Putting the "log" back in Blog

Table from a Stick

Posted on January 14th, by Andy Brownell in Projects, Wood. 1 Comment

bow_front_table_sketchI’ve recently been commissioned to build a bow-front hall table. As a part of my woodworking new year’s resolution, the project will take me in a number of design and fabrication areas that I’ve typically avoided. In fact, anything that is obtuse, acute or otherwise curved will for sure help broaden my design and production chops. This includes bent laminations, complex curved parts and a more deliberate attention to grain pattern and direction.

After locking in a design concept (go ahead and make fun of my sketching ability), I made my ritual trip to MidWest Woodworking here in Cincinnati to select my lumber. Grain and color matching is important on this piece, so I wanted to get everything from a single “stick” of lumber. That certainly narrowed down my options to a few species (mahogany, sippo, and sapele), all very similar. Fortunately, my customer selected sapele based on a few other pieces I’ve made from the “stash” I’ve got here in town.


Frank David (of MidWest Woodworking) has a stack of sapele boards all 16′ long and 2.5″ thick, anywhere from 8″-14″ wide. So there is plenty to choose from this pile that was part of a larger stash that once was 2 shipping containers worth. It came from West Africa (via Germany) about 30 years ago when an entire shipping container filled with this lumber would go for only $10,000. Much of it is ribbon-striped grain suitable for quality veneer and quarter sawn on a good portion of the pieces.

I selected a piece just shy of 13″ wide and lost only 4″ on the ends to checking – yielding close to 46 bd/ft from a single board. I then had two 6′ long segments cut and then re-sawn for the top, shelf and rail pieces, with the remaining length, perfectly quarter sawn, for the legs. This could only be done on the equipment available at MidWest Woodworking which required a 16″ table saw and monster band saw. The results are like opening up an oyster to find a pearl.

sapele_boards_2After 4 days, my car still smells like fresh cut sapele, a somewhat spicy cinnamon-nutmeg-pine scent. If I ever get my own line of cologne, I’d call it “Sapele”.

Next, I’ll move onto the lamination layout and jig process for the front rail.

One thought on “Table from a Stick

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.