Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Ironbark Eucalyptus Tabletop Project

I've been working on a secret project now for a couple of weeks.  There's a good reason why it has been a secret.  You see, two lovely gals I know decided to open their own hair salon.  However, they needed to keep it, "hush, hush," so they wouldn't get fired from where they were working.  They needed a desk for their salon and were experimenting with turning an old TV cabinet into the main desk. 

So they called me for help since I'm a woodworker.  They wanted to know how they could modify it so it didn't look like such a TV cabinet and more like a professional desk.  I went over there, and told them since it was made of particle board and layered wood, you couldn't really sand it, dye it, or modify it that much. 

That's when I came up with the bright idea of making a natural edge tabletop for it.  They asked, "Wouldn't that be a lot of work."  I'm like, "Naw, it's not as much as you'd think."  Of course, I was lying out my rear end because of ...... girls.  You know, us men get our fake muscles and stuff around pretty gals.  So I said with conviction and a Viking sword raised to the roof (okay, there was no sword,) that I would build an awesome natural edge tabletop to sit upon the cabinet.

So now, I had to put my woodworking skills where my mouth was.  This meant I had to run to Dad since I'd never actually built a tabletop before.  However, he has been involved in building a number of them.  So the first step was to actually get some wood.  Dad talked to his buddy Pete at Viable Lumber in St Pete.  They went through Pete's warehouse to see what kind of dried wood he had.  It turns out he had two pieces of Ironbark Eucalyptus.  Here's what they looked like when I got them.

They had actually had a few years to dry.  The bad news was that they had warped badly while drying.  So that meant I was going to have to cut them down by quite a bit to even them out.

So I brought them out on my driveway and started to work on them.

There were two different ways I could join the pieces together.  I could do it the easy way, and make the edges straight like boards, and then glue them.  Or, I could follow the natural edges of the wood, and join them like that.  However, that would be much more labor intensive.  But, it would look much nicer, and more original.  It would also allow more of the wood to be saved.  We decided to follow the natural edges and join them there.

So we rough jointed the edges, and then went to work on running the pieces through the thickness planer.  This, of course, led to other problems.  Namely, the gripping paper tore.

To make a long story short... We got the planer to working, and found out that the pieces of wood were too big to fit through it.  So we had to do all the work by hand.

Luckily, we had just bought an electric hand planner.  That way I didn't have to use tools that Noah would have had to used. 

Here's what it looked like after a bit of cutting.

My next job was to get rid of all that bark.  This time I had to do it the old timey way.  That being, with a hammer and a chisel. 

So now came the time to keep on planning the wood.  After I planed it evenly, I put water on the wood to see what it would look like when finished.

Then it came time to join the two pieces of wood together.  This meant we had to take a grinder to the edges and join them up as best as possible.  You know the secret to it?  Chalk.  Really, look at the pictures.  In the third picture down you can see Dad grinding the edges of the wood.

The next thing we did was flip the pieces of wood upside down, fit the wood together, and clamp it in place.  Thank goodness we have such large clamps.

On the underside we screwed in support beams.  These would help hold the wood in place while we epoxy it. 

Here's the topside of the table with once it was braced.

Next up was the epoxy.  We mixed it with the wood shavings from this very piece of wood.  We also made sure the epoxy was dark, so that it would make artistic streaks in the wood.  But you'll see that later.

After the epoxy dried it was time to sand it.  Luckily I didn't have to sand it by hand.  We had a rotary hand sander.  It made sanding so much easier.  And let me tell you, that epoxy was hard as concrete. 

As I was doing this, we flipped the table so that the underside was up.  That way, we could remove some of the bracing, and add metal braces on the ends.  I cleaned up the epoxy on the underside with the sander as well.

Now back to sanding the top.

I do want to remind my readers that this blog is the "short" version of what happened.  In-between all these photos were a lot of planning and sanding.  In fact, there were many, many hours of it. 

Now it came time to put a finish on it.  Dad decided on polyurethane due to it being easy to work with, and it being a durable finish.  Since this desk would be used every day, it needed to hold up to the rigors of a working environment.  So here's what it looked like when the first coat went on it.

Here's what the epoxy filled gaps looked like.

Pretty nifty huh?  And to fast forward, here's what the wood looked like on the final finish.

Since this was planned to be a natural edge, rustic looking tabletop, we didn't put a lot of finish on it.  It had enough to look glossy, but not too much to look shiny. 

It needed to dry for a couple of days, but after that we took it to the gal's shop to be fitted to the cabinet.  I will fast forward here, but we altered the cabinet, and fit the tabletop to it.  That took a few hours, but was well worth it.

After we had done our part, the girls had planned to have metal wrapped around the cabinet.  That way it would match the rest of the shop, and have a rustic look to it.  Here's the final product.

If you want to see the desk, or get your hair done, you can find it at Revolution Hair, Co. in Tampa, Fl. 

The good news, is that, many unsolicited comments have been given about the tabletop/desk.  Everyone loves it, and wants to touch it.  They say it has a very nice touch since it is so smooth. 

I'm glad Dad and I were able to deliver on the tabletop.  It was a harder project than I thought due to having to use hand tools instead of running it through the planer.  But in the end, the tabletop came out better than I thought it would.  The girls are extremely happy with it, so that's the important thing. 

Will I ever make another one?  Well, if I do, at I have some experience making one.  And I know what I'm in for if I decide to undertake another project.  I'm happy that I can add this project to my woodworking resume.  I think it makes me a more "well-rounded" woodworker. 

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