Surf Board Table III -vii


I tried to get an image that shows how the black dye along with my oil finish brings out the grain in the ash wood used to make the base of the surfboard table. One of the reasons that I dye the wood is to accentuate the grain to create a fluid-like pattern under the top.

Please be sure and take a look at this next posting.

Surf Board Table III -vi


I mix a custom blend for my wipe on, oil finish. After the oil mix is applied I allow it to soak into the wood then wipe it dry. I’ll apply at least three coats, buffing with very fine steel wool in between coats. Each coat takes a day to dry.

After the second coat of dye dries on the base I’ll apply the oil mix over the dye.



Surf Board Table III -v


I’ve attached the cross pieces onto the base structure and after a little final sanding it is ready to be dyed black.


I use a water based aniline dye. It will take two applications with some light sanding in between to give a nice even color. The water based dye will not fade when exposed to uv light as will alcohol based dye. Water based dye does raise the grain a little, hence the extra sanding step.

While the base dries I work on sanding the edges of the top.


It’s important to not overlook any detail at this stage. Soon I’ll be applying the finish and any touch-ups or adjustments will be very hard to do after that.


The edges are staring to look nice and wood grain is starting to show it’s beauty. The top needs a final sanding and I will be ready to apply the finish.


As I work through ever finer grades of sandpaper, to bring out the true beauty of the wood, various small scratches begin to appear. They were always there, but were so fine that they weren’t visible until the wood around them is sanded with a very fine grit. The scraper takes very fine shavings off these areas, which will then be further sanded so that the top has a uniform, very fine, surface.



Surf Board Table III -iv


The table base is glued up. While the glue sets I’ll start sanding the boards I’ve glued up for the top. First I set up some cross pieces on a work bench.


By using shims I can get the three cross pieces aligned in a single plane. This helps as I need to now sand the top as flat as I can. Having the work piece rest on a flat plane helps a lot. And now I begin sanding the top. Table tops take a lot of sanding.


I start with a belt sander.

To make sure that I am sanding the work piece flat I check it often with a pair of winding sticks.


And then I go back to sanding. Eventually I get one face flat, then I turn it over and work on the other face. After an hour or so of using the belt sander I turn to a jig I developed some years ago to further flatten the work and to take out the machine marks left by the power belt sander.


It’s good exercise!

When the top is flat and smoothed I lay the pattern back on it, trace the outline one more time and then cut it out with a jig saw.


Sorry about the dust on the camera lens. Things are pretty dusty at this point.

The sawn edge is smoothed by using a sharp block plane.


The edge is then rounded over with a router.


And the top is starting to look like a surfboard.



Next in the series.

Surf Board Table III -iii

The legs are cut to fit up against the center arc at a 30 degree angle and mortises or slots are cut on that beveled face to receive the tenons that fit through the arc. I use the arc pattern to locate the slots in the arc.


After cutting those I do the final shaping on the arc. The convex curve is shaped on the belt sander table.


And the concave curve is shaped by hand using a spoke shave.


A test assembly of two of the legs to the arc reveals an interesting form.


I often take a little time to consider the forms created by accident when assembling furniture elements. To some degree there is not that much “accident” involved as I intentionally created the parts with the goal of creating an interesting or compelling shape.

I use to whip out an old Polaroid camera and take a few shots. Then I’d pin them to my office wall. I still study them for ideas.


Now I use one of digital cameras and my hard drive has become the studio wall. I actually like the studio wall better.

Adding the second set of legs makes it easier to see how this could turn into a coffee table.p1010019.jpg

Next I’ll shape the top, add some cross pieces and I can glue up the base.

Next post is here.

Surf Board Table III -ii

Part 2 in the making of the surf board coffee table.


One more check of the pattern with the boards test clamped then I trace the pattern onto the boards to help me align them during glue up.


I gather up my supplies- wood glue, shop made applicator, extra clamps, wax paper and a rag -and bring them to the glue up frame area of the shop. You can see the boards set on the glue up frame in preparation of a test clamp. Once you start spreading the glue you have to work fast to get the boards set up on the frame, aligned and clamped so it pays to have everything you may need at hand.

pc050022.jpg Here’s the glue up frame with the work pieces all clamped in the test clamp. This is the time to decide if you need more clamps, cross palls or other supplies.

pc050019.jpg The cross palls are, in this case 2 x 4s, clamped across the direction of the glue joints to hold the boards in alignment and in a single plane. They also keep the whole glue-up assembly from popping off the frame when I crank down on the bar clamps.

Now I take everything down and spread the wood glue on the edges to be glued.

pc050023.jpg Did I mention that you have to work fast to do this?

While the top is in the clamps as the glue sets I work on cutting out the legs. pc050003.jpg

Once the legs are cut out on the band saw they go to the drum sander to sand out the saw blade marks and get the legs to their final shape. pc050004.jpg

to be continued…. here

Surf Board Table III

Hmm, maybe it should be “surfboard table” instead of “surf board table”. I better check it out.

Surf Board Table by Todd Fillingham

I got another order for one and have taken a few shots of the some of the steps in making one. This is a very general description of the process and is not intended as instructional.

The first step was to check my lumber supply to see if I had some nice pieces on hand that would work for this table. I generally make these out of maple and ash, with a nice strip of walnut as the stringer, the center strip of wood on the top. I didn’t have enough maple and needed a little more ash so I drove down to my favorite lumber yard last Friday and sorted through their stacks. I found some nice maple and just enough ash.

I like to let the wood sit in my shop for a few days before I start working with it, especially in the winter when the heat is on and my shop may be warmer and drier than the lumber yard. Wood is a fickle material and to work it you need to understand and respect it. Moisture moves in and out of wood through hollow cells that are arrayed in unique ways for each piece of wood. As the moisture enters the wood the cell expands, as it leaves the cell shrinks. When you get thousands of these cells expanding and contracting the piece of wood changes shape. My job is to work with the wood to shape it into the shapes that I want. Sometimes that means just letting the piece sit for awhile and acclimate to a new environment.

I planed flat and glued up the ash for the long arc under the top and laid a pattern for the arc over the wood, traced the outline and cut it out on the band saw.

I then selected the wood for the top. I start by eyeing the boards to check for warp and twist and carefully noting the grain pattern. I use the half pattern for the top to determine the best way to cut the boards to length.

pc040001.jpg Here is the half pattern on the boards that I’ve cut to roughly the length I need.

A half pattern is a great way to make sure that a shape is symmetrical. You just trace the shape out on one side and flip the pattern over, line it up and trace the other side.

The next step is to flatten the boards to eliminate as much twist and cupping as you can before glue up. The narrower pieces can be run over a jointer, face down. This tool has cutters on a drum that rotate so that the top edge of the cutters is exactly even with the outfeed table. Several passes and you have a flat face, for now.


The wider pieces have to be run through my planer with a carriage. A planer has the cutters above the board and will trace the same twist and warp that a board already has as the board passes through it. By shimming the work piece so that it doesn’t rock, onto a flat carriage that can then pass through the planer you can cut off the high points and after many passes arrive at a relatively flat board.pc040005.jpgpc040006.jpgpc040007.jpg

Eventually I can get the boards relatively flat at least on one face.

I then pass each of these boards through the planer again, but with out the carriage. I place the flat face down and the planer will trace this flat surface onto the opposite face, hopefully ending with a very flat board.

pc040008.jpg I qualify the above because I also have to take into account the way a piece of wood reacts when you remove part of it. Some of those cells that take on and give off moisture were held in tension by others. By removing some of the cells the others can relax into a different shape. As this happens I try different strategies while running the boards through the planer to compensate. I may flip and reverse a board, I may press on it as it comes out, it is surprising how physical an activity this really is.

After the boards are flat on their faces I lay them out again as they will be glued up and lay the pattern on them once more. I now determine how wide each board has to be to be able to create the pattern of grain movement and color that I want for the table top. This also allows me to see which edges I need to straighten by running the edge over the jointer.

pc040010.jpg After I get one of the edges straight and square with the two faces I then saw the board to its final width by passing it through the table saw.

pc040011.jpg This process of truing the edges is time consuming as it is critical to getting good glue joints.

I recheck with the pattern to make sure the pieces are lining up with true edges the way I want and I’m ready to glue the pieces together into one large blank ready to be cut out, sanded and finished.


I’ll blog more on this process soon.



Part 2 here