Why impossible and what does that have to do with a table?

In the beginning….

Sometimes you see something and an idea begins to form in the back of your mind. It sometimes shows up when you are daydreaming or just before falling asleep. You have no way of knowing where it’s going to go but somethings tweaks your interest and imagination.

That’s what happened when our Corkscrew Hazel Bush died a few years back. We left it bare because it was a great lattice to put Christmas lights on and looked especially interesting when it snowed.

But when it became so dry that branches started to just snap off we realized we needed to take out the main trunk. It was pretty easy to take out and after I got it out of the ground and it was laying in the grass I thought , “Hmm-what an interesting shape. Maybe we don’t have to throw this out and I could do something with it?”

Looks like Halloween

Years later

That led to about two years worth of thinking and planning for how to use this formerly dumpster found chunk of wood for something interesting.

At first I thought it could be a pretty interesting chandelier but the size meant that it would only fit in houses that had very high ceilings. And on top of that figuring out a way to embed the wiring prove to be a challenge. So the piece sat for a few more months on my deck, through the rain and the snow before I turned it a few times and thought about using it as a support for some sort of table surface.

Impossible? Who me?

Now here comes the interesting part- I went to a woodworking shop with a picture of the wood looking to get some advice from some of the old-timers that usually hang around during the day. I started talking to one of them and showed him the picture and explained to him what I wanted to do.

“Won’t work,” he said. He explained that it was impossible and there would be no way for the wood to support the table surface. Of course, that just got me more interested in exploring how something this “un-linear” and organic could be used as a coffee table.

The first thing to do was to stabilize the wood and the Wood Stabilizer product I used really strengthened the wood so that it was now looking much stronger and solid.

Now the fun begins

Moving around I was able to see that naturally there were some branches that could contact the ground which led to one of the branches sticking up in the air.

Now normally I would’ve just cut this off but again going with the “interesting” theme and the contrast I wanted to bring between the flat table surface and organic shaped branches I thought it would be possible to have the branch extend through the surface of the table like it was growing out of it.

The only way I could think of to do this would be to cast the top out of epoxy resin around the branch rather than try to use wood or even glass. The resin also give a good opportunity to structurally attach to other areas so the table would be supported in more than one place.

This led to a long line of experiments where I thought about building small forms for each one of the areas the resin would contact then placing those into a larger form for the table or actually just building a form where the branch poked through and casting everything upside down which is what I ended up doing.

The advantage of this is that I could just pour several layers of epoxy into the form and build up the thickness I needed. The disadvantages when I took the form off the epoxy had taken on all of the imperfections and indentations of the form-work. So that had to be sanded smooth and all of the small gaps filled before I could go any further.

The real truth was slightly different

One thing I need to get out in the open is that when I was thinking about using the epoxy, I thought it would be more rigid to use as a table top then it actually turned out to be. Which meant that I needed to retrofit a steel frame around the edges and through the center of the table for support otherwise the table top wilted like an old flower.

After visiting Metal supermarket to get my hot rolled steel sections, I measured and cut them to length and brought them to my friend John the welder who put one side together with stick Welder. I actually could not have the entire frame welded because once it was together I would not be able to place it over the wood base and attach it to the bottom of the table surface.

So the way I got around that was drilling holes in both the crosspiece and the edge piece to except a small steel rod and then I just epoxied everything together including the metal frame to the underside of the table.

More steel solves the problem

I know this explanation is getting really long but the process to get here took about four months of working on it then thinking about how to go through the next step then fixing some mistakes and generally experimenting to see if I could pull this off.

When I got the frame fully installed it made a massive difference to stability of the table. At this point, there were only a few more things left to do. One of them was to strengthen the area where the branches attached and poke through the epoxy as it was flexing somewhat even in between the cross supports. So I templated and cut some diagonal cross pieces and drilled and pinned them in place before finally attaching them to the bottom of the table with some more epoxy.

Sand more and more

Then I could focus on the filling and sanding of the table top surface. I’ll spare you the details but this took days and I ended up sending it to 2000 grit to get a very smooth surface.

The last thing to do was make some fine-tuning adjustments so that the table would be flat and parallel to the floor and then putting several coats of high durability your thing on the table top surface to protect it from scratches.

The result

So there you have it. I don’t imagine this is a very common project and anyone in their right mind wouldn’t attempt this. And I fully realize that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea to have this in their home. It is a bit raw and would likely compete with other furniture.

However it just goes to show you when you get an idea in your head it can be very difficult to shake.

Or it could just mean that I’m very stubborn when someone tells me that something can’t be done

Biology, Wood and Coffee Tables

Sometimes you come across raw materials without even searching. And they happen to be something that you might never think of using – until you have them at hand and the wheels start turning….

That was the beginning of this project- a quick trip down the road to mail a letter turning into a quick ‘dumpster dive’ (well not really a dumpster.) More like the edge of a neighbors yard, where I found two long thin pieces of tempered glass that may have come from a shelving unit. They looked pretty clean and since they weren’t broken, they were shouting at me to take them home.

At the time, I had no idea what to use them for, but since they were relatively compact, I could store them beside the dryer for a while as I considered how I could possibly incorporate them in a project. As it was early winter, it made sense to store them as I was working on some shop furniture which was taking up the rest of my time.

I very seldom use glass as most of the time I’ve found that it requires custom cutting but most of all hides the texture of the wood surface.

However like most ideas I have for pieces, the more they sat around, the more my brain processed different ways to put them together. I think maybe the fact that just at the start of the pandemic my brain was trying to make sense of what was happening and started recalling images of my early science training and brought glass together with lab work and I thought of examining specimens between glass slides under the microscope.

Staying very close to home (and having a pile of various drying species of wood) made it easy to chose what to use. I thought if I could slice one of the pieces down the middle (like book matching, or butterfly) then I may be able to sandwich in the center with the glass providing structural rigidity.

The chainsaw proved once again the tool for the rough work, and then I hauled out the router sled to take the slabs close to the finished thickness.

I knew that given the thinness I was going for I couldn’t use a traditional leg which would’ve attached to the bottom surface because having a strong and reliable bond to tempered glass would’ve proven difficult. I messed around with the idea of somehow having a metal band that went around the sides and top and bottom then connected to a leg which led me to the more simple solution that I ended up going with.

I used 3/16 inch hot rolled steel to bend so that the legs went in between the glass and the wood surface and were bonded as part of the glass veneer


I managed to get each one of the book matched slabs into my thickness planer and got them down to about 3/4 of an inch thick. At that point I just sanded them with my random orbital sander to about 400 grit because I knew that I was going to be embedding them in Epoxy and sanding any more probably wouldn’t make a big difference

The question I was wrestling with was how to laminate the glass onto the slabs without getting Epoxy all over the outside faces which would’ve made things extremely difficult to clean up. On top of that I had to get the legs set up and properly positioned so that when I did the pour it also bonded the legs to the blank in the right  location.

I ended up doing it in several stages. I laid out the slabs end to end in the butterfly orientation you see now.  I left the dimensions about a quarter of an inch oversized in each direction so that I could use the glass as a template for the final length and width

Then I built a mold and laid the slabs down and poured Epoxy over the slabs with the legs in place to encapsulate them. I flipped it over and put a thin layer of Epoxy on the bottom surface and then carefully laid glass on that and weighed it down for a good bond. Once it cured I flipped it over and did the same to the top surface.

At this point it looked pretty close to being done and because the finished surfaces were glass I was pretty happy that I didn’t need to do any excessive sanding and apply a finish. But I was wrong….

I had to use a variety of different methods to trim back the wooden epoxy sandwich to the line of the glass. Initially I thought that a router with a flush trim bit would be the way to go but I was very hesitant about having a 20,000 RPM router bit coming in contact with the glass. So I used a multi tool cutter for the bulk of it and then hand sanded the rest down to the glass.

One of the mistakes I made was that I brushed on a thin layer of Apoxsee on all the edges which didn’t give me the smooth clean line I was looking for. It ended up looking pretty wavy and didn’t really fit with the look of the piece.

Once again I had to sand back down to the glass and hand sanded up to 2000 grit. So much for not having to do a lot of sanding …

After spraying the legs flat black I put a thin coat of urethane on all the edges which not only protects them but gives a clean smooth finish that matches the sleek look of the table.


Looking at this coffee table in contrast to some of the others that I’ve done in the past, this one looks much less rustic and less massive but has a certain charm and function of its own.

Because most of the surfaces are glass it’s really resistant to surface scratches and the glass veneer seems extremely strong. Maybe I will experiment more with this idea of glass veneer and I’m already thinking of a few ideas to take it to the next level

 

Join us at Brickworks Winter Market- Dec 14 and 15

Once again this year we are excited to be displaying our work at the Brickworks Winter market on Saturday December 14 and Sunday December 15. This event is great fun for all ages with great food and fantastic crafts-people and makers.

We will have a wide variety of furniture and crafts for the home or cottage all hand crafted from re-claimed wood.

Here are a few of the items we will have on hand:

-Bark Shard Candle holders

One-of-a-kind coasters

-Oak Twins Coffee tables

….. and a few new items we are working on at the moment! (for a few hints check out our Instagram feed)

Please join us there – we are looking forward to seeing you!

The Evergreen Brickworks Winter Market

First day of the market- coffee in hand

Last weekend I participated in my first “makers market” at Evergreen Brickworks for both Saturday and Sunday. In summary it was a great experience and a good introduction to the world of not just selling products, but interacting with all different types of visitors.

I was interested in what people thought of my wood creations because I’ve been on the opposite side many many times and strolled by vendors without really thinking too much about what went into their products.

Oak twins tables with various friends

I heard some great stories about how people could relate to using reclaimed wood that ordinarily would’ve gone to the city dump. I even talk to some folks who wanted to build furniture themselves and I was more than happy to share some tips and things that I’ve learned in putting these products together.

I also met some great people that were other vendors at the market. I have to hand it to the Brickworks (especially Kelly who seemed to work day and night to make sure that everything went off smoothly) they work hard to curate a very good mix of vendors not only for the experience of visitors but also to create the right feeling that supports the Evergreen Brickworks mission.

Most visitors understood the story behind the ice storm table. Sad but true….

The other vendors I talked to said that it was very well organized and one of the top markets that they attended this season. The presence of many high-end food trucks with fantastic food didn’t hurt the overall atmosphere either.

I view this experience as a learning opportunity to talk to people and get a sense of what their interests were. I actually had a lot of fun and the time went by very quickly. I also have to add that my square point of sale device worked flawlessly and because of the way the website is set up it automatically updates the inventory available on there when something is sold physically at the market. 

It was a lot of work to prepare everything for the weekend and my hats go off to the vendors who do this on a regular basis. 

And Next time when I go to market I will be much more attuned not just to the way something looks but the story of what went into its creation!

Cherry split coffee table- why do I keep doing this? [edit- Now Sold!]

A similar theme here where I was looking over the wood from my friends disposal bin and trying to see if there were any interesting pieces that I could save.
This table was actually three pieces at first which came from the same tree.
The only thing that attracted me at first was the shape of the piece that would become the main service of the table. I like the way it flared out at the end where I assume a branch had grown out of the main trunk.
Of course when I saw the pieces as just logs I knew that I somehow had to section them so at least I could have a flat surface for a table. But at the time I had no idea of how I was going to do that.

Continue reading “Cherry split coffee table- why do I keep doing this? [edit- Now Sold!]”

Mini Log Candle Holders

Is it possible to have too many candles?

Well with these you get all the ambiance of candles with a heaping helping of rustic wood goodness.

 

Fashioned from branches destined for the dump, these unique candle holders will spark conversation at almost any caisson

Half log coffee table

 

Description

Do you ever have a feeling that something that is uncared for and unwanted could be made into something beautiful?

That is the feeling I had when I saw this raw piece of wood in a dumpster, waiting to be carted away to be turned into sawdust. Truth be told, the dumpster belongs to friends of mine who run a large landscaping company, so they know I was checking out some of the wood they had cut down earlier in the year, but this piece stood out particularly for me, mostly because if its interesting shape and hole that went all the way through the surface.

What made the hole? Not really sure, but it looks like the tree grew up and around something because the grain is continuous all the way around.

If that wasn’t enough it looks like this poor specimen also had some insect damage, which may have been the reason that it was cut down in the first place.

All in all, it looked like a challenge and a good way to test my skills. And tested they were!

Continue reading “Half log coffee table”

Bark shard candle holders

Sometimes when I’m preparing wood for a table there are a bunch of off-cuts or scraps that accumulate around the shop. I usually try to use all parts of whatever piece I’m working on but even though I found them interesting to look at I had no idea if I could use them.

I had several that were products of preparing wood for the Cherry Split Coffee Table that had a really interesting pattern under the bark made by some insects that I thought would look cool in the right setting. Once again, I found these pieces as whole logs in a dumpster (well actually these were overflow, so they were outside the dumpster).

Looking through a wood working website gave me a thought – what if I just cleaned up the piece and doing minimal finishing, made it into a candle holder that could sit in the middle of a table? It would be an interesting conversation starter and best of all would show off the unique beauty of these pieces!

Ice storm cherry wood coffee table

Description

This is a live edge cherry wood slab coffee table that I made by joining two slabs on edge from our cherry tree that was killed in the ice storm of 2013
I joined the slabs and filled some of the imperfections with eco-poxy, which is non-toxic and wonderful to work with.
The base is unfinished steel tubing that is simply attached to the bottom of the wood top.
I chose a non-toxic finish that is rubbed into the wood that gives it an incredible lustre and really brings out the grain.
I wanted to contrast the smoothness and finish of the top with the rawness of the chainsaw marks on the short edges of the table. I also wanted to make sure that both pieces could be seen as individuals joined together

Oak Twins Coffee Tables

 

Description

Upcycled Twin trunks oak side tables (for sale to the right home)- comes as a set of 2 tables

Rescued Oak, metal legs; approx. 32″ long, 17″ wide, 16″ high each table

<tl:dr>

OK here’s the story on how these two tables were created. This originally was a single piece of wood destined for the junkyard [ or actually the chipper]. A friend of mine runs a landscaping company and he has a bin where he puts all of the cut wood from removal operations.

As soon as I saw this one I had a feeling that it could become not just a single very thick table but two.

When I pulled the piece out of the dumpster it also had this really interesting seam down the center where it looks like two branches had emerged from the trunk.

After dragging this piece home I set it up on my driveway and proceeded to section it in half with my electric chainsaw.

Now because the log had been recently cut, it was still too wet to work with so I stacked it and put two ratcheting straps around the outside to prevent the crack down the center from getting any bigger. Then I left them under my deck over the winter to season for about six months and promptly forgot about them.

Come the spring I crawled under the deck to take a look at how they did and surprisingly they were looking really good. And by good I mean that they hadn’t cracked all the way through and the moisture content was down to point where I could now work on them.

I have to say that I have a small confession to make. When I put these two pieces away in the fall, I thought that this would be a really quick project that I could do in a few weeks and they wouldn’t take much time. In the end I probably spent over 100 hours on these two because the more I work with them the more I realize that there were a few things that were pretty special about these two pieces.

Because they were cut from the same log they are actually what’s called “book matched”. That means that they are similar to when you open a book and so one side reflects what’s happening on the other side. So in a fact they are kind of like twins.

On the one end there is an interesting figure where it looks like there was a large limb that was cut off many years ago. This caused some interesting coloration that looks similar but is not exactly the same on both logs.

But the most challenging part was that the outer sides [or the bottom of each table when I sectioned them] was not cut flat, because whoever cut down the tree had no intention of actually using it for furniture.

So when I went to work on the tops and make them flat it was quite a challenge to set it up because the bottom is not only on an angle but also has numerous depressions and valleys where you can see the chainsaw cut into the wood and then was pulled out and started in a different place.

Instead of doing what other woodworkers do which is get one side reasonably flat and then use that to help flatten the finished side I left the bottom pretty much alone and used the router sled to make the top flat.

After that I used some eco-friendly epoxy to stabilize the cracks and then sanded down the surface so I could apply a finish coat of Osmo wood polish.

Then it was just a matter of figuring out what type of legs to use and I came upon this solution actually when I was looking at both of the pieces simultaneously. They looked to me like they were moving and I thought I would reflect that in the way I designed the legs.

So there you have it. There’s obviously more to the story but I’ll save you the details unless of course you want to know-then I’d be glad to talk at length. Thanks for reading this far