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Thread: Questions Concerning Coffee Table Top

  1. #1
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    Questions Concerning Coffee Table Top

    It's been a long time since I was last here, but I've finally gotten around to working in the shop again. I'm working to finish a coffee table that I started for my son quite awhile ago...longer than I care to admit. The design is something his room mate came up with and is well beyond my skill level, but I'm giving it a try. I'm almost done with the cabinet portion, except for the sanding/finishing, and need to construct a top for it and finish it or have it finished by someone. The questions are in bold so they'll be easy to find.



    He's decided not to use the VT feet, but instead have a 3/4" base with a simple cut to mirror the lines/gaps in the cabinet.



    The cabinet portion is made from walnut and walnut plywood (for the swing out drawers, drawer front, and tilt out panel). I'm looking for suggestions on construction of the top. He would like to have the VT Fire emblem that he cut from 3/64" steel applied to the top. The emblem is 17" tall and 47" wide. Could be inlaid, but that would have to be done by someone better than me. I was thinking of gluing it to the top and covering the entire top with the epoxy bar coat. If I make the top from glued-up walnut, I'm not sure if any seasonal movement would affect the thick coating. Any one know? Could make it from plywood and edge it with wood. I'm guessing the top would need a lip so that the coating would cover the steel emblem. Edging would need to be wide enough so that the top edge could be rounded and so that the corners could be rounded some to baby-proof it a little. He now has a 6-month-old daughter.

    Originally, he was going to paint the emblem school colors, but has since decided to leave it unfinished. It will have to be cleaned up obviously. Is there anything that needs to be done to it before it can be covered with epoxy?



    Since this table is fairly heavy, and I'm sure the top will be used to lift the table when moving it, any suggestions on how to attach the top so that it will withstand this stress?

    Thanks in advance for your assistance.

    Frank
    The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing...www.jbs.org

  2. #2
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    Since you have long grain on both sides/ends, the idea of a plywood top with hardwood edges sounds good to me. You could put a wide-enough hardwood edge to overlap the edges of the cabinet. Since the long grain and plywood don't have expansion/contraction issues, I would use many pocket screws, or even biscuits and glue, to attach the top. With the inch-plus hardwood edges, the screws and/or glue would be in the hardwood rather than the plywood.

    I am not fond of epoxy finish on furniture. It scratches, and eventually separates from the wood. I would use my favorite Target Acrylic Lacquer, EM 6000, which has been reformulated (a few years ago) to adhere to multimedia projects such as the wood with metal inlay.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  3. #3
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    Thanks Charlie, I appreciate your input. I've been leaning toward exactly what you mentioned...a plywood top with hardwood edging. I don't know how to inlay such a large object, so unless I can find someone locally who can do such a thing, I'm going to need to do a thick covering to cover the metal emblem on top of the plywood. I'm attending a local woodworkers guild Saturday and will see if I can find out any info on someone who could do the inlay.

    Thanks again,

    Frank
    The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing...www.jbs.org

  4. #4
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    I think you will find the inlay easier than you think. Attach the metal with double stick tape or something like that. Scribe around all the edges with a fine knife (exacto knife or the like). Then set a router to a depth equal to the thickness of the metal, and rout out the inlay area. A big (1/2 inch) bit will save a lot of time, but won't get into the fine detail. You might want to switch to a finer bit (1/4" or less) to get into the corners. The sharpest corners won't work with any router bit, but some fine chisel work should clean out the corners. Don't worry about a tiny gap around the metal... the glue will fill it in, and you can rub in some fine sanding dust while the glue is wet.

    The thickness of an epoxy finish is what makes it separate from the substrate. Veneers work because they are thin enough to not be able to "push" the substrate when they want to expand and contract. Once a layer of veneer (or glue or epoxy) becomes thick enough to have a mind of it's own, it is almost guaranteed to separate. My wife and I love to travel, and I have seen countless veneers 1/8 inch thick separated from the substrate in European museums. Thin veneers stay attached. Thin finishes don't normally pop off.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  5. #5
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    Great looking table Frank. To add to what Charlie said about routing for the inlay. If you have spiral cutting bits, you'll find them much easier to control when cutting recesses.
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  6. #6
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    Thanks Darren and Charlie. I guess my concern with the inlay is the fact that the area to be routed is so large that the base of the router will, at some point, no longer rest on the original surface. I know it can be done, I've just never done it. I'll research ways to accomplish it and see what works best for me.

    Charlie, the one time I used the epoxy coating top was about thirty years ago, and after a couple of years, it did begin to delaminate. I figured I'd done something wrong in the process.
    The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing...www.jbs.org

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank McKinney View Post
    .... I guess my concern with the inlay is the fact that the area to be routed is so large that the base of the router will, at some point, no longer rest on the original surface.
    Easy. Start in the center, and work towards the outside scribed lines. The router will primarily rest on the uncut surface while you are in the center, and on the outside area when you reach the edges.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  8. #8
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    Thanks, again, Charlie. I never even thought of that.
    The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing...www.jbs.org

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