I may have a problem. I can’t stop making reclaimed wood tables. You may have already seen the article about the end table I made out of floor joists reclaimed from Frank Sinatra’s torn down house. I also have a coffee table made out of scrap plywood, a broken ping-pong table and a carpet. Reclaimed wood from old construction, rescued from the landfill or discovered in a riverbed is becoming more and more popular. It holds onto the character and history of its old life and carries it over into its new purpose. So seriously, when I got these 6-foot redwood 2x12s, how could I not make another table?
Actually, what I made was a desk, but I was never happy with it. It sat around for a while and I finally got frustrated enough to tear the boards off. I’ll keep the legs and frame for something else.
These boards were once part of a horse corral. The barn they were next to is over 100 years old, so I’m guessing this stuff was out in the elements for about that much time. And bored horses eat fences for the fun of it, so between that and the sun and rain and wind, there wasn’t a square edge anywhere. I’m fine with that for the outside edges of the table, but I wanted the interior joints to line up smoothly. I set up an angle-iron guide and ripped about an inch of the edges of each board with a circular saw, leaving the outside edges raw.
I flipped the boards upside down and snugged them together with clamps. Then I screwed 3 1x8 boards across the slab to hold them in place. When I lined up the boards, I oriented all the most worn, damaged ends on the same end of the tabletop, set up my guide again and then buzzed off the other end square.
When they were a desk, the boards were finished with stain and shellac, which I grew to hate and was happy to sand off. I use an angle grinder with a sanding flap disk for this. Technically, it’s for metal, but I like the speed and the irregular roughness of it. I wouldn’t do this on something I wanted to be perfectly smooth, but for a rustic table it gives me the imperfections I’m looking for.
I removed all the old finish and got down to the bare wood.
With the tabletop still upside down, I constructed the legs and support out of 1-inch black pipe nipples of various lengths, with galvanized connectors. (Relax, a nipple is a section of pipe, threaded at both ends.)
The layout is simple, but it’s a bit of a puzzle tightening up all the joints.
Finally, I screwed 5 1-inch galvanized floor flanges at the corners and along the centerline.
I flipped the table right side up (it is one heavy monster) and set it on its legs. Then I rubbed in a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax, just like what you’d season a butcher block with. The oil brings out the depth and character of the wood and still allows you to tough it directly, unlike the stain and shellac.
I set it up with the flat edge against the wall so the uneven, worn edge is prominent. Every nick, ding and bite mark on the table tells the story of its history and it is beautiful in its imperfections. Now I need to make some chairs.