Step 1: Choosing Material
To start any custom table, we first order and select the best material available. This client wanted a solid wood maple top to cover an existing cabinet. They also mentioned they would like any streaking in the maple, if possible. While such a request may not always be possible, our millers try to fulfill any special instructions. Regardless, we will always avoid sapwood, checks, and wanes as much as possible while also coordinating individual board colors.
Step 2: Cleaning the Rough Edges
Since our lumber comes with rough edges, we rip cut each board to ensure each edge is parallel and ready for the glue-up. To complete this, we normally use our straight line rip saw, which provides a very straight and clean edge, meaning your tabletop will have no gaps and be structurally strong.
Step 3: Arranging the Boards
Once all the boards are prepped, we arrange them in the most aesthetically pleasing manner. Sometimes, the client would like to select the layout of the boards themselves. If you would like to do so for your custom tabletop, the furniture maker will coordinate an appointment with you to do so. While these boards may look to be significantly different tones, this is due to the wood’s age and oxidation rather than the lumber’s true color. Once fresh wood is exposed during planing and sanding, the colors become more similar.
While we make aesthetics a priority and use the highest quality lumber available, wood movement is always a concern when making any furniture. In fact, this small glue-up (which is only 19”) can expand and contract as much as ⅝” in width! However, the larger concern is the wood curling in the direction opposite to its annular growth rings. To help control this, our furniture makers alternate the growth rings (as seen in the picture above) to help the table top stay as flat as possible. While this mitigates the effects of temperature and humidity, it will not completely eliminate them. To further control them, a finish needs to be applied as soon as possible. This will help further control the moisture going into and out of the wood, especially important to freshly milled lumber that has new edges and end grain exposed. To find the’ best finish type for you, please check out our Finishing Flowchart!
Step 4: The Glue-Up
Once the layout is decided and the annular rings are arranged correctly, we then glue up the tabletop blank. To do this, we use TiteBond products, an industry leader in wood adhesives. Using our special wide-plank clamp rack where each clamp can exert hundreds of pounds of pressure, we typically leave the glue to dry overnight.
Some clients are concerned about the glue’s strength long-term, worried the edge joints would present a weak spot for the table to split or break. In most cases, the wood will fail before the glue joint ever does! The picture above was a cut-off from the earlier glue-up and the glue was dried overnight. When hit firmly on the shop’s concrete floor, you can see the wood split first. This is because the glue diffuses into the open pores of the freshly milled lumber and then solidifies, creating a strong mechanical bond.
Step 4: Cleaning Up and Sizing
After the glue has had an ample amount of time to dry, we take it out of the clamps and send both sides through our combination planer/wide-belt sander to clean the glue squeeze out and ensure the table is flat and of a uniform thickness.
After planing, we size the oversized blank to the client’s custom dimensions. For most cuts, our millworkers will use our sliding table saw. For more complex orders like circles or sink cut-outs, we mill them on the CNC. For this order, the client is wrapping the sides and top of an existing cabinet, so we milled the material in a way that the grain is continuous and flows from one side to the next. If you would like something like this, mention it in your order! We can do our best to fulfill any request.
Finally, after cutting to size, we remove any remaining milling marks such as planer marks, saw cuts, or any checks that may have appeared. Once all marks are erased and sanded to 120 grit, it is ready for the client!
If you have ordered finishing, we continue forward to 150- or 180-grit and apply either Rubio Monocoat or a water-based polyurethane. If your tabletop is unfinished, any of our workers can give you recommendations on finishes you may use as well as application tips!