Table update

Posted by jerry on September 25th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Woodwork

The 2003 Canberra Bushfires destroyed one third of the houses in our street, burnt the house next door and laid waste to our garden, burning down six trees in the front yard – including the largest, a ribbon-gum eucalyptus tree. I wanted to make a fitting personal memorial that would live on and symbolise the rebirth of the city after the firestorm. I had the ribbon-gum trunk milled into lumber which then spent the past four years drying in my shed. My aim was to make a new dining table.

With the acquisition of a couple of tools at this year’s Canberra Working with Wood Show I had been saving up for, the time was ripe finally to make a start on the table.

The ribbon-gum had been carefully stacked and stickered and it had not warped very much in the drying process. This timber is very moist and takes a lot of time to dry.

The raw lumber from the milling process was rough


After planing on the jointer though, the true character of the wood was revealed

ribbon gum

The planing process took the lumber from 150mm x 75mm to 120mm x 25mm – just under six inches wide and about one inch thick. The garden was pleased with all the mulch produced by the shavings!

I had some square section from near the outside of the trunk – I figured there might be enough to use for the legs – and I was right.

I cut four pieces to length (720mm) and drilled rectangular holes with a Torquata mortising attachment for the drill press – it worked well – the device works the same way people make mortises normally – there is a drill to remove the bulk of the wood, and this operates inside a square chisel which then cuts the edges into a square shape. Advancing the timber along you can join the holes to make a rectangular mortise into which will go the tenons for the table rails.

mortise attachment

I wanted to taper the legs on two sides, so I used an inexpensive taper jig on the table saw, setting the taper at an angle of 1.75 degrees (approximately). I then did a trial cut with some rubbish lumber and made some minor adjustments until the angle looked right, then tapered the legs – it worked like a charm.

taper jig

Sure you can get fancy ones or make complicated ones, but I only had eight tapers to cut, so I was quite happy with a simple jig that I could slide along against the table saw’s fence. It’s safe enough as long as you keep the table saw’s guard in place and ensure that your hand steadying the timber is beyond the blade to begin with.

I then gave the legs a light sanding and cut the rails to length – adding two centimetres to allow for a one-centimetre tenon at each end.

I marked these up using the mortises in the legs directly, rather than relying on measurements. Then I cut these with a japanese pull saw and chiseled them to thickness – checking them at each stage of the fit to the mortise.

It was time for a test assembly – without glue at this stage as I wanted to ensure that the fit was right all round first.

table frame

The frame is to be a traditional apron style – using contrasting jarrah (the red looks great against the pale ribbon-gum), and will have two cross braces, as well as the usual traditional corner braces. The pale slender tapered legs will give the table a light and airy feel, while being plenty strong enough to take the eucalyptus top.

I laid out the boards roughly to get a sense of the overall feel and dimensions. I am still debating with myself as to whether or not to use breadboard ends.


The boards will be biscuit jointed together and the top secured with traditional buttons. I’ll test a couple of different finishes and decide later whether to varnish, or use an oil finish.

The finished table will be just over two metres in length and 1.2 metres wide and will seat 8-10.

But tomorrow I shall disassemble the frame and do the finish sanding on each piece so there are no hard to reach corners, and I’ll post more as the table progresses 🙂



Comment by Susan Budig

Hi Jerry, I’m doing some research and found your articles very interesting. You wrote: The ribbon-gum had been carefully stacked and stickered

I am wondering what you mean by the word “stickered.” What do you do to the wood, what is the desired effect of that process?

Thanks so much for your response.

Posted on December 13, 2007 at 2:15 am

Comment by jerry

Stickering is a process of stacking the lumber to ensure good circulation of air all around each board, so the boards are placed onto transverse sticks (known as stickers) – thin pieces of hardwood like garden stakes – then the boards are placed down with a small gap between each board, then another layer is added and so on. This allows air to get all round each board so they all dry at about the same rate – this reduces the risk of warping and uneven drying.

Have a look at this pdf

Posted on December 13, 2007 at 6:50 am

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