When setting out on building this dining table for a client of ours, we would have never thought it would have been this challenging. We've built a number of smaller tables with very little to no issues at all. It's basically the same thing but bigger, right? WRONG!
Let me set the stage here for you: the table was 92" long x 45" wide, and made of (18) 2x6 kiln dried pine boards. This thing was heavy! -And a little too big for our teeny tiny basement on Dresden Avenue. Our house was built in 1913, our basement was unfinished, and the basement ceilings were so low Dane couldn't even fully stand up in 90% of it. We actually had to take the basement door off of the hinges to get the base outside. It was definitely a logistical challenge.
The base of the table, Dane says, was a breeze to build. The hardest part was cutting a 4x4 with a 7" miter saw. The secret was a lot of glue and a lot of brad nails. The table top is where it got interesting.
LESSON 1: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH WORK SPACE
Since the base was assembled and taking up every inch we had on the floor, we were extremely limited on what we could do with the top. Dane covered the top of the table base with shop tape to prevent any table top glue adhering to it, and then used the space to hold his table top boards flat while they set.
He attached 3 boards at a time using the biscuit joiner and glue, and then used just about every clamp we had to hold them together. Once all '3 board' sections were assembled, he took them outside, attached them, and held them together with pipe clamps. After curing for a full 24 hours, the pipe clamps were removed and the table needed to be carried back into the basement. Which brings us to...
LESSON 2: IF YOU TAKE SOMETHING OUT, MAKE SURE IT WILL COME BACK IN
Yeah...there was no way that was going to fit back down our basement steps. Out of desperation, we laid contractor paper over our existing dining table in our dining room and temporarily stored this newly constructed table top there.
Each day, we'd carry it outside, having to lift it over our kitchen counter-tops to get it around the corners. This was by FAR the most difficult part for me. As Dane constantly likes to remind me, I'm a little vertically challenged. I'm just under 5'2" and have not a serious amount of upper body strength. So lifting this heavy table top proved to be a little difficult for me, but in my most humble opinion, I think I handled it like a boss. ;)
LESSON 3: PRICE IT BEFORE YOU BUY IT
Our next step was to fill all of the cracks and gaps. Dane had done some research on Epoxy and learned it would be the best option for us. So we headed to Home Depot for some Gorilla Epoxy to try it out. We loved the turn out and decided to head to Rockler to purchase a larger container. Well, it was a little more expensive than we wanted to spend. I jumped online and was able to find a West Marine location near by that sold the exact same product at a much more reasonable price. I would highly recommend buying your epoxy there. We purchased the charcoal powder to mix in for color at a local art supply store.
During this process, we learned that a little epoxy goes a long way. After sanding for what seemed like hours, we finally had a table top surface we were happy with. We would also recommend filling your gaps and cracks with epoxy before you run your boards through your plainer to save yourself some time. It's MUCH faster than a sander!
LESSON 4: CONDITION PINE BEFORE STAINING
This lesson we learned awhile back, but felt it was extremely important to mention here. Pine is notorious for splotching, so conditioning the wood before staining will prevent your wood from looking diseased. We were then on to staining! Woo hoo! We used two coats of a Dark Walnut stain and then sealed it with three coats of Varathane's Triple Thick Quick Drying Polyurethane inSemi-Gloss. It. Looked. Amazing!
*Bonus Lesson*: A brown paper bag is the perfect grit to finish a table top. It gives the smoothest finish with visually no scratches!
LESSON 5: PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
This is probably the biggest lesson we learned here. There were more times than we'd like to admit where we wanted to throw in the towel. The table was too big to handle in our tiny house, some things didn't go as planned, it took WAY longer than we expected, etc. But in the end, it was SO worth it! I mean, look what we made!