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


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