Curly maple table top- when I designed this piece I originally thought about using three large maple planks, flat sawn and about a days work to finish. Quick n’ easy with a pleasant enough look it would only be three boards to work after all. One of the main elements of this table is the opening that will come to mate with a small side table and it was this very element that started me thinking about wood movement issues if I had of used large flat sawn planks. Also, from a purely aesthetic point the curly maple is nice when flat sawn but the real flair is along its edge grain; that’s where the real beauty comes through.
Well it didn’t take long to decide to make a laminated top with 30 or so strips of curly maple all on edge creating this incredible surface figure and resulting in a table top that is much more stable. Walnut accents were added to ‘frame’ the cut out area which also added at least an extra days work and here I am a week later finishing up the hand planing. I must be a sucker for punishment…
If you’ve ever worked with curly maple like this on edge grain you know that even the sharpest plane iron will rip and tear this incredible wood so I needed to use high-angle, 50 degree irons in my planes to tame the wooden beast-these high angle irons leave a beautiful finish but believe me when I say this work is not for everyone…planing a table top with a 50 degree plane iron is extremely hard work but the extra effort is worth every minute. I worked my way from jointer to jack, smoother down to the small block plane pictured…it too has a fifty degree iron and the front knob is borrowed from a larger plane just to make it a little easier to push through the wood.
Another point I should mention which I didn’t consider when I first thought about how long the table top would take is that both sides needed to be finished! Now we always ‘finish’ the bottoms of our table tops but when you never actually see them there’s a bit of a grace there…we can always put those small tear outs or blemishes on the bottom right? Well not in this case…this table top will hang off the front of the cabinet, bottom side out- proud as a peacock or some curly maple, walnut ice cream art form during the day and then folds down at dinner time when the user will sit around it and enjoy their meals off of it. So both sides are always on display and will be seen. Two surfaces, completely smooth and absolutely finished.
Just another one of those small details I didn’t really think about until I was into the piece…I’m happy my clients don’t mind the extra time spent on it and as far as the cost of the job? I price my work on the project and don’t punch any time clocks here so these extra hours turning to days and then onto weeks are my own time and I’m determined to make the best possible piece I can.
So now that the table top is finished I can work on installing it onto the front of the main cherry bed cabinet and finally get onto the side table. Still lots to do but the two hardest and largest parts of the project are done- this edge grain table top added at least a week to the project time line but I think the results are worth it. With that, I’d better get back at it… stay tuned.Follow @TomFidgen