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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

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Update...The Natural-Edge Coffee Table Project

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

The self-imposed deadline for finishing the live-edge matching coffee tables came and passed. The frame/leg assemblies are done. They received five coats of shellac with progressively finer sanding between coats. The last coat was rubbed out with 0000 steel wool and then three coats of Briwax were applied. The slabs, however, have taken an inordinate amount of time.

I started by working on the back, or underside, of the slabs and the edges. Only when the underside of the slabs had received six coats of shellac, hand-sanded between coats, did I flip them over and start on the show face, or top. And this is where I started to get, possibly, too picky.

I sanded the tops mechanically up through 220-grit, and using a bright, raking light, looked closely for any remaining milling marks that needed special attention.

The first coat of shellac was applied pretty heavily, then mechanically sanded one last time. After that, each successive coat has been hand sanded with progressively finer abrasives. One of the things that caused the project to fall behind schedule is that each coat of shellac has needed a full 24 hours to cure before sanding and applying the next coat. This is not usually the case, but the cooler weather and a heavier "cut" of shellac are contributing factors.

Another contributing factor is my brushing "technique." Well, not really a "technique." More of a "liability" or "deficiency." No matter what I did, I left brush marks in the shellac. I bought an expensive brush...didn't help. I worked faster...didn't help. I worked slower...didn't help. I thinned the shellac, thickened the shellac, did a sort of "Texas two-step shellac dance"...didn't help. I lit incense, meditated, cogitated, ruminated, and mainly, just got irritated. I need extreme coaching in the art of brushing.

The slabs, after much effort, now have seven coats of shellac on the show faces. I stopped when the last coat went on with minimal brush marks. I am letting that final coat cure and harden for several days before rubbing out the finish with steel wool and applying wax. By this time next month, the coffee tables should be assembled and at home in my living room.

Next month in the Down To Earth Woodworker the new sanding center design will start to take shape and an 88-year old cook chastises me and teaches me a very important woodworking lesson. The loft/second floor of my shop is undergoing a radical transformation, too. Stay tuned!

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Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis (although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his adult life).

Steven can be reached directly via email at downtoearthwoodworks@me.com.

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