For the past two days I was back to working on the shutter stand and really trying to make some decisions about what to do for a top. If you saw the first post with pictures of the previous stand, you’ll remember I had that great piece of heart pine to work with. What I loved about that was that it really gave the piece character.
I looked at several solutions for this build. First I thought about using some cedar boards reclaimed from an old wardrobe that was in my room growing up and unfortunately got destroyed in a recent move. I saved what I could and have been building things with it ever since, but because I’m building this for my better half and she wasn’t wild about the cedar I went hunting for another solution.
My second thought was just pine. I went digging through my stock for some clear boards and started laying it out, but I wasn’t inspired at all. If you’re into a project like this I should say that it would make a fine top either in 1″ or 2″ dimensional lumber, but like I said I wasn’t feeling it so I kept digging.
It was at this point I remembered a couple of old 5/4 oak boards that my father in law had given me to “see what I could do with them.” It is putting it mildly to say that they had “character.” Well, actually the one was pretty straight but the other was in wind like a flag on the fourth of July. This is one of those times when I wish I had taken a “before” picture, but you know how it is when you get a saw in your hand.
Anyway, both boards had imperfections that I had to work around but I was able to get four solid sections out of them, and after being cut to length it was easier to flatten them and bring them into the same plane with one another. A little sweat and many shavings later I had what I needed to move forward with jointing the edges and gluing it up.
This is not a picture of the actual glue-up. I have two trusty pipe clamps (not pictured) that nearly always serve as my go to for getting everything lined up and level and then I used some of these quick release bar clamps on the other side of the pipe clamps to make sure everything stays flat.
After the glue set I took off the pipe clamps and just put these on for good measure overnight.
You can see here that I left enough of the “character” of the wood to give it a rustic feel, but also knowing that what was left would clean up nicely.
And wow, did it clean up nicely!
I flattened the boards with my no.5 Bailey and some cross grain work on the high spots, but almost all of the other work on these boards came courtesy of my no.6 Bailey (which is an absolute beast BTW) and my Lie-Nielsen low angle block plane which has become indispensable to me.
I have a minuscule amount of camber on the blade of the no.6 which is just enough to let it fill a couple of roles, cleaning up boards as a fore plane, smoothing as it does that work and even jointing if I don’t go too crazy with it. I’d like a dedicated jointer (a no.8 maybe) but the right one hasn’t made its way to my shop yet.
Anyway, like I said, the top pops. The grain in the oak is spectacular with medullary rays aplenty. It catches the light like nobody’s business and just comes alive with a few coats of tung oil.
If you were working from home center lumber you’ve usually got a decent selection of red oak that would also work very well for this, but you could probably save money by buying 1″ x 8″ or 1″ x 10″ boards making glue-up a simple affair.
I will say that after I had everything else glued up and relatively leveled I glued a cap on both the front and back of the panel. The caps are both turned 90 degrees so that the face of the wood is front rather than an edge. This wood is old and well seasoned so it’s not going to cause problems.
You can see a good shot of the grain here, noticing the cap to the left.
In addition to allowing me to put a nice face forward, another thing it does is to make it so the front cap extended just slightly below the front edge making a nice little ledge to sit over the frame creating the illusion of a thicker slab and pulling the design together.
I’m pretty excited about how this top came out, and I’m even happier to know that it has a story and a connection to our family. To me, that’s what really makes a piece of furniture special. Here it is sitting on the frame. I still have to paint the frame and install the oak top, but I expect to be able to get that done over the long weekend.