Julie liked the square 8 Seater Teak Dining Table on the Furniture Gallery page of the website and gave me a call. She told me she had some Jarrah furniture in her home and asked if I could make a similar table to the Teak one out of Jarrah.
We discussed a plank pattern, and I suggested the Herringbone Corner Joins as can be seen in this Jarrah Coffee Table. Julie liked the idea, but did not want any stone or glass features. I explained that this plank pattern needs a square of some kind in the middle to get it started, and suggested she choose another timber species for the centre inlay. She checked the Timber Species page and thought that Spotted Gum or Blackbutt might look nice with the Jarrah.
So, with timber species chosen, plank pattern agreed upon and dimensions discussed, I sent Julie a preliminary sketch. She agreed that this is what she wanted, and decided upon Blackbutt as the featured timber centre inlay, so the next step was to forward to her a sales agreement accompanied by a formal quotation, which includes a dimensioned drawing. With the quote accepted, sales agreement signed and deposit paid, Julie was officially signed up with Kestrel Concepts Custom Designer Furniture and had her place secured in the manufacturing queue.
Julie was given an indication of when her table would commence construction, and just before this time, I contacted Julie and she paid the next instalment. I procured the raw materials and the build process began.
Being a large square table, the base ply (2400mm x 1200mm x 18mm hardwood) had to be cut and joined to make a 1500mm x 1500mm square. A scarf join with epoxy glue is screwed and clamped to the workbench and left overnight.
At the same time, to make the centre inlay the long plank of Blackbutt needed to be cut and joined to form a square. A trench was cut into the sides, a ply strip inserted and filled with epoxy glue, then clamped overnight.
Next morning the centre inlay piece was given a quick sand and then cut into a perfect square. The Blackbutt plank is 35mm thick, whilst the Jarrah planks are 19mm, so a rebate had to be cut into the edges of the square so that it could be set into a cut-out of the ply base, allowing the top of the Blackbutt to end up flush with the Jarrah planks.
The centre piece is glued and clamped into place, and again left overnight.
With the centre inlay fixed, the Jarrah planks can be laid with the epoxy glue. Great care is taken to cut the planks to the exact length and perfectly square so that the Herringbone Corner Joins work all the way to the sides of the table, staying true, neat and square all round. The planking done, it must be left for the epoxy to cure overnight.
The epoxy glue is incredibly strong. The type I use is commonly used in ship building, and the reality is that any nails or screws used are only there to hold things in place whilst the glue cures. In fact, if forced, the timber will actually tear and split before the glue will separate. The only down side is that the epoxy takes at least 12 hours to cure enough for work to continue on the next stage, but the assurance that it adds to the strength and integrity of the furniture is well worth this minor inconvenience in the build process. To make best use of my time, I usually build two items in tandem, so I can work on one whilst glue is curing on the other.
Now that the planking is fixed, the side edges are cleaned up to be perfectly straight and square on the vertical face. The table borders are cut with mitred corners, glued and nailed. As to the nail holes, they are punched and filled with a mixture of epoxy glue and fine wood dust from the species the table is made from. Nail holes are an optional feature on my furniture. Many people like them as a feature, but if you prefer, most timbers can be secret nailed so nail holes are not visible.
Sometimes, nails or screws are necessary to fix some part. If you don’t want them seen, often there is another option to have a polished bolt head or some other decorative extra fixed over the screw or nail as a feature. For Julie’s table, she preferred the option of nail holes as a feature.
The table legs are solid structural grade laminated pine cladded with the Jarrah planks. Another option for the legs can be rough sawn solid hardwood, which creates a very complimentary effect to the smooth and refined table top. The rough sawn timber comes up beautifully when varnished, the texture very visual as you can see in the photo above.
Now the first sanding pass is done using an 8” disc with a powerful electric sanding tool. The main aim for this sanding stage is to remove all excess glue and to get the planks and centre inlay all even and as flat as possible. Care is taken to regularly check the table surface with a straight edge at this stage to keep any deviations to a minimum, less than 1 mm over 400mm.
The table top is inverted and timber sockets are made for the legs to fit into. Again, epoxy glue is used to fix the legs, and they are propped and clamped to be perpendicular to the table top whilst the glue cures.
Right side up now, and the final sanding is done using an air powered orbital sander. At this stage any gaps revealed in any joins or in the grain are filled. A few passes are done with ever finer sanding discs until the timber is as smooth as it can be in preparation for varnishing.
The varnishing is outsourced to a very professional outfit close to my own workshop. I have made sure that they take as much care and pride in their work as I do in mine, and they certainly have not let me down. Their work is flawless, and essential to bringing out the true beauty of the timber in your furniture. Large items are picked up and delivered back to me using their own truck, plenty of soft blankets and appropriate strapping used during transit.
For me, the most satisfying part of the build process is the revelation of the finished item when it returns from the paint shop. With two sealer coats and two to three top coats of two pac varnish, the timber has become resplendent. Intricacies of the grain, vibrancy of colour, texture and “personality” of the species are all brought to life.
In Julie’s table, the Jarrah is a fine-grained timber with subtle, but in places, very elaborate grain patterns, tiny grain ripples, with the red- brown tones warm and stately. The Blackbutt centre inlay, by contrast, reveals different characteristics. Strong grain patterns in creamy caramel and honeyed tones, with darker streaks randomly appearing, with deeper grain ripples that you can feel as well as see, standing out and drawing the eye to the centrepiece.
Though the two timbers are very different, they do complement one another, somehow making their individual features more prominent because there is something so different beside it. It’s like one was made for the other, like a quality wine and the perfect cheese.
With the table back in the workshop after varnishing, it is time for transportation. As Julie lives in Melbourne, I recommended to her a quality professional national carrier that I have an established relationship with to freight her table to her home. For such transits, this carrier uses “international” wrapping, as I have made it clear to them that this is premium furniture that needs to be handled with utmost care. The table is carefully covered in foam sided bubble wrap so that no part is exposed, and then loaded so that the table face is against the wall of the truck, thereby ensuring nothing is placed on top.
Julie now has the exact table she wanted to compliment her home. She will no doubt have many years of fine dining and entertaining around this splendid example of quality made custom furniture, displaying the some of the most elegant of Australian timbers, and best of Australian workmanship.