In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Some projects play along nicely; others tend to fight you all the way. The Creole Table is shaping up to be a bit of a raging Cajun. My goal this week was to complete the top of the table and cut the curved transitions between the apron and cabriole legs.

The walnut for the top came from the same tree as the rest of the table. It entered our shop as 12/4 stock, dry (as far as our Wagner moisture meter could tell) and beautifully clear. The stock ended up as thin, twisted and dumped unceremoniously at the end of my bench.

For some reason, that particular part of the walnut had a lot of tension. All of the other sections of the board that were resawn came out nice and true. The stock for the top sprang like a spring. Because it was so thick, I thought I could still eek out enough thickness. No dice. Just a lot of frustrating work on the jointer and planer.

So I took the easy drive to Paxton’s lumberyard to see what they had in their racks. It was going to cost me dearly, but it would be done. Again, no luck. The racks were almost empty, though the Paxton guys said they were going to restock the next day. So I dropped a line to Donnie, my dealer. He still had some walnut left to sell and was coming home early the next day for his daughter’s soccer practice.

We met in his garage. I picked over the walnut in his rack, but it all looked a bit wonky. Did I want some nice curly sassafras instead? After making some discouraging noises, Donnie took pity on me and took me to his basement shop to peruse his personal stash. I picked out four perfect-looking boards and scurried back to the shop to cut them close to size so they’d acclimate to our shop’s humidity faster. I put the moisture meter on them and my heart sank , everything was between 13 percent and 16 percent (the rest of the table is at 8 percent).

So my top is now on hold as I wait for the moisture to migrate out of my walnut.

So I turned back to the aprons. I’ve been putting off finishing the cut of the curve between the leg and apron. I keep telling myself that I’m waiting to get the base as sturdy and stable as possible (add the corner blocks; add the web frame; wait for the glue in the mortises to reach full strength). But the truth is I’m just a big piece of flightless poultry. The curve is really visible and is , in the end , just a smidge of end grain glued to the legs.

I actually glued this area when assembling the base. (First I sized the end grain with glue, waited a minute, then applied more yellow glue). And I clamped it firmly. But I’m still not confident. Every evening on my run and every morning over coffee I’ve been toying with this cut in my mind. I’ve got about five different strategies for sawing it out that would stress the end grain as little as possible.

This morning the solution came to me. I’m going to glue a small walnut block behind each of the eight transitions , a block that’s only about 1/8″ thick x 3/16″ wide. There would be some cross-grain gluing issues, but I don’t think wood movement will be a problem with such a small piece. And the long grain that’s glued to both the apron and the leg will stiffen everything up as I go to town with a turning saw.

Of course, the entire table is on hold now. I’m off on Sunday to the Marc Adams School of Woodworking to teach a week-long class on blending hand and power tools. I might get to post a couple weblog entries during the week, but them I might just sleep instead.

Christopher Schwarz

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