Putting the "log" back in Blog

Stacked Lamination Coffee Table Pt. 2


Posted on November 28th, by Andy Brownell in Projects. No Comments

arbortech-logo1-300x94The following post is sponsored by Australia-based Arbortech, makers of power carving, sanding and cutting tools. This is the second in a series of posts on building, carving and finishing a stacked lamination coffee table project. 

In my previous post, I discussed some of the techniques used in the assembly and shaping the base of this stacked lamination coffee table with Arbortech’s TURBO and MiniTURBO planes. The weather this fall has been nice enough to allow the vast majority of the work to be done outdoors. This is advantageous for two reasons: the first being that working outdoors is far more enjoyable than indoors (not to mention great light), and the second being that this is messy, dusty work. Spraying wood chips and dust out at 15,000 RPM makes for a heck of a clean-up indoors, even with well positioned dust collection. So power carving outdoors is always the better option, but still don’t forget the dust mask.

Topping It Off

The "Super Ellipse" or super egg shape is a modern take on the classic ellipse shape.

The “Super Ellipse” or super egg shape is a modern take on the classic ellipse shape.

The top was made from a single 16″ wide x 1-1/8″ thick board of ribbon stripe Sapele, cross cut and joined together. I wanted the 1960’s era shape of the top to compliment the organic shape of the base, so a square or circle wouldn’t do. After doing a bit of research I found a shape called a super ellipse, or “Super Egg” to be the right style. This is essentially a square with elliptical shape to the sides and corners. With this shape’s mathematical geometry being far to difficult to sketch in a way that would be consistent, I found a super ellipse image online whose rectangular proportions were right for my design. Then I projected it onto a piece of paper that was large enough to make 30′ wide x 35′ long and then traced and cut the pattern out.

After transferring the pattern onto the table top, I proceeded to cut it to the final shape on my bandsaw. Here’s a fancy time-lapse video of that process below:

Cutting out the super ellipse coffee table top from a heavy 1.25″ thick board of ribbon stripe Sapele.

A video posted by Brownell Furniture (@brownellfurniture) on

Next, I evened out the edges of the top with a spokeshave and sandpaper. Once the top’s shape was in a place that I was happy with, I needed to attach it to the base. This step can be accomplished in one of two ways. It can either be glued to the base with a large amount of weight applied to the top while it dries, however, I don’t have enough weights to do this successfully. Therefore, I chose to use my split-top Roubo bench and a number of deep clamps to hold the top against the base. The photo below does a good job at showing how this played out.

You probably noticed some odd-shaped lines on the base in the photo above. This was a trial run for a design change that I made about halfway through this project. Rather than keep the surface smooth like the shapes Wendell Castle created for his stacked lamination projects, I chose to carve out 1/16″ deep grooves throughout the base to mimic the texture of tree bark. This seemed like a good idea, since the overall shape was made to look like a tree trunk with branches radiating out towards the top.

Simulated Bark Texture: using a Dremel tool and a 1/16" round carving bit, I spent hours carving out hundreds of randomly shaped organic tree bark pieces.

Simulated Bark Texture: using a Dremel tool and a 1/16″ round carving bit, I spent hours carving out hundreds of randomly shaped organic tree bark pieces.

Return to the TURBOplane

With the top attached, it was time to get back to power-carving the base to the top, and smoothing out the transition. The top is 1-1/8″ thick, but needed to be eased and rounded-off to about 5/8″ at the edges. Heading back outside, I began the process of creating this transition.

Transitioning the base and top together was a breeze with the TURBOplane. After carving the base, this process moved quickly. I made a line around the perimeter of the top just over 5/8" down from the top edge. This served as a guide for me to create a consistent thickness all the way around the top.

Transitioning the base and top together was a breeze with the TURBOplane. After carving the base, this process moved quickly. I made a line around the perimeter of the top just over 5/8″ down from the top edge. This served as a guide for me to create a consistent thickness all the way around the top.

Smooth Operator

With the top attached and all of the bark grooves carved into the base, it was time to sand the table’s curves and transitions. This is another instance of where power tools rule the day over hand sanding. Arbortech’s contour sander is a perfect tool for the task. The concave and convex curves of this piece, along with the thousands of bark grooves were no match for the contour sander. For more details on this tool’s performance, check out my full review from the June 2015 issue #215 of Popular Woodworking, or on their web site here. I did notice that Arbortech has made some next generation engineering changes to the flexible rubber disk (black versus the previous orange color) since this review, and it’s performance and durability is outstanding.

A light touch and the motion of the tool allows the contour sander to navigate all of the curves with ease. I took advantage of the variety of sanding grits that came with this tool, using 80, 120, 180 and 220 grits.

A light touch and the motion of the tool allows the contour sander to navigate all of the curves with ease. I took advantage of the variety of sanding grits that came with this tool, using 80, 120, 180 and 220 grits.

 

Finishing

With the piece completely sanded, I vacuumed the excess dust and then wiped the entire surface down with denatured alcohol. Then, I applied several coats of Watco Danish Oil. First completely flooding the surface to let the wood absorb the oil, and then followed up with two subsequent coats, wet sanding with wet/dry sandpaper and the oil using 220 and 320 grit. And then finally, two coats of wipe on polyurethane. Here’s a fun time-lapse video of part of that process.

In the last post for this project I’ll share the final photos of the piece along with a few thoughts on the technique of power carving and how it’s opened up a whole new aspect of woodworking.





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