Like a kid at Christmas.

I know I said I was going to let the wood sit for a while to acclimate, but looking at that pile of walnut I was anxious to get started.

There are some arguments that say acclimation is crucial and others that call bunk on the need to let the wood sit for more than a day. I can see the reasoning behind both, but the wood that I purchased this weekend wasn’t off the rack at the local home store so I felt a bit more confident in moving forward. Add to that the fact that black walnut is a relatively tame wood (in terms of movement) and that the wood selected for the desk top had already been stored in the stable climate of a workshop for some time, and I felt pretty confident about getting started last night.

The first order of business was to select and lay out the wood for the top. In this picture the outer two pieces are book-matched. My experience tells me that the grain reverses on book matched pieces, so I flipped one around. That also gave me a better overall grain pattern moving the cathedrals around a little bit.

Those two outer boards were also slightly crooked. Not so much that I had to break out a saw, but I did have to snap a chalk line, straighten one edge out and then use a panel gauge to lay out the other edge. Once that was done and all of my edge joints were close, I re-sharpened the blade on my no. 7 and brought them all into a nice tight fit.

A sharp plane blade cannot be over emphasized here. I have struggled to joint boards before and I’ve found that when I’m ready to make the final passes, a freshly honed blade and some beeswax on the sole of the plane make that process come together much better than sheer force and will.

The difference is evident in the finished joint:


Here’s another thing I’ve learned: don’t try to “sneak in” a glue-up like this until you know you have the time to do it right and the quiet to concentrate. My girls were playing in the shop on their own workbench while I was jointing, but I set everything aside until they went to bed for the final glue-up.

I used liquid hide glue on this because:

  1. I love it
  2. It’s a dream to work with
  3. it leaves a nice dark glue line which makes a difference on black walnut
  4. I haven’t used this bottle up and switched to real hide glue yet
  5. And, oh yeah, I love it

The glue-up went as smoothly as a large panel glue-up can go. No limbs were lost and it didn’t require cursing. Again, I don’t want to harp on it, but if your joints are good dry, this is a much more pleasant experience.

Anyway, I’ve got to flatten the panel and smooth it out, but it’s a beauty. That beautiful grain means I also have some trick smoothing to do, but I’m very pleased with the progress so far.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. That looks badass. Is the whole thing in walnut or are you going to do some contrasting on the legs and drawer?


    1. 100% walnut. Beautiful stuff. If it were for myself I would probably have gone with maple legs, battens and drawer, but the customer wants all walnut. Although, wait till you see the legs. They’re pretty amazing too.


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