Curly Maple Sofa Table – Streams of Life

I’ve designed a few pieces up to now, but this was the first one that has actually come to fruition. Everything else has been a recreation of some kind even if there has been my own improvisations to make them a little more unique. Not this time though!

Design phase

Starting with a few sketches, I moved quickly to a 3D model to see if the proportions would be suitable. The legs and apron are reminiscent of the shapes used in Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture but without the classical adornments which I find to be a little ostentatious.

A drawer is cut into the front apron and some reeding along the length. Sadly, these features were not to come to fruition. While building a mockup of the apron, well, let’s just say it looks much better in the 3D rendering than it does on real wood. That old adage of “It looks better on paper” seems to hold true of electronically generated images as well 😉

 Build phase & inspiration

The material chosen for this project was curly maple for the top and straight maple for the aprons and sides. I chose these because if the top were straight grained maple, the legs would become the focal point and it would end up seeming to be bottom heavy. Using curly maple for the top added an element of balance to the whole table. All of the joints were cut by hand. Mortise & Tenon for the side aprons and half lap joints for the front aprons.

The top consisted of 3 board joined together. When working with figured woods, it can be very difficult to impossible to make a perfect match of the grain structure. In trying to see if it could be done with the materials on hand, it occurred to me that the figured wood looked like ripples flowing in a stream.

This is where my inspiration to leave them unmatched came in and call this particular table “Streams of Life” because quite often we are swept along in the current of life by events that we sometimes have no control over and no two people follow an identical flow. A pebble could be thrown in to try and help, but only ripples are made making mostly minute changes in the grand scheme of things. Enough philosophical musings though. At least for now.

Finishing phase

Finished with Linseed Oil and shellac, the top has an almost 3 dimensional look to it. The figure within the maple shifts and shimmers as your perspective changes similar to how a diamond necklace sparkles as you move (though not quite as dramatic). The top also has a protective coating of polyurethane to withstand most abuses that a table top is prone to receive.

The Finished Product

I’m very happy with the way this piece turned out. Take a look below and judge for yourself. If you’re interested in owning this piece, contact me and we can discuss it in more detail. I invite any comments you might have below!

Elliptical Coffee Table – 1

I recently picked up a commission to create a coffee table that is elliptical in shape. Yesterday, I met with my client to choose the species of wood at my lumber supplier Century Mill which is a family run business established way back in 1851!

shorts room

Well, understandably they were feeling a little overwhelmed by the selection (who wouldn’t be!), but they had the foresight to bring something that is a close match in colour to what they are looking for.

The winner was walnut and a short while later, a stack of lumber was unloaded into the shop and I am looking forward to tackling this unique project beginning later this week.

What will it look like! Well, let’s say I don’t want to spoil the surprise! You’ll have to wait for the last post ;-)


Wood Movement and Lumber Acclimation – What is it?

Prospective clients sometimes ask why it may take so long to build a piece of furniture. Aside from other factors such as the actual crafting and finishing is the aspect of allowing lumber to acclimate to the environment before construction begins.

To understand why this is necessary, it helps to understand the nature of wood. Most people have experienced a door that would stick in the summer and yet be perfectly fine in the summer?

That is because as humidity levels rise, wood absorbs the moisture from the air causing it to expand. When the humidity levels drop again, the wood will allow the moisture to escape again and will contract.

When lumber is first cut from a tree and cut into boards, it is very high in moisture content. The moisture then begins immediately to evaporate which if not controlled, can cause the newly cut boards to warp, twist and/or cup. There are 2 methods for controlling this process. Air drying and Kiln drying.

In both cases, lumber is stacked with spacers (called stickers) between each layer to allow maximum air flow around each board allowing an even rate of moisture evaporation from all sides of the boards. It is then either placed into a big oven (called a kiln) or a covered enclosure for air drying.

lumber stickered for drying

When we purchase lumber, it has generally been dried in a kiln first bringing it down to a moisture content of 6-8%. It then sits on a shelf until purchased – usually indoors away from the elements and that allows it to begin slowly absorbing some moisture back into the wood. When it is brought to our shop, it then sits in a stickered stack for 2-3 weeks to allow it to acclimate to the local humidity conditions before milling.

Lumber that is milled straight from the mill without acclimation can react by warping as it absorbs or emits moisture and become unsuitable for the purpose that it was milled for. It also may not react at all, but why take the chance?

Wood will always change with its environment, but we can minimize the impact it has on how that movement affects the integrity of its designed use.

Elliptical Coffee Table – II

The walnut boards have been sitting in my shop for about 3 weeks now and the moisture content hasn’t really moved, so I’m calling the acclimation process for the lumber complete now. Especially considering that we’ve been in the middle of a heat-wave in the making. Temperatures around 33 C with humidex values into the 40′s  definitely makes the brow sweat a little!
So, yesterday began the birth of the table. A preliminary milling of the lumber which is the process of bringing it close to the desired dimensions and then leaving it overnight to see if any internal stresses developed during the tree’s growth become apparent through warping or twisting. In the picture below, you’ll see the lumber stacked up with spacers to allow air flow and a fan is off to the side blowing air through the pile. Don’t creep up on it and scream “Boo!” It doesn’t work.

Waiting to see if it moves is worse than watching paint dry!

This morning, I checked and to my satisfaction, the lumber has not moved one iota. Later today, I’ll do the final milling and assembly of the top.

In the background, you’ll see some poplar in clamps. This will be for a mock table edge and leg to provide to the client before committing the design to the walnut.


Elliptical Coffee Table – Part III

Okay, I’m a little late in getting this one out, but my client was out on holidays and wasn’t able to come until tomorrow to view the leg/edge profiles and talk about finishing. So I didn’t want to give away too much too soon :-) After all, suspense is just another spice of life, isn’t it? As always, click on the picture to see more detail.

Over the next couple of days since my last post, I glued up the table top panel, and created the template for the table top.

Ready for flattening

The panel was assembled with loose tenons for strength and alignment but despite that, there was (as is typical) still slight deviations in board elevations in relation to one another and so out came one of my favourite hand planes – The #7 jointer. There’s just something quite magical about putting your muscles to work to create something with hand tools, so I use them whenever I can without slowing a project down. That was the reason for the pencil marks in the preceding picture – To ensure even material removal across the face of the panel.

Flattening the top

Once it was flattened and given a preliminary sanding, I cut out the basic shape on the bandsaw and refined the edge with a router and sand paper. That is as far as I was willing to take the top until the client could see the mock up.

Oops, I guess I forgot to include a picture of that which I had finished prior to flattening the top. See the end of the post below for a couple of pictures. I’ll let them speak for themselves. It’s the intro for the initial design of the leg!

The next post will cover making the legs and preparing the joinery for them to be mated with the top which was a fun exercise to come up with a strong joinery method without using an apron on the table!

Mock table top with sample edge treatments

First look at one of the legs!

New Beginnings – We’ve Moved!

Wow, the last couple of months have been a bit of a whirlwind in the shop.

First off, I’m glad to announce that I have gotten busy enough to expand from my one car garage to a commercial space of 1200 sq feet! So it’s been crazy busy with moving all of my gear, projects in progress and getting set up.

I have several projects on the go right now with a couple waiting in the wings including several pieces for a commercial client, the walnut coffee table, an early 1900′s dining set in for refinishing and a mobile kitchen island all due by this month’s end!

I know, it’s a great problem to have :-)

I’ll have a video tour of my new shop for all of my woodworking followers soon as well as a couple of articles on the pieces I’ve been working on, but I wanted to give a brief update as to why I have been electronically absent.

I just consider myself extremely lucky to be following my passions.


Oh, if you’re in the Toronto area and want to come check out the shop or what I’m working on in person, let me know and I’ll be happy to have you over!