The first trip to the home center was to look at materials and get an idea how just how much would it cost. I was thinking of using poplar, a good choice for painted or unseen construction. By the time I would have had enough to glue up for a top and build the legs I was over fifty dollars, which does not fall into the inexpensive category. I went home a bit dejected. A few days later we were passing the other big box home center store and we stopped in. As we were walking toward the lumber section we passed a display with cut MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) that was just over the dimensions needed for the top. Best of all it was only a bit over six dollars. Down grade the base from poplar to common clear pine and the material price was cut in half. Needless to say my spirit picked up a bit.
The pine they had was only 3/4 inch, which is too thin for the legs I wanted to build so I figured I'd just clean it up a bit and glue two pieces together. So I brought the 3/4x3x8 (that 3/4 inches thick, 3 inches wide and 8 feet long) into the shop. Spinning 8 foot boards around in a small space can be a real trick and that's all I'll say about that. Anyway, without moving a lot of things around I couldn't get them on the table saw so I pulled out the old trusty hand saw. Add an inch or two to the finish length, mark and with a few strokes of the saw I had four, almost equal, lengths for the legs. Using standard yellow wood glue I squeezed out a zig zag pattern and spread it out with my finger. I always keep a roll of paper towels in the shop which made cleaning the glue off my finger pretty easy. I didn't have enough parallel clamps to clamp each leg by themselves so I just stacked two together and clamped them in sets.
So after the leg blanks had dried the next step to was figure out what shape I wanted. This was a simple table so I wanted a simple leg shape, a taper along the width. The outside of the leg would run straight and the taper would run along the inside of the width of the table. To do this I pulled out a tapering jig I had made some time earlier for another project.
You can buy these jigs, and I'm sure they're really nice, but for one poplar board, or something else, a hinge, a lid stay and a few screws you can make one for pretty cheep. You can see in the picture that the work piece is held at an angle to the fence. As the piece is passed through the saw the jig moves along with the work held at an angle. The results in a taper being cut rather than a straight cut. Kinda of cool. (Maybe if you want me to I'll write a blog on this, let me know.)
I really wanted this table to be strong. Diane didn't want a stringer between the legs, wanting an open area below the table for boxes and such. So I decided to use dovetails to hold the apron and legs together. This is a pretty easy cut using a router table and make a real strong joint. The best tip I can give you is that once you set the depth of the cutter DON'T CHANGE IT UNTIL ALL CUTS HAVE BEEN MADE. That's on both the pins and the tails.
Cutting the pins is done in two passes, one each side of the board. As the apron boards are only three inches wide making a good and safe cut is almost impossible without a way to hold it. So I made this quick jig out of a couple pieces of scraps. The work piece is clamped to the post and allows controlled, safe, machining.
Once the base came out of the clamps I touched up and glue drips by sanding them out. I then applied three coats of polyurethane. I like using a water based poly because it has much less fumes than a mineral based poly. I did read that if I did use poly on the MDF not use the water based because it lifts up the surface, kind of like putting water on cardboard, and it just can't be sanded out. But as I painted the top that doesn't much matter.
So this has been a fun project. I know that every time I would say I could make that I was, at least in part, motivated by the desire to be able to give Diane something I thought she wanted. It was a great pleasure to do that this time and actually complete it. It now sets behind her in the office, holding books, or boxes, or stacks of mailings or what ever. And can say yes I can.