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A Custom Coffee Table with Chatoyance.

R S First View

My customers sketched a top for their coffee table. I drew it out full scale for one half of the mirrored design and determined that the miter angle was 62 degrees.

R S L and M Table Top Pattern

An auxiliary jig platform for the Vogt Shooting Board was indispensable in fitting all the pieces.

R S 62 degree shooting fence

The veneers were bandsawn and planed to 5/32”.

R S Shop sawn veneers

That’s not actually a veneer thickness. The mitered pieces were treated as blocks and glued on two or three at a time. After a couple of days of curing the whole top was thickness sanded with the veneers, top and bottom, ending up at 1/16” thick.

What creates the chatoyance is the sequence of laying the veneers in the rows across the width of the top.

R S Veneer Sheet

Moving your head a few inches while gazing “into” it creates strikingly different views of the grain- what was rich brown becomes a smoky gray, the columns of darker veneers trade places with the lighter ones, and different three dimensional shapes suggest themselves.

R S Multiple View

R S Geometrical Shapes

Yellow glue was the adhesive. It’s to be expected that there will be some “creep” and the molding that wraps the perimeter is designed to allow for it.

R S Veneer and Molding

The shelf is made of solid wood, 1” thick, and is treated like a panel within the rails that has plywood splines glued into grooves on the inner edges.

R S Shelf Panel

A 3/32” space on each side of the shelf allows for expansion across its width. The ends are pinned from the underside at their centers.

A bevel was planed along the inner edges of the legs as viewed from the sides… at 62 degrees, of course.

R S Leg Bevel

What follows is a long series of construction pictures.

R S Outdoor board breakdown

R S Ripping parts from board

Scrub planing shelf.

R S Scrub planing

Finish planing and using winding sticks.

R S Finish planing

R S Planing Edges

Ripping leg taper.

R S Ripping leg taper

R S Planing taper

Planing bevel.

R S Planing leg bevel

I plowed the shelf panel grooves on the table saw, registering the rails and the shelf against the blue tape strips on the rip fence. The grooves were a tight fit for the plywood splines that glued into the rails. I removed the tape and ran the shelf against the fence. The tape thickness created the tolerance for the shelf to slide and not stick on the splines.

R S Shelf and rail groove

End frame glue up.

R S End frame glue up

Shooting the veneers was a pleasure.

R S Shooting veneers

R S Venner groups

A stack of veneers shot exactly right.

R S Stack of veneers shot

To press the individual veneer blocks down I enlisted the weight of some saps who were hanging around and drying out after a tough winter. Their job was just to stand on sandpaper-faced blocks that were slightly smaller than the veneers.

R S Glueing first two veneers

First column done.

R S First course of veneers

Nearing the end.

R S Last course of veneers

The veneers overhung the edges and were scored with an offset cutting gauge prior to trimming with the saw.

R S Offset cutting gauge

R S Offset cutting gauge 2

Finishing was a long process: shellac, oil/varnish, then coats of Waterlox brushed on full strength. Three weeks of curing before rubbing out.

R S Finishing 1

R S Finishing 2

The edge molding was the final task. The Donkey Ear allowed a perfect fit.

R S shooting moldings

R S Gluing Molding

Corner Detail

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