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My new walnut table.

Last spring many of you helped me make an important decision on the fate of my much beloved Thos. Moser dining room table that was too large to fit in our downsized house. I was considering modifying the table to fit the space because the 30-year-old table has many family memories. Even Mr. Moser weighed in saying he had no problem if I decided to have at it. His comments meant a lot to me because his work and book had a lot of influence on my early woodworking. Even more, I had the distinct pleasure of working with him on the update and reissue of that foundation book, “How to Build Shaker Furniture.”  I decided in the end to put the Moser table aside and build a new one for our new place. Just in time for the recent holidays, the new table was completed.

Some notes on the build. It’s solid, air-dried walnut from a 1,000+ board-foot stash I’ve been hoarding for more than a decade now. The top is 38″ wide, glued up from two sequenced boards in a book matched arrangement. It finished at one” thick and the length is 75″. The sides and ends are gently curved with radiused corners blending those curves together. The 1-3/4″ square legs are splayed in both directions at 6°. In the end, the leg shape is very straightforward. I cut and shaped several alternatives before settling on square. But turned or tapered – or even a combination of square, rounded and tapered shape (done with a spokeshave) – just didn’t work for me. Square worked for the contemporary look I wanted. The table top ends overhang the base by about 1′ while the sides overhang about 3″ at the center. The space between the legs at the long sides is 50″ which allows two people to sit comfortably between them, so six people can gather ’round the table with ease. The length and width of the table allow just enough space for someone to pull the chair away from the table to take a seat, about 32″ to the wall.

The finish is three coats of oil-based wiping varnish over an oil-based stain by General Finishes called “Candlelight.” The air-dried walnut is gorgeous with many hues of purples, blacks, yellows and browns, but the red in the stain warms up all these colors and ties them together. Maybe I’m prejudiced, but I don’t think kiln dried walnut, or cherry for that matter, can compare to the rich colors found in air-dried. All that steaming in the kiln blends these subtle colors to a more amalgamated tone.

So what’s become of the Moser table? Last summer I moved it to my off-site shop to make room in my garage for my pickup. Just about the time I was ready to bring my new table home, my son decided to make space in his crowded apartment for the Moser table. It’s wonderful that he’s made a home for it. Being a furniture maker like me, he has real appreciation for it. And besides, it’s the table where he took his first solid food sitting in the highchair I made for him. It’s great to watch the circle turn.

Want to learn more about making Shaker-style furniture? Check out “The Ultimate Shaker Project Collection.”
If you’d like to know more about wiping varnish, stains and wood finishing consider Bob Flexner’s book “Flexner on Finishing.”

– Steve Shanesy

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Showing 10 comments
  • Chris Mobley

    Great job Steve, I enjoyed reading this post. Beautiful work and thank you for sharing.
    Chris Mobley

  • rkeindl

    I applaud your decision to spare the Thos. Moser table. The table you made is beautiful. I think this is a win/win. Thanks for sharing this.

  • dave5001

    Congrats beautiful table and I’m so glad u didn’t change original table and your son is keeping it alive and in the family.

  • gumpbelly

    Nice table Steve, awesome story.

  • lolaoak

    The table looks beautiful. Will this project appear in an issue of PW this year? I am curious on how you finished the top to get such a nice flat surface. Glue only? Dowels? Scraping or sanding? The top and grain is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Phred

    It looks great. I was one of the people who urged you to leave the original alone and build a new one. I think it was the right choice. Now you have two things of beauty instead of one.

  • David Keller

    Steve – The table definitely has a “Danish Modern” feel to it. Not exactly my taste (I prefer colonial American, sort of natural for a SAPFM member), but it’s a beautiful result.

    It’s crying out for style-appropriate chairs, though, so like everything else, one woodworking project begets another. 😉

  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    Steve – I really like those radiused corners. Well done.

  • degennarod

    What a terrific looking result; reminds me of a project in walnut I completed last year, then saw again recently in my son’s home. Nicely done!

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