Monday, February 15

Building Blocks

A trio of small blocks are all that are left to build and we are ready for final assembly of these tables. I’ve made up stock for the two small leg-mount blocks (foreground) and one wide latch block for each table. Shaping these blocks is done on the router, but holding such small parts as the leg blocks with my hands while rounding over the edges is extraordinarily dangerous and a great way to loose a fingertip or two. (The router is NOT running in this photo) So instead I use a small hand screw clamp to hold the pieces; it takes a little longer to grab and release the parts with this than it would with my fingers, but it’s much safer. After shaping I sand the parts using a mop sander. I could use the hand screw clamp here too, but about the worst this device will do is to reshape my fingernails, so I just do it by hand – I’m not proud of my nails anyway. I do make sure I sand on the side that if the mop grabs the block and flings it, it will fling it away from me, not at me. Then I drill pilot holes, pre-finish the inside-the-joint faces and attach them to the tops of the legs. The latch blocks are made in a similar fashion except I also cut a dado in the center that will house the latch tab, which works along with the hole in the upper spreader to snap the legs into the open position so the table can not collapse while in use or being moved around. Exactly how we make that part is a closely guarded secret, if I show you how it’s done I’d have to kill you. We don’t want that! [5011-R] Then it’s just a matter of aligning everything just right and gluing and clamping the blocks to the underside of the tray. We can’t use screws here, so glue joints have to be done well or the thing will fall apart. We don’t want that either! Finish sanding follows, then vacuuming and tack ragging and moving the tables and stand into the finishing room for two full coats of lacquer each. After that is hard, I scuff sand them tack them off again and shoot the entire set with a third coat of lacquer. When that coat is set up hard I check the tray panels and scuff sand them again if needed then apply a skim coat of high quality tung-oil based polyurethane to just the ribbon panels. This step is necessary to protect the tables better against modern living than the lacquer alone will. Sweaty drink glasses or warm plates placed on lacquer can cause white spots or rings to form if the water is allowed to absorb into the finish. Even people who have an elegant dining table and care for it properly may forget and abuse these tables, so we add this extra measure of protection to help avoid problems. They’re done and ready to package up. We’ll look at that process in the next episode.

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