Milling the Legs and Top for Community Table

The next step in building this monster table was the legs. I opted to glue up 4 inch square blank rather than try and source a single 4×4 post. This let me incorporate some of the knots and rustic look of the white oak without sacrificing stability. After gluing up the legs, I planed them square; muscling these 35 pound blanks around was definitely a forearm workout!

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After the leg blanks we glued, planed and cut to length, it was time to start laying out the stretchers between them. I chopped out some jumbo-sized dadoes on to connect the two legs together. This let me glue the the legs together and keep from using any visible fasteners, while taking less time than a through-mortise. I scribed the lines using a basic combination square, I like my 6″ Irwin Square for most work. The sides of the dado get cut, my table saw is a little too small to manages these pieces, so I used a hand saw. Any rigid back-saw will work, but I prefer a Japanese Dozuki style pull saw. After cutting the edges, all that is left is to chop out the waste with a sharp chisel and mallet. Make sure your chisels have a metal ring around the butt of the handle, like this Stanley Bailey Chisel set. The ring helps the handle hold up to repeated mallet strikes.

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With the legs and stretchers glued, I could clean up the ends and glue squeeze out. That’s not glue on the bottom side… it’s sweat! The weekend I had to build this table was over 90 degrees, and the garage shop was a hot box in the mid-afternoon. At this point I also added a chamfer across the bottom of the legs, where they touch the ground. I also knocked off the corners at the edge of my dado to give a little detail and accent to the joinery.

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Legs, plus a giant top… pretty much makes a table! With the random length boards for the top, gluing this panel up was a pain. I used pocket screws to pull the boards together end-to-end, making up long planks from multiple boards. With a lot of careful hand planing, I could glue each of these hybrid planks with a minimal glue joint. Lots of squeeze out though. I added each plank one by one, building up the panel from the center. I have a number of these 36″ Bessey Bar Clamps, but by the end, it took every long clamp I had to hold it all together!

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Final steps on the top were to clean up the glue, with a good sharp chisel. I cut the ends square using a circular saw; nothing glamorous. Then it was time to sand. I really like my Bosch random orbit sander. The variable speed is nice, and lets you control how aggressive it is. I find a slower speed on higher grit paper keeps swirl marks to a minimum. I’ve found good luck using Mirka paper, and the price is right for 50 count boxes. I sanded the top to 180 grit, and it was time to assemble!

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