300 year old coffee table

A few months ago, we had the attic of our house finished as a bedroom for the Critter. The attic runs across the top of the original part of the house (the 1739 farmhouse part), and has beams pegged together with hand-carved wooden pegs. The central chimney runs right up through the middle of the room, providing a natural sort of divider from a bed side, and a desk/toy/reading side. Very nice.

I had started to do the work myself, framing out the edges and running wiring, but quickly realized that while I still possess the rudimentary knowledge to do these things, I was quickly going to get into finicky bits of plastering between the beams (because of course I wanted to keep them exposed) that would take me so long that the kid would be ready to move in, and then move out again for college at the end of the same week. So I called in some help.

There was a little bit of demolition to do when the guys got started, and as they pulled up some of the old, unfinished floorboards, I had them set them all aside. It's not every day you come across 12+ inch wide, 300 year old heartwood pine planks.

I had an idea to build a coffee table from my buddy, Steve, which besides being a fun project to re-use some of the pieces of our house, would give me a great excuse to buy some new toys. I mean "tools."

I replaced my 100 year old Craftsman jointer/planer with a beautiful new one from Delta, as well as a factory refurbished thickness planer from Hitachi. I've always wanted the latter, and it made ridiculously quick work of planing these boards smooth and clean. With some pre-turned legs I picked up, I soon had a lovely coffee table in the raw, so to speak.

I joined the boards with rabbetted joints, so that any expansion or contraction wouldn't create major gaps, and added a breadboard edge (that's the strip alongside each short edge) with my biscuit cutter. And then gave the whole thing a good sanding with the belt sander and then orbital sander. I was really giving my shop a decent work out, after sitting mostly idle since I made the Boy's bed over the winter.

I removed all the nails (except one little bugger that I didn't find until my planer started shooting out sparks when it hit it. Sneaky bastard. After which I ran back to my desk and ordered a metal detector wand to make sure I didn't kill the new blades), but I left the nail holes and blemishes alone. There are some knot holes and wear marks that sanding smooth just won't help. But that's all part of the charm.

I played around with a few different stains and finally settled on Minwax' English Chestnut 233, and applied a couple of coats to get a nice, even, dark finish that fits in well with our other furniture.

The coffee table was destined for the big empty space in our media room, where we sit and comfortably consume tv, or a netflix movie. We had been desperate for a place to put our mojitos while playing the Xbox, or toss the pad thai container on take out night.

Knowing it would get some pretty hard wear, I put several coats of semi-gloss polyurethane on it, sanding between each one. I used an oil based poly because it's more durable. But man, what a pain to have to wait 4 hours between each coat. This is really the most unsatisfying part of building something, I tell you.

But eventually, I schlepped it up to its proper place, and it fit right in.

Note, the actual dimensions of the coffee table are 47" x 27". It's just a stupidly large family room.

(as you can see, we're finally catching up with the rest of Western Civilization and have started watching the back episodes of "24".)

Next project: tree house.

(note, more in-progress pictures of the coffee table can be seen here, if you want.)