This is part three of my build for a Dining Room Table and will include the hardware attachment and finishing / staining phase.
To go to the Part 1, (building the legs and lower portions) see: Dining Room Table – Dual Trestle and Extension Slides – Part 1
To go to Part 2, (the table top and breadboard ends) see: Dining Room Table – Dual Trestle and Extension Slides – Part 2
Attaching Hardware / Extension Slides & Finishing
This table needs to be capable of being broken down in order to move it into my house. Also, I wanted to be able to take it apart if we ever move or if I need to modify it one day.
So what I did here was measured where the stretcher needed to be. Planed it so there was a 1/6″ gap so it would be easy to slide into the legs, but still provide solid support. One in place, I drilled a hole straight though the legs and the stretcher to accommodate a 1/4″ steel rod. This is threaded steel rod. I bought several feet of this stuff for just a few dollars. Here’s one source on Amazon.com. As of this writing, it was $7.33 for 36″ and I’d suggest getting more than you think you need. Once I had this, I cut it to desired length and used a fine grinding wheel to soften the bolt edges so the end caps would thread on them easily. To cut the 1/4″ x 20 thread rod, I tried using my Dremel, a hacksaw, and a bolt cutter. The hacksaw left the cleanest line, but took the most effort. The bolt cutter made the shortest work of the cutting, but left the most ragged edges. Still, end-to-end, using bolt cutter and grinder was the fasted way to complete these parts end to end. That’s important as I needed to make a bunch more of these for next steps. I’ll definitely be using this method for more joining of things. It’s great to be able to make your own size bolts for whatever you need.
Here’s what the bolts and end caps look like when they get put together. The end caps are actually called “Cap Nuts for Connector Bolts.” But different places call them different things. There are also plastic end caps. If searching for such a product, you can try both terms.
The Cap Nuts for Connector Bolts I used are from Rockler.com. You can get such things from a variety of suppliers. But I’ve used Rockler a lot, these were the desired color for me to match with the intended stain, and Rockler provides a nice tech sheet with size details on the bolts. When getting stuff from Rockler, it’s best to be on their mailing list and get free shipping options. These most often have minimal order value, but their shipping isn’t the cheapest. Or the fastest for that matter. But they do have good stuff so if you plan ahead just a little, you can take advantage of free shipping offers. Fortunately, I also have a Woodcraft store not too far from me, so I also use a lot of stuff from them; especially when I need it quickly. In this case though, Woodcraft’s Cap Nuts were not the color I preferred. Here is Rockler’s Technical Sheet for the bolts. This info is useful to get the sizes and measurements correct. I had originally drilled a slightly oversized hole for the 1/4″ rod, but I widened the hole a little on the ends to accommodate the neck of the cap nut which is – of course – slightly larger than the rod.
Trimming the Top
Now that we’re getting close to the real deal final stuff, it’s time to trim off any excess on the table top and square up all the pieces. To do this, I put all the table top components on a makeshift plywood workbench and clamped them down on one side. On the other side, I used a long Empire straightedge and clamped that down, allowing for the correct amount of offset for my particular circular saw. In a perfect world, I’d own a nice Festool track saw. But that’s too expensive for my typical work so I can’t justify it. Instead, I put an 80T blade on my circular saw and hoped for the best.
OK, the trimming went ok. Sort of. Once I got everything perfect, I was actually about 1/2″ shorter than I would have wanted. I have just barely enough room for an apron without encroaching on the top of the legs. And in fact, I did cut off a small portion of the top of the leg’s horizontal member to make more room for the apron. I probably should have oversized the initial table top parts a little more in anticipation of trimming. It’s always easy to take more off. My final table width will come out to 40″ and I was originally targeting 42″ so that’s kind of bad. It looks great and will work fine. But still a mistake as I went from design to the reality of build with the tools and skills I’ve got. I think if I had a high quality track saw I’d not have done such a hack job of the trimming and wouldn’t have lost so much material. Thankfully, the extra I needed to take off to get everything square was not so much that it ruined any of the breadboard work.
Anyway, after the trimming was done on all four sides, I used a 1/4″ roundover bit in the router to soften the edges. Then some initial sanding. As you can see, I used two random orbit sanders; one for each hand. This makes things go so much faster. Twice as fast actually. My initial sanding was with 80 grit to really make sure everything was level. Remember, I don’t own a planer so the boards were just a bit off after glue up. They were really close, but not perfect. I know some folks use hand planers to even things out. But that takes really good planes and serious skill with them. I have neither. It would have taken probably $500 in new high end planes to do it with planing. And a whole lot of test scrap to build some skill first. Thankfully, my original boards and my glue up was close enough that I could get away with sanding. The second pass was with 150 grit. Then I went to 220. Except, then I read the instructions on my grain sealer and stain. They recommend staying at 150 grit. So I went back to 150. The thing is, the 220 was silky smooth. I should have just tested the stain on the 220 to see how it took. As it is, I went forward with the sealing and staining on top of 150 grit. Which worked out fine and the poly on top is great. But I should have tested at 220 as that might have been even better.
Table Top Equalizer Sliders
The Extension Sliders
Next up, the holes for the sliders need to be drilled though the legs for attachment. Attaching the sliders is a non-trivial exercise for the way I constructed this. Normally, you’d attach them and then screw in the top. But I’m going to use the 1/4″x20 steel rod again with the cap nuts to attach the sliders to the legs and the table top. Again, this is so I can break everything down. So I’ve got to be careful where I place holes as I’m going to need to be able to reach areas under the table to screw everything together. One thing I had to do was carefully enlarge the holes in the 52″ equalizer slider from TableLegs.com to accommodate the 1/4″ rod. You have to do this with very straight drilling as you don’t want to go into the slider mechanism. Osborne also sells equalizer slides. Here’s the Osborne instructions for installation. I ended up with TableLegs.com mostly because they had the size I needed, and it was also a little less expensive than the Osborne products. Though both companies have solid reputations based on my online research. Osborne is made out of maple. I’m not sure about TableLegs.com. It’s either beech or maple I believe, but I’m not sure which. If I do another extension table I might try Osborne just to compare them.
Now the equalizer sliders need to be attached to the tops. Or at least, the attachment points need to be lined up, drilled out and readied. I don’t have a picture of it, but what I’d done was put all the table top components on top of the sliders that had been installed in the legs. Then lined everything up, measured to get all the sides equal, and marked the position. This is much better than trying to measure. I should mention that I also had all the parts, (sliders, legs, tops, etc.), labeled for position. Yes, everything should be perfectly square and any component should be interchangeable. But even the tiniest differences at this point might matter. So better just to have things that can work without question rather then mess around trying to be overly precise where it might be very hard to do that.
Once everything was lined up, I marked the hole locations. I did this by using a drill bit through the holes and just leaving a small dimple. Then I removed the sliders and drilled some pilot holes for some threaded inserts. By using threaded inserts, I’d be able to easily remove the table top sections from the sliders for re-assembly elsewhere. And not have to worry about stripping out screw holes from repeatedly disassembly / re-assembly. The only negative here is you really do have to be precise here. This was a nerve-wracking exercise as if I drilled through the top of the table, I’d have to go bang my head against a wall for an hour. Or more. I did not have stop collars the right size for my drill bit, so I used the old simple trick with a piece of masking tape at the right depth around my drill bit. Then drilled very, very carefully. (After practicing on some scrap a few times.)
The threaded inserts also came from Rockler. And you can see the T-handle wrench insert tool (from Woodcraft) and and Power Drive Threaded Insert Tool in the drill designed to put these in. I used the power drill to drive these most of the way in, but then finished with the hand tool to make sure I didn’t overdrive anything.
Table Pin Alignment
Putting in the pins to keep the large top sides aligned, (and the leaves aligned when they’re in), required a custom jig. I’d wanted to use my Beadlock tenon jig for this, but the problem was the drill bit sizes didn’t match the table pin hole sizes. These pins come in plastic, wood and brass. I choose the brass alignment pins from Rocker.com. Once again, I love the fact that they provide technical documents for these pins. Even though these are small details, it’s just so much easier to have instructions and the design sizes for such things rather than have to measure with calipers and such. Yes, it’s easy enough to measure such things, but knowing for sure what the standards are meant to be is helpful and saves time.
The Aprons were made to just come down right over the top portion of the table legs. I only made these for the large ends, not the leaves. We’ll mostly be using the table for six, so I don’t care too much if that’s missing from the center. If it bothers me, one day I’ll add them. Originally, I thought of making fancy leaves that would butterfly out from the center. And maybe one day I’ll do that too. But just having the leaves in the closet is fine for now, so no need to take up more space with apron. Anyway, I attached these parts with bolts and then used table top fasteners from Rockler to attach to table top. (Before assembly of the apron, I’d cut grooves for the fasteners in the top portion of the apron.) The table top fastener data sheet has details on how to attach, alignment of the grooves, etc.
I’ve got a love / hate thing going on with finishing. It’s great seeing the final work come together. But I really like the build part better. The all critical prep work of sanding, cleanup, etc., is tedious. And finishing is messy and uncomfortable. I say uncomfortable because I go beyond the N95 mask I typically wear for protection from sawdust when cutting Instead I use a better mask with filters designed for VOC type chemicals. This is the right way to do things, but that mask can be annoying. I know most people don’t care. And yes, sometimes if doing something small I’ll just get it done and not always be perfectly compliant with the safety gear. But for a larger finish project I’ll use the better mask.
Anyway, my goal was to match an easier piece I’d done. A dining room hutch. For that I’d used General Finishes Prairie Wheat. I’ve had success with General Finishes products in the past and gel stain is really easy to work with. One challenge I was concerned about was getting in the little crevices on the leg braces. There was no way I would have wanted to stain before assembly. Just more trouble than it would be worth in this case. For something like this, it might have been nice to just use something more amenable to spraying on, but I needed to match the other piece. Here’s what I decided to use: Aqua Coat to seal the grain, General Finishes Prairie Wheat for color, and General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Urethane Topcoat. (Note, that’s not Arm-R-Seal in the pic below.)
The only challenge is getting the color match as close as possible. The hutch was done with some black mixed in to match the sideboard it was going to be on top of. And it was built using pine because that was what the sideboard was. But the table is Red Oak and would likely take stain differently. So it was time for some tests.
Now here’s some good news! Turns out the closest color match to what I’m trying to accomplish requires no modifications to the base stain! This will save a lot of time and effort.
So here we go. First I vacuumed the top and then used denatured alcohol to clean up any remaining gunk. After drying out, (which doesn’t take long), I used the Aqua Coat. And next, the first coat of the stain. I put two coats of stain on the legs and bottom of the table tops. Then three on the top surface of the table tops. In between coats, I used 400 grit sandpaper mounted on cork, which was in turn mounted on some blocks I’d made. This was just a very light sanding to get rid of any bubbles or minor remaining issues. Some people like to wet sand in between. I’d never done that or tested this method so I wasn’t going to try here. After waiting a few days for the last coat of stain to be fully dried out, I then applied the Arm-R-Seal. Two coats for legs and table top bottoms. And four coats for the table tops themselves.
First stain coat.