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Elm Coffee Table

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Aled Dafis

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Reading Rob's thread on his one plank Krenovian inspired wall cabinet reminded me that I'd done a similar thing last autumn when building a coffee table. So here goes a retrospective WIP of sorts, unfortunately I didn't take enough pics of the process. I can't remember where I acquired the wood, but I remember thinking that I'd never used Elm before so I would give it a go to see what I could make of it.

Firstly I started with a single plank of Elm 1600 x 420 x 75mm, it doesn't look too bad in the pic, but trust me there were quite a few knots and shakes, not to mention the dreaded woodworm :evil:



So I roughed out what I could manage, bearing in mind that this was all the Elm I had, so all parts must come from this one plank. I resawed the 3" plank in half to get the 1"+ boards for the tabletop.



Then cut the tapered legs on the tablesaw using my cobbled together jig (I know that the crown guard should be fitted but I had to remove it to achieve the 3" cut)



Fast forward a few weeks - this is where I got too carried away with the making/finishing to take photos - and here we have a completed coffee table - the finished dimensions are about 1m x 500 x 500mm, dictated solely by the wood available and cutting out the worm holes and checks.





The frame was Dominoed together, and the whole table was finished with three coats of Woodoc 10 Polywax finish having filled the grain first with some standard filler (oak colour) that I had in the cupboard.

Cheers
Aled
 

woodbloke

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Nice job Aled...elm's great stuff init? :mrgreen: ...apart from the wormy 'oles, knots, shakes and warpage, but it is surprising what you can get out of a board with some care and thought in the conversion - Rob
 

Aled Dafis

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Thanks! Yes, it's now one of my favourite woods, I found it easy to work, and the colour/character knocks spots off the oak I normally use.

I'll definitely be on the lookout for more Elm in future!

Cheers
Aled
 

Harbo

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Nice simple lines - I like it - pity about using Dominoes though! :)

It brings back memories of my youth, I made a smaller version of yours in Mahogony for my O Level project -
but that was in 1960!

I've got quite a few chunks of Elm but very dark brown - I prefer the colour of yours.
Nice job.


Rod
 

Crooked Tree

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Nice table Aled. That top has real character - it must have been a pig to plane dead flat without tearout? All those little knots look good too. Did you have to fill/stabilise them?

I am still working on some elm tables myself at my usual glacial pace, so hopefully I may be able to show you those this year.
 

Aled Dafis

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Crooked Tree":3ldrze83 said:
Nice table Aled. That top has real character - it must have been a pig to plane dead flat without tearout? All those little knots look good too. Did you have to fill/stabilise them?

I am still working on some elm tables myself at my usual glacial pace, so hopefully I may be able to show you those this year.
On the contrary, I found the Elm very easy to plane, I flattened the surface with my Clifton #7 in a diagonal pattern to get it flat and then went lengthways a couple of times to remove any tearout.. These Clifton planes/irons are so nice to use, they achieve a seriously sharp edge with minimal fuss! Yes the little knots really add to the character of the piece, and I was quite surprised how well they responded to the plane with virtually no tearout.

I filled the whole surface with filler, so that filled any tiny voids in the knots as well as acting as a grain filler. This was the first time I've tried a grain filler and was quite happy with the way it turned out, I just rubbed the filler into the wood in a circular motion with a cloth, and then sanded the whole piece lightly (320grit) with my Metabo random orbit sander. All parts were filled/sanded and finished before gluing up to avoid any hassles with finishing the nooks and crannies, I just popped off any glue squeeze out with a sharp plane blade once it had fully hardened and waxed the table with a couple of coats of Renwax.

I look forward to seeing your Elm tables in the near future...

Cheers
Aled
 

Chems

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That's lovely, I don't think I've ever seen a fully elm piece of furniture like that, looks like nice stuff to work with.
 

woodbloke

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Aled Dafis":2px5uyac said:
[

On the contrary, I found the Elm very easy to plane

Cheers
Aled
I agree with Aled and I've used elm a lot...it easy stuff to plane, even the tiny knots aren't any problem to plane. Sometimes you can experience a little 'tear out' but nothing a sharp cabinet scraper won't deal with. I finish mine with a couple of coats of matt Osmo-PolyX with wax over the top - Rob
 

Blister

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Very nice Aled

I like the clean simple design , with wood like that nice grain structure nothing more is needed
 

Aled Dafis

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Thanks again for the comments guys.

Regarding the planing, I'm slowly coming around to the idea that air dried wood is easier to work/plane than kiln dried. I've no idea why, it's just something I've noticed over the last couple of years, in fact I hardly ever use Kiln dried any more.

Aled
 

woodbloke

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Aled Dafis":2zzlx9yl said:
Thanks again for the comments guys.

Regarding the planing, I'm slowly coming around to the idea that air dried wood is easier to work/plane than kiln dried. I've no idea why, it's just something I've noticed over the last couple of years, in fact I hardly ever use Kiln dried any more.

Aled
Welome to the club Aled! Sometimes you can be lucky with kd stuff and it's OK, but nothing more than just 'OK.' Using ad stuff though is a revelation as it's just 'works' better in all respects whereas as lump of kd stuff that's been badly kilned is fit for nothing but burning. David Savage has said that kd timber has had all the life sucked out of it, and whilst there's not much I agree with him about, he's dead right here -Rob
 

Crooked Tree

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Interesting on the lack of planing difficulties. Perhaps I am going wrong somewhere, or possibly I have chosen the wrong bit of wood (still learning on that front). I found that when I used the cabinet scraper the grain/pattern seemed to lose something, so returned to a very sharp finely set plane and re-finished with that. I still get dust produced with the shavings, though, presumably because of the interlocked nature of the grain. I agree that the knots ae not a problem, although I have filled/stabilised a couple with superglue because I did not want voids in the top surface.
 

Aled Dafis

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Crooked Tree":t3141vhl said:
Interesting on the lack of planing difficulties. Perhaps I am going wrong somewhere, or possibly I have chosen the wrong bit of wood (still learning on that front). I found that when I used the cabinet scraper the grain/pattern seemed to lose something, so returned to a very sharp finely set plane and re-finished with that. I still get dust produced with the shavings, though, presumably because of the interlocked nature of the grain. I agree that the knots ae not a problem, although I have filled/stabilised a couple with superglue because I did not want voids in the top surface.
This pic was taken a couple of days ago when working on my current project, a bookcase in Ash (air dried again :wink: ), but these are exactly the kind of shavings I was getting with the Elm also. I've absolutely no idea how thick/thin these shavings are but for comparison's sake, they take about 2 to 3 seconds to fall to the floor so they're pretty fine.



Are you absolutely sure that your plane is as sharp as it could be?

Thanks John for your kind words.

Cheers
Aled
 

Crooked Tree

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Yes, I think that it was decently sharp (at least when I start - I have to sharpen frequently!). The shavings coming off are whispery thin, just "raggedy" with some dust. I do suspect that it is just the grain pattern and/or my trying to take ludicrously fine shavings. That said, I expect that your Clifton has the "edge" (pun?!) on my 60s Record. I had to flatten the sole to finish the first table top because it was not getting one particular area flat enough. It transpired that it was a bit too far off flat for this job (hollow left to right was probably the biggest issue), although I had not noticed a problem before, probably because I was not trying to smooth to such precision - it had always been fine for jointing edges etc. It is a No.5, which does me for roughing jointing and smoothing :) . I slew it on difficult grain and to shorten the effective sole length for smoothing patches.

I think that when sharpened it would produce shavings like those from beech or oak (not worked ash yet).
 
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