 14" boards from the center have the grain of quarter-sawn wood. Several of the 4" and 5" boards also have this grain. These will be the top to the coffee table - hoping for a 30" x 54" top with a bottom shelve using a simple Shaker design. The balance of the boards will be used to make the legs and the skirt/valance. Hopefully within the next couple of years :lol: I can put up photos of the finished product.

Thanks for looking.

Peter
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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby Rudi » Wed May 08, 2013 8:59 pm

Peter:

An old European technique when stickering boards to air dry is to put the log back together as close as you can. Not going to explain why --- cause I am not sure I believe it, but I have seen it done many, many times - and it works. Keep it in the shop out of the weather and it should dry without cupping/warping/twisting. I use 3/8" stickers.
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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby cub47 » Thu May 09, 2013 10:17 pm

Peter, when machining out the table components from the boards, I wouldn't recommend using the material that originated from the center 3 or 4 inches of the tree (the pith section). I would cut your parts from outside of that area, it will give you a much more stable end product.

And when gluing up a table top, keep each individual board under 7-8" and alternate the growth rings (face up/face down).

A pretty standard rule of thumb when air drying lumber is that it takes about one year for every inch of board thickness to air dry and be suitable for furniture (at its EMC). But since it sounds like you have had the log itself for several years, the time frame may be shorter.

Good luck with the project. 8)
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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby Peter Person » Fri May 10, 2013 8:46 am

Brian,
Here is a photo of how the log was cut. (Note, this is not my log, but a photo off the web)
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Based on what you are saying the two (2) 14" boards will need to have the center 3-4" removed, leaving approx. 5" of good material. Should I not use the center material at all?

The tree was cut up in early November of 2011. I had the log outside under a tarp since then, so essentially 18 months. It will be drying in my basement over the next several months. We run a dehumidifier so the moisture level is fairly low.

Would you recommend using biscuit joints along the glued edges?

I've not worked with White Oak before, only pine, poplar, and maple - so this is going to be a learning experience. This stuff is hard as nails and kicks off a real fine dust when cutting - need to wear dust mask and take it slow when cutting.

Peter
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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby cub47 » Fri May 10, 2013 9:37 am

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Peter, no, I would suggest only removing the center 3 - 4" out of the center of each board as indicated in the revision of your drawing above (in between the black lines), that will get you more use out of the lumber.

Today's wood glue technology has made it stronger than the wood composition itself, so biscuits are not absolutely necessary, I honestly use biscuits only for alignment purposes, i.e. in this case, to make sure that the top surfaces of all of the table top boards are close to flush, this eliminates a lot of extra sanding and prep time. Use a good yellow wood glue available almost anywhere. Either a #10 or #20 biscuit is sufficient. Alternate your pipe clamps top and bottom when applying pressure, this all ensures a better end product.

White oak is a great wood, naturally resistant to rot when used outdoors due to the silica content, but yes, it can tear out when machining edges, etc.

And this is what I was referencing in terms of alternating the growth rings when laying out your table top, it ensures a flatter, more stable surface over time, this sketch would represent as if you are looking at the end grain (be sure to rip the individual boards to no more than 7-8"). Quartersawn cuts are more stable but can still be orientated as below:

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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby cub47 » Fri May 10, 2013 9:41 am

And one more thing, when you get to the point of fastening the top to the frame and legs of the table, make sure you use a method that will allow the top to expand and contract freely otherwise you can get splitting on the ends. Wood expands in the summer, shrinks in the winter, and with the 30" w top you are planning on, you could see an 1/8" - 1/4" of movement seasonally.
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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby Peter Person » Fri May 10, 2013 10:03 am

Brian,
Something along the lines of a slotted clip angle?
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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby cub47 » Fri May 10, 2013 10:18 am

Peter Person wrote:Brian,
Something along the lines of a slotted clip angle?
Peter


Sure, there are many methods to do it, just as long as the top can move freely from the base when secured.

An angle iron (or aluminum) stock screwed to the inside top of the table frame apron, with an elongated slot for a screw on the adjacent side of the angle that butts to the underside of the table top would work.

Here is another example (and it also shows some table construction details that may help you out), notice the 1/4" wide groove cut about 3/4" down for the top of the rail, I made L-shaped blocks (not in pic) out of wood, predrilled a countersunk screw hole, and that allows the top to float, i.e. the L-shaped cleat is fastened to the underside of the top but slides in the groove freely with expansion and contraction.

Wood moves at a much larger rate across the grain than with the grain.

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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby Rudi » Fri May 10, 2013 11:50 am

Peter:

Brian makes some very good points as far as maximizing usage along with taking into account seasonal expansion/contraction as well as mechanics to assist. When one is contemplating material lists for most jobs his take is bang on and I used to use it often.

However... there are other options and other schools of thought. When it comes to custom furniture or projects of any type, I am from a slightly older school of thought, one that believes one should listen to the piece and what it wants instead of telling it what it will be. I know that sounds kinda weird, but a lot of us who work in custom designs take this concept seriously and incorporate it into our designs. I will sometimes sit there with a cup of coffee and just look at the piece to see what it wants to be/how it wants to be incorporated into the concept I have floating around in my brain. I know it sounds weird, but after 50 years of this, it is something I take in stride as normal. This is kind of from my European upbringing and training.

Example. The Red Oak pieces you saved for me. There is NOT A CHANCE of an ice cube in a microwave that the pith/heartwood will be excised. The heart is the soul of the piece and will be the soul of the tables that the kids have already asked me to make. Simplified that job cause we have 5 pieces - one for each of em. You will find many furniture makers aka cabinetmakers (really the same trade if you take the mechanized box making Particle Board stuff out of the equation) incorporate all of the wood. Since you still have the stock as it came out of the log - and because it is cut the North American way, it can't really be put back together, but it still can be stickered for drying in a similar fashion. Don't toss out the heartwood yet ... look at it once it is dry and then assess what the grain says to you. I won't even take the heartwood out of a piece I want to turn. There are options, always options to make maximum use of the materials and incorporate it's figure into a design - and sometimes the design is dictated by the figure.

Just about everything else Brian has said I agree with completely. In fact, I am envious of him because he is still able to practice our trade on a daily basis which is something I can no longer do. I miss it a lot. I do get a lot of vicarious enjoyment from seeing his projects as they remind me of the joy I used to feel as each job/contract/project/exposition was completed.
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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby cub47 » Fri May 10, 2013 8:53 pm

Or another view using your pic of what I am describing regarding the pith section I normally try to cut around when milling pieces:

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Re: White Oak Coffee Table - Beginning

Postby Buzzard Wing » Sat May 11, 2013 10:24 am

Cool project!

Not too wise about wood (although I do have a tree ranch), but there is a kiln somewhere up near Greenfield Mass that deals in 'specialty' wood.
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