Dining Table – Completion

Final assembly of the dining table was done in the dining area. It is too big and heavy for Teal and I to move on our own. Assembly “in situ” worked out very well. It is nicer to work on the hardwood floor than on the shop floor and there is more room.

The top leaves were laid on some old towels to avoid scratching and ease sliding around as necessary. The frame was then laid on them and centered. Note that the slides are not completely closed but rather opened by about 3/8″ to allow for expansion of the leaves in the summer and to avoid the slides preventing the tops from closing together. The leaves were first fastened with the pocket screws to hold them in exact position then the figure 8s were screwed down.

Fastening the leaves to the leaf slide rails

The next step was to insert the butterfly leaf and fasten the barrel hinge assembly in place. With the leaf held in alignment by the pins in the edges of the top pieces, alignment was straightforward.

The frame and leaves were then placed o the base. The leaves were tested to ensure they slid freely and the slides adjusted as necessary for proper clearance. Once this was set additional screws were added in the small holes in the slides (the first screws were in slots to allow adjustment), locking them into position.

Butterfly leaf as seen from the top. I was adding extra screws to the slides

The next step was to mount and adjust the equalizing cables and get the outer rail mounted which holds the pulleys. It also conceals the slides when the table is closed. The cable is tensioned via the turnbuckle. The final adjustment for even position of the leaves is via nuts on the right hand thread eye screw on each side of the lower bracket.

Top frame mounted to the base and the cable with turnbuckle and adjusting nuts visible

Table with the leaves closed

Now it was time for the final tests, opening the leaves.

Teal is opening the butterfly

Butterfly opened

Butterfly open

Full size table with the butterfly leaf in place

Table extended

This has been a challenging and rewarding project. Now we have 1 more week for the finish to be fully cured (3 weeks t0tal) and then it will be ready for use.

Next will be the chairs.

Dining Table – Frame and Slides

Some of you may be wondering why there was such a delay in getting to the end. Besides other projects getting in the way, the finishing takes a long time and fills the shop.

Finishing schedule:

  • Sand to 220 grit with random orbit and then hand sand 220 grit with the grain to remove any “swirliques”
  • 2 coats Reddish brown trans tint dye sprayed
  • 2 light coats ruby shellac
  • General Finishes Georgian Cherry Gel stain – hand wiped
  • Let dry 2 weeks
  • Light full scratch rub out with maroon Scotch Brite pads
  • 2 coats General Finishes Endurovar – glossy – sprayed
  • Full scratch hand sanding with 220 grit
  • 2 coats General Finishes Clear Poly Satin – sprayed
  • Full scratch hand sand with 320 grit
  • Re-vacuum shop and change filters in the ceiling dust collector / air circulator. Wipe down with clean dish towels and alcohol – twice.
  • 1 coat General Finishes Clear Poly Satin
  • Let dry 2 weeks prior to assembly

Table top and frame components after the first coat of Endurovar

The frame provides the support for the top leaves and rests on top of the legs. This replaces what would be the “skirt” in a conventional 4 leg table.

The frame components include:

  • Cross bars which rest on the legs and carry the longitudinal frame pieces
  • Inner frame – this supports the slides for the end leaves as well as the tube hinge for the butterfly leaf
  • Leaf extension rails – These are mounted to the slides and to which the two end leves are fastened
  • Side rails – These provide the decorative edge of the table frame and also support the pulleys for the cable mechanism which is used to “equalize” the motion of the 2 end leaves. It also provides support for the top, notably the butterfly leaves when extended
Table frame with slides attached
Close up of slides and the “half lap” notches that register the frame and rails to the cross bars

The leaf slide rails are mounted to the slides. Note that the rails must be raised slightly above the stationary portion of the frame so that the underside of the top does not rub or drag on the stationary frame. One credit card or hotel room key card thickness is sufficient.

Attaching the rails to the slide.

Once the leaf slide rails are mounted to the slides, the figure 8 tabs that hold the top to the rail are added. Note that since this is being done during the winter the outer figure 8 tab ears are angled inward to wards the center of each rail / leaf. The assumption being that the wood is fully dry now and will expand in the summer and the figure 8s will then allow it to move outwards at the ends. What is not visible is 2 pocket screw holes about 1/3 of the way form the center of the table in each leaf rail that will fix the position of the leaf relative to the leaf slides.

Leaf slide rails with the figure 8 connectors installed

At the ends of the leaf slide rails there are small angle brackets that will be used to fasten the aircraft cable to the leaf slides. This is for the expanding compensating mechanism so that both leaves open at the same time.

Leaf slide rail with cable bracket installed. The cable brackets were cut from steel structural tubing and then powder coated.

Papa’s Pepperoni

Papa’s pepperoni (or maybe “Paparoni”) is loosely based on a variety of other recipes and adjusted for my taste preference, but it is not too spicy so that Teal and the kids / grandkids will enjoy it as well. I LOVE pepperoni pizza (including cold for breakfast). However, I detest the little pools of grease seen on many pizzas (especially when cold). Additionally, the window for “optimum spiciness” that satisfies both myself and Teal is rather narrow. The first batch was a hit and we have the second batch in the drying chamber. So it is time to publish the recipe. I will add updates with the results of this and later batches.

Take a couple of pork shoulders. Debone and remove the majority of the intermuscular fat as well as any glands or lymph nodes. Once the meat has been cleaned up slice into 1″ strips and return the meat to the freezer to firm up. You want the meat to be partially frozen when grinding. Grind the meat twice – once on the 3/8″ / 10mm die and a second time on the 3/16″ / 5mm die. The grinder below is new (Lem Big Bite #12) and a HUGE improvement on the Kitchenaid or the hand crank grinder

Passing the meat through for the second grind

Weigh the meat (in grams) so that you can calculate the rest of the ingredients.

Weigh out the ingredients, dissolve the culture in 1/2c tepid water and allow it to hydrate for 15 min.

Sprinkle the ingredients over the meat and add the culture. Mix roughly by hand. Mix thoroughly in batches to get the meat nice and sticky. I do this in the Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle on speed 4 for 3 min per batch. Each batch is 3-4 lbs (1.5-2 Kg).

Stuff into the casings. I use a Hakka 11lb vertical sausage stuffer. Tie off the casings and prick all over.

Dip the sausages in a Bactoferm Mold 600 solution (or spray).

Check the initial pH , it should be under 5.9 Incubate / ferment at 70-80F for 15-24 hours. The final pH should be between 5.2 and 4.9. This is a safe range and not too acidic (it can drop quite a bit further if you are not careful). If you are using a different culture, the time and temp may be different. I like the B-LC-007 as it is bioprotective and aids in restraining the growth of harmful bacteria.

Fermenting in the oven.

Move to the drying chamber at 55F and 80% humidity for the first week, 75% thereafter. Target weight loss is 45-50%. At that point it is ready to slice and serve. This should take 4-8 weeks

Finished pepperoni prior to equalization

Note that in the first batch (above) there was some case hardening. These were vacuum bagged and placed in the fridge for a month to equalize and they then were ready and the color was uniform.

The pepperoni is delicious. It is MUCH leaner than store bought (no grease puddles) and is able to be eaten plain / raw or cooked. It is a new family favorite and a lot seems to disappear while we are “decorating” the pizzas.

Fermented sausages are an advanced topic and if not done properly, you can suffer food poisoning. Please do not take this post as the complete story. If you are embarking on making these, I strongly suggest reading:

The Art of Making Fermented Sausages by Marianski

Drying chamber setup

I was able to purchase a “scratch and dent” wine fridge (Frigidaire Gallery 55 bottle) for use as a proper drying chamber. This means that I will now be able to dry meats and sausages year-round. It also means the Rubbermaid bin drying chamber is being retired. Once it warms up a bit outside, I have a left over piece of granite that I will cut and polish to set on top to cover the dents and dings.

The Inkbird humidity controller will be used to control the humidifier and dehumidifier that will reside in the chamber. They will tighten up the humidity swings seen when the compressor of the fridge kicks in to cool it down. The trick is to not have the humidifier and dehumidifier “tail chasing” each other, wasting energy and having the fridge compressor cycle on too often. One thing to be careful of is that you need the humidifier and dehumidifier to have mechanical on / off switches so that they will automatically come back on when the humidity controller re-applies power. Unfortunately most of the models on the market will not (requiring a user to press the power button)

First step is to run the chamber unloaded at the proper temperature to see that it is stable and get an idea of how often the compressor cycles on in the steady state. I am using the Ecowitt sensor in the chamber to monitor the temp and humidity levels and provide the logging via the ecowitt.net website (free service). The initial run of the empty chamber looks like this:

Empty fridge set for 49F

Next I checked the calibration of both the Ecowitt sensor and the Inkbird sensor. Using the damp salt box method (see the end of this page) they were both reading 78% after adjusting the cal offset of the Inkbird.

Once the humidifier and dehumidifier arrived, I then did a test run with them in the chamber but without any meat yet. The temperature plot is a sawtooth curve with the temperature slowly rising and then rapidly dropping as the compressor cycles on , cooling the fridge.

Testing with humidifier and dehumidifier in place.

Comparing the plots, you can see that the temperature cycle (left side) is a LOT faster initially. This indicates that the humidifier is putting out too much moisture and the tail chasing has started. Mid way through the plot, I reduced the output of the humidifier and you can see that the compressor is now cycling much less often (but still a bit more frequently than if the chamber was empty. At this point it is ready for the meat after it gets sanitized with a spritz of Star San over the entire interior.

The first thing to be dried is a new 12 lb (6 kg) batch of “Papa’s Pepperoni”. After fermenting overnight in the oven it was placed in the chamber.

Pepperoni in the drying chamber

The temperature and humidity plots a day later looked like this:

Pepperoni in the chamber

It still needs the humidifier turned down a bit but this is close. The telling sign is the nice mold growth seen at day 3.

Pepperoni on day 3.

The mold is penicillium nalgiovensis (Mold 600 culture) The sausages were inoculated with this prior to fermenting. The mold is important as it helps the flavor and a healthy growth of this desirable mold, should out-compete the nasty wild molds that may come in.

Note commissions may be earned on these items

Calibration of humidity sensors:

The second year I was using the drying chamber, I had a failed batch of Lonzino that took an inordinately long time to dry. Electronic humidity sensors can easily lose calibration over time. So before starting the next batch, I bought an Ecowitt temperature and humidity monitor. The Ecowitt and the Inkbird humidity values were different by 9 points! I had a hunch the Inkbird was off but needed to prove it.

With a bit of research, I found a cheap and easy way to check calibration. If you have ordinary salt (NaCl) that is saturated with water in a small closed container, the humidity will be 75% after a few hours as things reach equilibrium. This is perfect!. I don’t really care about the accuracy over the entire range of 0-100% but want it right when around 75%. It turned out the new Ecowitt was within 1 percentage point and the Inkbird was reading low by 10 points. So now I just set the Inkbird for 85% and it maintains the correct humidity level. I will probably re-check both devices, a couple of times per year. I did another check when setting up the new drying chamber.

A s you can see above, I set up the saturated salt in a small plastic box along with both the Ecowitt and the probe for the Inkbird and it was readily apparent the Inkbird was reading way low.


For an authoritative reference see: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01434816/document This is a nice scientific reference and provides other options for other humidity levels.

Schweinshaxe part II

This past week I had the opportunity to be go up to Baraboo, WI to visit my Mom (and set up her new iPad ), socially distanced of course. As we would often do on a visit to my home town, I stopped at the Meat Market and picked up a rib roast – for steaks, and a couple of nice looking big pork hocks / shanks.

Since I published the original post on making Schweinshaxe last year, we have made it a few times since with variable results. So, I was determined to address the variability / shortcomings of the original post and make a “close to perfect” example. Problems that we encountered included: skin not crispy enough, meat drying out, the skin sections falling off when transferring from sous vide bag to the roasting pan (not to mention an overly grease splattered oven a couple of times). So there were a few changes:

  • Get BIG pork shanks from the butcher. The skimpy, thin, pre-packaged ones at the grocery store don’t have enough meat to make it worth it and the meat dries out before the skin gets properly crispy (and the skin is really the star of the show).
  • Score the skin PRIOR to sous vide cooking. Be sure to only cut the skin and not go into the fat. It is better to be a bit too light on the cut than too deep into the fat layer. This addressed the problem of the skin pieces falling off when transferring and roasting. Plus itis a LOT easier to score the skin when raw than while it is gelatinous / jiggly after sous vide cooking
  • Sous vide at 160F for 24 hrs (vs 170F for 20 hrs). A bit lower temp lead to the meat and fat being firmer and less likely to fall apart on transfer. When transfering, slice the bag open and slide the meat out and then set it upright (don’t try to lift it out or it may crumble).
  • Salt the skin again after placing in the roasting pan (more crispiness)
  • Roast at 350F for 45-60 min (basically the same) initially then:
  • Convect roast at 425F for 45 min (longer and convect roast works better to crisp the skin than convect bake if you have it).
  • Skim the caramelized crispy goodness from the edges of the baking pan every 15 min initially and every 5-10min at the higher temp and place on the pork shank. If you leave it on the pan it will likely burn and when paced on the meat it also crisps up nicely.
  • Add the beer every 15 min or so to maintain a depth of 1/2 decreasing to 3/8″ of liquid. If you let this get too low, you will have a burnt mess and splattered oven. If too high (e.g. dumpin the beer at the beginning) the skin won’t be crisp enough but instead soggy on the bottom. I used most of a bottle of Leinie’s Honey Weiss. Don’t use an IPA or anything that is very hoppy!

Plate and serve – YUM. Crispy, crunchy, bubbly skin and delectable meat.

Emptying the Drying Chamber

The drying chamber was full with Lonzino, Soppressata, and Pepperoni. Creating the Lonzino was covered in a prior post. This is “simple” dry cured whole muscle meat (pork loin). The Soppressata and Pepperoni are both fermented dry cured sausages. This takes a bit more finesse to ensure food safety.

Before starting on your own, I highly recommend reading: “The Art of Making Fermented Sausages” by Marianski. Pay particular attention to chapter 9 – Safety Hurdles. This book is not so much for the recipes per se, but rather for the background on food science and the techniques for keeping safe. The Facebook group: Cured Meats: Charcuterie is also very highly recommended. However, this is a closed group and you need to apply to join.

I had done some sampling / taste testing a few weeks ago and decided to let the meat dry a bit more.

I pulled the remaining meats today,as they were close to their targeted weight loss and I needed to get them out of the basement before staining the dining table. I did not want to risk the meats picking up off flavors from the oil based gel stain which would soon be stinking up the house (and yes, this is mid -winter in Wisconsin, so I can’t just open all the windows and let in the -10 to +10F winds).

The meats were all improved. I really like them around 45-50% weight loss and the added drying time improved the flavors. My new favorite for the Lonzino is the Pepper / Juniper berry spiced version.

Scroll back for the prior posts with the recipes.

Below is the temperature and humidity plots for the drying chamber while the sausages were drying:


The overall process for making the Pepperoni is nearly identical to that of the Soppressata, except that it does not need to be pressed.

Pepperoni (started 12/24/20)

  • ~8-10 lbs Pork butts well trimmed of all soft fat and much of the hard fat
  • Salt 2.5%
  • Cure #2 0.25%
  • Dextrose 0.2%
  • White sugar 0.3%
  • Cracked Black Pepper 0.3%
  • Sweet Paprika 0.6%
  • Fennel Seeds – cracked / crushed 0.3%
  • Cayenne pepper – ground 0.15%
  • Gochugaru – Korean red pepper flakes 0.15%
  • B-LC-007 Starter culture 0.02%
  • Water (for the starter culture) 1/4 cup
  • Bactoferm 600 mold culture

Process as above for the Soppressata but there is no need to press. Smaller 32- 45mm or so casings would be desirable, but all I had left were 60 mm.

The first sampling at 4 weeks had hit the low end of the target weight loss (~35%) but were still a bit soft for my liking but made good pizza. This sausage is much leaner than commercially made sausage. There were NO puddles of grease on top of the pizza and it tasted very good.

Later, at 6 weeks (2/10/21) and 50% weight loss, the flavor and texture were MUCH improved for eating fresh. I can’t wait to try some on pizza!


Soppressata is a mildly spicy dry cured italian pork sausage. It is seemingly one of the more common starting points for dry cured / fermented sausages.

Batch 1 was started started 12/17/20

Sanitize everything! I sprayed the utensils, grinder, counter top, hands, etc with StarSan (same as I use for Brewing)

  • ~ 10 lbs Pork butts deboned, and well trimmed of all soft fat, connective tissue, silverskin, tendons and much of the hard fat
  • Salt 2.5%
  • Cure #2 0.25%
  • Dextrose 0.3%
  • Cracked Black Pepper 0.3%
  • Red Pepper Flakes – Korean Gochugaru 0.3% (finely ground and no seeds)
  • Sweet Paprika 0.3%
  • B-LC-007 Starter culture 0.023%
  • Water (for the starter culture) 1/4 cup
  • Bactoferm 600 mold culture in water bath
  • Coarsely grind the COLD pork ~ 1/4″ plate
  • Sprinkle the starter on the water and let rest for~ 15 min
  • Mix meat and non spice ingredients together well for at least 5 minutes. The mixture should be quite sticky due to myosin development when ready. Add the spices and mix for another couple of minutes.
  • Stuff into 60 mm casings (3x 24 inch casings). I use inedible collagen casings and tie mine at about 12″ length so they fit my high tech drying chamber.
  • Up to this point everything MUST be kept cold. Utensils and meat in the fridge or better the freezer to stay <40F.
  • Save about 1/2c of meat mixture and test the pH. The initial pH should be between 5.8 and 5.9.
  • Once stuffed the sausages are dipped in a solution of Bactoferm 600 (penicillium mold) which adds flavor and is a protectant from harmful molds. This results in the traditional white mold covering the casings. I use a bread loaf pan to hold the solution and then dip / roll the pieces in it.
  • The sausages then ferment until the pH drops below 5.3 (or preferably 5.0). Use a small sample of the meat in a cup / bowl for the pH testing. I use my kitchen oven for the fermenting. The sausages are laid directly on cookie sheets (Teal prefers that I do not place them directly on the racks). The light is turned on in the oven as needed (e.g. 15 min every hour) to hold the temp at 75-85F. This should take about 20-24 hours to hit the target pH of 4.8 to 5.0. In order to have a shelf stable final product the final pH must be < 5.3 (coupled with low enough water activity). Lower pH also gives a “tangier” product.
    With my Kitchenaid double oven if the light is left on full time the temp rises to 95F (a bit too warm).
  • Now the sausages are hung in the drying chamber for a week. Temp should be ~55F and humidity setpoint of 75%.
  • The Soppressata then needs to be pressed for proper shape and texture. I used pieces of vinyl coated wire shelving secured with tie wraps for this (yes this is the low budget end of the range / technique). The sausages are pressed for a week or 2 in the drying chamber. Tighten the tie wraps every day or 2 to maintain pressure.
  • Remove the press rack after 1-2 weeks and rehang the sausages to continue drying until they reach the target weight loss of 45-50%.
Soppressata being pressed in the wire shelving. in the middle. Top are Lonzino and below is Pepperoni.

After 7 weeks (2/10/21), the weight loss was 50%. The sausages were pulled and washed down with warm water to loosen the casings. The casings (with the mold ) were stripped off. They were then sliced for a QC check and taste test prior to washing in red wine and vacuum packing.

They taste very good, but I would like it a bit hotter / spicier and maybe some fennel (maybe do Finocchiona next?). I had one stick that had an air pocket and had to be discarded. I need to work on my stuffing technique and will heat to sterilize the spices next time.

My grandson Sawyer absolutely loves it. Here is a video of him helping to grind the meat:


The Art of Making Fermented Sausages – Marianski


Dining Table – Top Joinery

The table top is the largest part of the project. Not necessarily the most complex but certainly the most time consuming. As a result, I ended up working on multiple other items, notably the table top support structure, in between. For example. after glueing up the top , I was working on the slider rail components. So, the following article while focussed on the top and its joinery was only a portion of what was worked on in the last couple of weeks. However, I have gathered the work sessions together to provide a more coherent story of working the top and will do so similarly for the under framing.

Because the top is for an extension table, the top is made up of pieces of wood that run across the width of the table. This is done so that the seasonal expansion and contraction of the wood will not affect the alignment of the joints too much. As I am building the table it is February in Wisconsin. With outside temperatures now in the -20 to +30F range, the humidity is reaching the seasonal bottom. So I have to be careful to ensure that the wood movement will be accomodated and it will be mostly expansion from here on out.

The initial glue up of the 3 slabs is fairly straight forward. The top, including the center wing is to be 8 feet long and about 41″ wide. The center is approximately 24″ wide and each of the end wings is ~36″ wide. The pieces were jointed both by machine and with hand plane tuning of the joints. They were then glued up. At this point the joints in each slab were then hand planed and scraped to be reasonably flat. With the faces reasonably flat, it was time to attack the edges and square up the pieces. My stock was not defect free and I started with glue-ups that were about 46″ across with the hope of 40-42″ clear center sections. The defects at the ends included knots, tear out and jointer snipe.

Squaring the panels

The first step was to rip the panel pieces to width so that both of the long grain edges were parallel. The next steps were to cross cut the pieces to the approximate width of the table top so that they were then neat rectangles. I did this by using a large drywall square clamped to the top and a circular saw for the first pass and then a second pass with a router and 1/2″ end mill to clean up the cut. The router pass took off <1/8″ and left a nice clean finish (without any saw marks / burns). The goal was to get the pieces within 1/8-1/4″ of final width when they were all lined up.

Making the butterfly wing

The center panel then had to be cut in half across the width of the table. This was done on the table saw. The edges for the center joint were then tuned up with a hand plane to remove any saw marks. The butterfly wing uses Soss brand invisible hinges for the center joint. These allow the wing to fold back on itself 180 degrees and are invisible when the center wing is opened flat. The hinges need to be mortised into the center edges of the butterfly wing panels. The alignment is critical, so I used a micrometer adjustable fence on the router to set the distance of the mortise form the table top and then carefully marked the ends of the 2 sets of mortise cuts. As you can see, the green masking tape is used to help make the ends of the cuts more visible. A plunge router with 1/2″ carbide end mill (up cut spiral in router bit terms) is used for the cuts. The longer cut for the lip of the hinge is done first which is ~1/4″ deep. Then the plunge depth is reset for rest of the hinge mechanism mortise (~7/8″ deep) and the narrower deep mortise is cut in 2 passes. I made the cut for the lip purposely a bit deep to allow for final planing if required and adjustment of the fit, shimming up the hinge ends with plastic card stock (hotel room key cards).

Mortise for on of the Soss Hinges on the butterfly leaf.

I had a recessed pull left over from the boat construction and it adds a nice touch to the leaf, making it easier to grasp the leaf to open it. The placement is such that the pull handle will lay on top of the outer rails so that it will not hang down when it is open.

Mortise for the recessed pull. Be careful as the pull edges are not perfectly square due to the hand polishing that was done. I am sure the price today is higher. This was bought >20 years ago.
Recessed pull installed in the leaf.

I also tested the operation of the butterfly leaf in the table frame. The goal was to ensure the leaf really fit prior to putting in the alignment pins and setting the final width of the table top. Construction of the frame will be covered in a future post.

Testing the butterfly leaf

Alignment pins and final trimming

Pins are used to align the leaves of the top. This is to counter some warping and keep the butterfly leaf level with the rest of the top. Having matched sets of holes was a bit of a worry bout I found a doweling jig at Rockler that is just the thing for this. The pins and their sockets require 8mm / 5/16″ holes in the edges of the top panels. The holes for the two large end panels are drilled first. Then the butterfly leaf is drilled to match the corresponding mating side holes. A 5/16″ drill bit in the large leaf hole accurately aligns the jig for the butterfly leaf holes.

Drilling the pin holes in the butterfly leaf. Note the lower drill bit being used to register the jig to the large leaf hole.

Now the pins and sockets could be placed in the holes for the test fitting. Everything fit perfectly. However the 5/16″ holes are a tiny bit large for the 8mm hardware. Getting the pins out was easy. However the sockets are not easy to grasp> I sacrificed a small screwdriver to the cause. I heated the tip red hot with a torch and bent it at a right angle. This took a couple of passes. Then I cooled it by plunging into a block of wax, rehardening it a bit. The pins were then glued in with thick superglue. The sockets were set about 1/32″ below the surface to allow for final tuning of the joint.

Modified screwdriver and socket for the alignment pins

Next the long edges of the top had to be trimmed to final width. The ends panels were about 1/4″ wider than the butterfly leaf. The final trimming was done with a router and 1/2″ end mill. I made an alignment jig by routing a scrap of plywood to the width of the router base edge to the edge of the bit. This was used to set the long straight edge (Rip Straight) and it was clamped in place. 2 passes were made – one at 1/2 depth and one at full to allow fast enough of a cut and eliminate burning.

Setting the fence
Template block used to set the fence
First cut has been made.

The top was scraped and then sanded as one large panel. Sanding was done with a random orbit sander at 150 and then 220 grit. Final sanding was by hand with a sanding block in the direction of the grain

Ready for sanding. Note the bucket of shavings from the hand planing and scraping of the top and joints.

The edges were then partially rounded over with a 5/16″ round over bit. This was not a full depth cut but instead left a bull nose profile. As you might expect there was some tear out of the end grain. The video below shows how to clean this up.

The top is now ready for finishing. However, with subzero temperatures this will have to wait a few days (need ventilation). So on to cleaning up the frame and rail system.

Dining Table – Coloring the Wood

You might think that “coloring the wood” is an odd phrase but in this project I am dealing with a notoriously difficult type of wood – Cherry. While lovely, cherry is notoriously difficult due to its problems: widely varying colors between planks, divergence of color in different planks as the wood ages, splotching with most stains, bleed back splotches when dyed. THis could be partly solved by getting a whole tree custom cut and dried, but what if that tree was still not the color you wanted – e.g. one of the very light variants, or had sapwood incursions that you wanted to hide, etc.

What I am doing, is using a variant of a finishing system I have been using for almost 20 years and it was taught to me by Jeff Jewitt of (homesteadfinishing.com) at a Wisconsin Woodworker’s Guild class almost 20 years ago. It uses a combination of dye to determine the base color, shellac as a sealer and light toner, gel stain to enhance the wood grain and then finally your top coats of choice.

When starting out to achieve a new wood color combination, I make a series of test panels to determine which dye color to use and dilution, shellac color, and which gel stain color(s) to use. I have built up a library of these for Oak, Ash and Maple, but did not have a sample set for Cherry. Additionally, the wood I bought has both very light and very dark heartwood and I would like to even it out. Plus, the Behlen Solarlux dye I had used in the past on Cherry was now discontinued.

To start, I ripped some scrap pieces of both the light and dark cherry and sanded it close to what I would do for the piece (yes there are still imperfections, but overall it is close). Then I dye each side of the panels. One side was Transtint Golden Brown and the other side Transtint Reddish Brown at the recommended dilution. Once this dried thoroughly I applied 2 wash coats of shellac per side Zinssner Seal Coat diluted 50% with alcohol on one side and Shellac Shack Ruby (~1.5lb cut) on the other. Once these dried I then masked off sections for each of the candidate gel stains. I tried General Finishes (GF) Georgian Cherry, GF CandleLight, and Minwax Cherry. The results at this stage are seen below:

Sort side planks are the “dark” cherry, center long planks are the “light” cherry

As you can see the left 2 planks are much closer in color – this was using the Reddish Brown dye. The right 2 planks did not pull together with the Golden Brown dye. This is the side with the Seal coat / blonde / amber shellac. The darker cross bands, from the bottom are: GF georgian Cherry, GF Candlelight, MW cherry. We decided to go with the Reddish Brown Dye, Ruby shellac and GF Georgian Cherry gel stain.

The parts were carefully sanded to 220 grit, vacuumed and tacked off. The dye and shellac were sprayed with DeVilbiss Plus HVLP gun and 1.2mm tip at 30-40 PSI which provided a very fine mist. Below you can see the pieces with the front 2 just having the dye applied. The back 2 have the first coat of shellac applied (and still wet).

It is very important to let the pieces dry thoroughly (1 hr in the winter) between coats) to avoid bleed back and splotching problems. With bleed back you spray or wipe on and everything looks OK< and then come back 15 minutes later and splotches have appeared as the finish dries and underlying finish or dye is wicked out of the pores. After the 2nd coat of shellac dries, the surfaces is thoroughly scuffed to full scratch (no shiny spots) with a maroon Scotch Brite pad. Using the Scotch Brite instead of the equivalent 320 grit sandpaper gives a better finish and GREATLY reduces the chance of sand throughs with the thin shellac layer. Next, the gel stain is wiped on and buffed lightly off.

Front 3 pieces with Gel stain, rear piece, scuffed and ready.

The gel stain really enhances the grain (and any errant scratches as well). While still wet it also gives you a good idea of the look of the final finish.

The complement to prefinishing the pieces prior to assembly is then to use a colored epoxy for the glue. In most cases – e.g. Craftsman Style Bed, Crib or Dressers, I will completely prefinish before glue up. In this case, as I want to use a water based finish, the oil based gel stain needs to dry for 2 weeks first, so I proceeded with glue up after letting the stain dry for a day (risking damage to the stain). The joints are taped off as part of dry fit assembly to ease clean up of excess epoxy. The epoxy is mixed up and then tinting powder and a couple of drops of the Transtint dye are added along with Colloidal silica. The Silica thickens the epoxy and lightens the color. The goal is to end up with the epoxy being the same hue but slightly darker than the finished wood. If it is lighter it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Applying the epoxy to one of the slip tenons, note that I am not allergic and have also applied Liquid Gloves to my hands
First corner block in place and installing the slip tenons. You can see the good color match of the epoxy and the wood finish
Non standard clamping /holding mechanism
Band clamp in place and joint cleaned up
Band clamp and trash can rubber bands as this end did not want to cooperate

When using epoxy it is always a good idea to use gloves. I will often just use “Liquid Gloves” (Available at Ace Hardware). Clean up of the joints is done with paper towels lightly dampened with denatured alcohol. WHen clamping joints glued with epoxy you do not need (nor want) a lot of pressure, unlike the typical PVA glues. The strap clamp and big rubber bands (for trash can liners) provide plenty of clamping pressure. Consistent pressure is important. You don’t want to over tighten and loosen and have a glue starved joint.

I use West System Epoxy. In this case I used the fast hardener as well as the Colloidal Silica (I like the big tubs from System 3).

For an earlier and much more complex glue up of a King Sized Craftsman Style Bed headboard with nearly 80 pieces see: