Claremont Designs

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Finished Butcher Block Coffee Table

So it’s finally completed. After a final coat of finish last night, it is now ready to go. It’s not a huge coffee table, but perfect for a tiny place. And it is suitable for being used by you and your neighbor as long as you like each other. I chose not to do a close up of the end grain for the photos; there are plenty of other posts on this blog where you can see that detail (and you can see the detail if you go to full resolution views of the photos below). Since it was finished here in the “showroom” I just took a couple of quick shots in my living room to give you an idea as to scale and finish.

Also included in the photos are a small cherry end table, a turned bowl, and my favorite rocking chair. I’m capable of producing the first 2 of those items in my little shop, but in this case these were all made in Maine when I spent a week doing the customer in residence program at Thos. Moser. That was a great experience. My only regret is that I wished I would have picked a simpler piece to make (so that I would have learned some new techniques as opposed to every last thing you would ever want to know about sanding). You can also see their lolling chair hanging out by the window. The carpet is modern mix by flor. And the coffee table book featured here is a collection of concert posters (organized by designer) from the guys that run gig posters.




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From Table Saw to Bar

This will officially be the last post on this piece that gets categorized as WIP. I wasn’t happy with the finish quality I was getting in my poorly lit shop with no climate control. Wish I had those things, but that’s money I don’t have. So I’ve moved the piece form the table saw to the bar / island in my kitchen. Unfortunately this is forcing me to relocate for this evening’s sazerac. Also you might notice every woodworker’s nightmare in the background… Yes that is a very nice kitchen I have, but why did they use IKEA cabinets? I can’t tell you a company that I like less from a furniture quality perspective… Sorry. Back on topic… Hopefully I’ll have the coffee table glamour shots on the blog by tomorrow.


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Need To Make Some Room In Here

This piece is ready for one final coat of finish. Unfortunately my table saw has become my finishing table… I need to finish some of these other half finished pieces. They have all been occupying my work tables for far too long now. The shop was a little warm today (100+ degrees but only about 55% humidity), so today saw little work other than the final coats of finish being applied. This one should be heading back up to DC tomorrow.


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End Grain – Take 1

Finally almost time to call the butcher block coffee table done. Finished all sanding and got a first coat of finish on the table. The picture is a close up of the end grain after the first coat of finish. Please note that this is actually end grain butcher block as opposed to all of those companies advertising their tops as butcher block (but they don’t bother to expose the end grain). It can still look good that way, but it looks more like a bowling alley lane than a butcher’s block. The proper way should have the end grain exposed as it is easier on the butcher’s knives.


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Butcher Base Dry Fit

A long business trip to Indonesia has resulted in this project taking a few weeks longer than anticipated to finish. In the picture below is the dry fit of the coffee table base. When working solo it is great to practice with the clamps before adding glue to the mix. This one was fairly straightforward thankfully. It should be dry by the morning. Then it’s only sanding and finishing left.


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Final Butcher Assembly

It took a while (about 3 trips to the shop), but it’s finally time to put the top together. In the picture below are the 4 sub assemblies I made on the prior trip to the shop. At this point they have made numerous trips through the planer to get them flat and equal thickness. Normally I would have done this mostly with my wide belt drum sander, but it was almost 100 degrees outside and my shop doesn’t have AC (so speed was of the essence). After this point in the process I jointed one edge of each piece and cut a parallel side with the table saw. To do the final assembly, I used biscuits to help keep the tops of the pieces flush. On my next visit to the shop we’ll see how well that worked…


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Clean, Rotate, Cut, Glue

Started the day by taking yesterday’s glued up sections and cleaning them up. Basically that was a combination of jointer and sander work to get the panels to look like the photo below.


The process from there is to basically run these blanks through the table saw to cut the final end grain strips. The 7 blanks I made yesterday yielded 51 strips of end grain. The first photo shows them lined up. The problem is that to get the best look you need to randomize the pattern. This is basically a process of putting them in random order and rotating some strips 180 degrees. Ultimately that leaves you with a more pleasing panel like in the bottom photo. Currently the top is in 4 big pieces. After then next shop visit the top should be finished.



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Butcher’s Layout

There is an inordinate amount of gluing required to put together an end grain butcher block. I’m about half way through today’s gluing exercise. In the picture are about 15% of the pieces in the top. They are all rotated 90 degrees so that it is easier to grab, glue, rotate, glue, put in place, and then repeat on the next piece. You’ve got to move quickly so that the glue doesn’t dry too much before you reach the last piece in the line. Hopefully they dry pretty straight so that I don’t have to do as much cleanup work in the morning.


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Start of Butcher Block Top

Below is the messy beginnings of the butcher block top to a coffee table. The first picture shows the scrap lumber that I’m using for the top. It’s great to see it find another home other than more iPad styluses (although I’m sure there will be a few pieces leftover for me to throw on the lathe). The work on the top starts by getting the pieces all to a common thickness and length (I don’t care about the other dimensions at this point). The first pass of this work is shown in the second picture where the pieces are laid out prior to glue up. Hopefully I can get the initial glue up completed before calling it a day today.