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Railway Sleeper Coffee Table

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19ninety

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Well, this is a little story of "I'm not paying £100's for that, how hard can it be?!"

We moved house, me, the girlfriend and the cats ... and the plants ... and books, and everything else and decided we needed a stylish and attractive coffee table. After looking on the net I had a good idea what I wanted, the girlfriend agreed that something natural, chunky and wooden was called for. Theres a mass of fake wood furniture around, and almost as much "hand made" oak etc at extortionate prices. How hard can it be I thought?

So I went about looking some more and thought a simple and attractive coffee table could be made using railway sleepers. More researching and as normal I was beginning to get a little carried away, not wanting Oak sleepers I wanted something more unique. I eventually located some new Mora (South American hardwood) sleepers and bought two. At approx 200lbs each it was a slow drive home!! Its a odd smelling wood when wet, as cross between smokey strong cheese and tobasco!!!

Initially I had planned to simple plane them down and then sand then smooth and bolt them together. (note previous comment about carried away) I then thought I could make them a little more interesting by recessing the feet into the top .... and then had to add dowels to help prevent swaying/rocking due to the weight. I then wasnt happy with the finish so planed the whole thing as square as I could, then belt sanded, then routered all the edges ..... then wanting an even finer finish so I could Danish Oil the timber to bring out the colours and grain I then bladed the whole lot down so it was silky smooth.
By accident (due to the weathered and dirty finish, and collecting them in the rain) I bought two very different sleepers, one was heart wood and the other partial sap wood, also I didnt see one had a vein of rot running its length. Lucky for me I used the heartwood sleeper for the top and the other for the feet... lucky also was how the the multiple colors of the feet with the rot cleaned out looked so good.
I was at about the point when I was kneeling on the rough concrete garage floor I decided I needed a decent workbench - but thats another project for another thread along one day with another project that is in the making, my speakers.

Some photos below:
 

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19ninety

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Oh, and if a mod could move this to the projects subforum, sorry :)
 

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TheTiddles

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That's come together quite well, looks initially like a commercailly avaiable piece but on closer inspection there's a degree of finese that you don't get from most sources

Aidan
 

Benchwayze

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Welcome to the Forum Ninety!

That's a bit low for a workbench... Unless you are going the Japanese route? :wink:

What I am saying is, it seems you'd know how to make a workbench too. As long as that timber doesn't move too much, I wouldn't look any further when you get around to making your bench.

I rather like that table, and where did the sleepers originate and were they used or not?

:D
 

m1ke_a

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Simple but effective. Any reason why faced the rot lines on the outside of the legs?
 

jadboog

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Love it - solid looking piece that will last for years.
 

19ninety

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Hi, thanks for the welcome!

Aidan, thank you for the compliment, I'm very proud of my first project!

John, yes it was definitely a Japanese workbench in use for that job!! Thankfully I have now made large bench to use, might pop a post in the project thread if I can ever find the WIP photos. My knees have thanked me for the change from Asian to European work style :D I went with mdf and 4x2 as the sleepers were a little too expensive for a workbench, as said the original very simple plan to make a coffee table quickly escalated and I couldnt afford to buy tools and make a bench in the time I wanted to get the coffee table made in.
The sleepers were very weathered new and wonkey, bought and collected from kilgraney.com's yard.


m1ke_a, When I realised one sleeper had a rot I was narked and kicking myself for not checking the sleepers when I bought them. Then I thought there isnt any point in sulking, I may as well make the best I can. I belt sanded all the faces and realised the rotten sleeper was also heart and sap wood with the rot on the darker heart wood side. Digging out all the rot added a really nice feature to the grainy face of the feet once oiled, also the I like the colour of the end grain from the redy heart to the golden sap. Having the lighter wood on the inside looks quite symetrical and adds another feature to the finished table. Personal preference I guess :wink: And its exactly what we wanted, very natural etc.


Nibbo, the finished table weights around 220lbs or 250lbs, I did weight it all on scales when I first made it but cant remember which weight it is. It is very heavy hardwood!!
 

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