What I Bring to the Table – Part 1 – Well Begun is Half Done

I finally started my table. Doug had me start by taking my scale drawing home and making an actual size drawing of it on a large piece of paper. When I got home I realized I didn’t have any proper equipment for drawing so I improvised. I had a sewing measuring tape, a 12in ruler and a piece of paper with a 90-degree angle. It took longer and was a little more difficult to do than if I had the proper equipment but I got the job done. The point of that exercise was to see how the proportions looked in the actual size. Doug and I both agreed that the legs looked long and would either need to be shortened or have a cross bar or shelf added.

The next step was to pick out the type of wood I wanted to make my table out of. Doug showed me the different kinds of wood he had available that I could use and I chose maple.

Doug then grabbed me a few pieces of paper and had me make an exact cut list using the lengths and widths from my design. With that I made an actual cut list by adding on a little extra to the lengths and widths. Then I sorted through his large stash of maple to pick out boards I could use based on that cut list.


Cut List

After I had all the boards picked out Doug taught me how to calculate the approximate board footage. One board foot is equal to 1ft x 1ft x 1in. The process of calculating it took me far to long to do. It was pretty embarrassing how ridiculously slow and poor my math skills were. Doug kept trying to make me feel better by saying it’s just not something I’ve done before and the more I do it the faster I’ll get but really, this was some pretty basic math and I had a total brain fart. All he had me do was take the length and width of the boards and figure out approximately how many square feet each one was, I was even able to round to make it easier. Then multiply that by the thickness of the board. My brain just didn’t want to work that day and it took me 30 minutes to figure it all out.

Doug and I discussed the importance of being able to calculate the approximate board footage of something. He says he uses on occasion to figure out how much wood to order or how much wood will cost. It may not be used on a daily basis but it is definitely worthwhile to know. There are phone apps that can calculate it but it’s important to know how to do it without relying on technology. There are many methods for calculating this but Doug’s way is a rough estimate that will get you in the ballpark quickly… if you get used to it and don’t have a brain fart like I did.

Once all that was done it was time to s4s (surface 4 sides). This means getting all four sides smooth, straight, and square.  This was accomplished by using a jointer, a planer, a table saw, and a chop saw.

Doug told me not to put the boards for the table legs through the planer because the grain was all over the place but I forgot and ran it through accidentally. This was a big mistake. The ends of the boards chipped off in huge chunks. Another mistake I made was that I had already cut them to length; I should have waited and that way I would have given myself room for mistakes like this. The only way to fix it was to cut the ends off. This actually worked out for the better in the long run because we did think they were long and looked funny. By cutting them it made the proportions better. But next time I know better… I hope.

I made another mistake that day. For my tabletop I was going to need to cut one long board into four separate pieces that would then be glued together to make one big 18in x 18in piece. I wanted all four pieces to be the same size. I measured the width of the board and calculated how much I would need to cut off of each. Doug told me to only cut two to size and leave the other two for the outside pieces so I could put clamps on then to glue up without worrying about denting them, then cut it later. But again I forgot. I cut three before Doug realized and scolded me. Again, it was not a catastrophic mistake; it just meant I would have to put an extra piece of wood on one side to protect my tabletop from the clamps. It just adds an extra step to a time sensitive task.

I know there’s a saying, “Well begun is half done”. In this case, I didn’t have all that great of a beginning, but hopefully it will pick up and get better. Keep reading to find out.


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