Repeat offense

What is it about March? Our perennially late February daphne coming into full bloom, the Ides of March, St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s days, the start of spring, the first restless geese heading north…and the urge to make a dining table. Naturally. 
Or maybe it’s the annual guild show falling on the first weekend in April, and a notion that designing and building a table in a week isn’t as obviously ridiculous as a chest of drawers or china hutch. If the woodworking referees gave yellow cards for foolishness, I’d have been sent off the field last year after on a second yellow for this:
Maybe the ref was looking the other way. In any case, the third year running was the tightest schedule yet, six and a half days until the show load in. The goal was a pedestal table that would look good with last year’s trestle table. 
These boards from local sawyer Stu Hemphill were just the right size for a generous cafe table.

So it was off to the races. After trimming the planks were 17″ wide, proving yet again that whatever size jointer you get–mine is 16″, enormous by small shop standards–it’s never enough. Nonetheless day one ended with the top glued up, a key milestone given how long finishing takes.

The following day I prepped the top for finish with a secret weapon: a high angle smoothing plane from my friend Konrad Sauer. Cute as a bug, smooths wild wood better than magic.

On to joinery, lots of it.

And then the apparently mandatory dyslexia moment–can you see what went wrong on the crosspieces that support the table top?

Yep, I cut the curve on the wrong side of the lower piece. The attempted repair

would have been strong enough and inobvious to most, but I’d have regretted it forever so instead made a new piece ever so carefully.

Given how things interlocked it seemed best to glue up the entire bottom in one go, an exciting but hazardous prospect. Old Brown Glue made it possible; it has a long working time and lubricates rather than locking up like the more common white and yellow glues. It requires gentle heating to get the right consistency and strings out like hot mozzarella, but after a glue up like this the subliminal suggestion of pizza is best acted on at once.

By the time glue had dried the show setup was barely 30 hours away, not enough time to carve the foot to leg joint as I had envisioned. But it was appalling to consider leaving it like this:

Oh well, it’ll have to be a bit late. This would have been easier before glue up, now it was tricky to approach from a workable direction.

Although it doesn’t show here the cherry is quite curly, which makes the carving trickier. I went through quite a few tools looking for solutions.

Much nicer!

Fast forward: at the show, one hour after the doors opened. Tables look lonely w/out chairs, so I snatched some from my friend Bill Storch’s table. Bill puts up with a lot–he’d already sprayed the table top finish and cured it in his sauna, a story for another time. But he got the last laugh, his table with chairs won best in show. Nice work!

Konrad, commenting on the subtle wood choice this time around, said that a red air raid siren would be a perfect finishing touch.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Here’s a piece of his work: