Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Live Edge Brown Oak Burl Pirro Table is donezo!

When I last left you, we had cut tenons across both ends of the live edge brown oak burl slab to fit into the white oak breadboard ends. I know you're all eager to see what happened next so, here we go...

After we used the router to cut a tenon along the entire length of each end of the slab, three 5" long, 1/2" mortises were laid out and cut through the breadboard ends. What good are mortises without tenons though, right? So, three separate tenons were cut (out of the existing tenons along the ends) to fit into the mortises. As you can see in the photo, a short lip is left in between each tenon to fit into the plow cut along the inside edge of the breadboard ends.

Because of the inevitable wood movement of the table top, we can't just glue the breadboards onto the end and call it a day; The joint, or the slab itself, would break and crack in no time. To attach the breadboard end to the table top, we use pins. Pin mortises are cut through the breadboards, it's mortises, the tenons, and out the bottom of the breadboard. The pin mortise in the center tenon is exactly the size of the pin however, the pin mortises through the outer tenons are elongated so that the pins have room to migrate back and forth as the wood expands and contracts across the grain.

Before the breadboard ends are actually attached to the table top, we have to tend to the live edges of the slab. As I have mentioned in past entries, we cannot leave any bark along the edges of furniture because over time the bark will crumble and gradually become dust on your floor or worse yet, it will invite wood boring insects.

To remove the bark, Jeff suited-up to face the harsh winter climates and broke out the sandblaster. The sandblaster does a perfect job of getting into the tight crevasses of the rugged edges. It even aids in beginning the necessary rounding/breaking of the edges and knobs along the edges that we tend to next by hand.

After the sandblasting does as much bark-removal as possible, we move on to the handy Dremel and some old-fashioned hand sanding to do the rest. If there are any large chunks of bark left, we use carving chisels to break them free of the edge. Then, the Dremel does wonders at rounding the sharp (often needle-like) knobs while we hand sand to soften the edges. Our goal, as with all of our furniture, it to make all edges, parts, and surfaces pleasant to touch. All of our furniture is meant to be used as well as admired so, we tend to this type of fine sanding and detail to ensure soft-and-smoothness all around the piece.
When the edges are perfected, we can move on to attaching the breadboard ends. The tenons on the table ends fit tightly through the mortises cut into the breadboard ends, and the pin mortises perfectly align to allow the pins to go through all parts, holding everything in place. The pins have a small kerf cut down through the center of the top half. The kerf allows for a tiny wedge to be driven in to tighten and expand the pin to fill the mortise complete as well as strengthen the joint. The pins are tapped 3/4 of the way in, then glue is applied around the outside of the pin and in the kerf and then tapped nearly all the way in. By doing it that way, we are making sure there is no glue in contact with the tenon, it's merely gluing the pin to the breadboard so the slab is able to move easily. From there, the wedge is put in place and tapped in as much as possible without splitting it.

When the glue in the pins dried, we sand them down to be level with the table and proceed to sand the entire table top (and bottom) with our standard 20, 120, 180, 220 sequence of grits. Then, the top face gets special treatment and is sanded a few more grits up to make it as smooth and soft as possible without polishing the grain so much that it won't accept the oil nicely. And finally it was time to break out the BLO. It's always the most exciting day when we get to wipe on the oil and watch all the color come alive-; As usual, we were not disappointed!
After a week of letting the boiled linseed oil dry, we began the process of applying clear finish. The base, with it's curvy edges and small crevasses, was sprayed with lacquer to ensure all surfaces got even coating. Lacquer is easy to build and rub out to be smooth with a good sheen. The table top however was finished with Waterlox semi-gloss wipe on poly. We used a foam brush to apply several layers of finish to the top, rubbing it out with high grit number sandpaper and 0000 steel wool. When the final layers of finish were applied to the top, it was rubbed out lastly with rottenstone for a satin feel.
When the finish was finished, it was time to call in Eoin O'Neill, the woodworker/teacher and marvelous Lohr Woodworking staff photographer! Eoin spend two days with us, turning our built-in shop cyc wall into a full blown photo studio. Willingly bringing all of his photo gear into a dusty woodshop is reason enough to endlessly thank Eoin but, he also goes above and beyond to document these one-of-a-kind pieces before they depart to settle in their new, permanent homes. For days of setting up stands, adjusting lights, hanging tarps to block windows, moving furniture, laying on floors, and crouching and climbing all over to get just the right shot, we sincerely thank Eoin for being so awesome and even more talented.
And, the results are in: To the right, you will see the first photo of the finished Pirro family dining table! Jeff, Rob, & I are all so proud to have had a collective hand in making this beauty. It pleases us so much that we could make it for the wonderful Pirro family with the last remaining slab from the famous all-burl English Brown Oak log that previously made "Resurrection" and "Frontier". Jeff has aptly dubbed this piece "Griffin" and at the end of last week, it was carefully packed up and toted from Pennsylvania to Connecticut to settle happily in it's new home. A story on the sub-zero temperature delivery will come later this week so check back with me for the final chapter in the tale of the Lohr Woodworking Studio built "Griffin" table!