Monday, November 7, 2016

Some projects design themselves

We need a kitchen work table, like one of these.  In consultation with the chef (aka wife), we came up with the following requirements:
  1. counter height and width, four feet long;
  2. white oak base and maple top;
  3. readily movable;
  4. able to sit on a stool to work or eat at it;
  5. as much storage as possible given other requirements.
The first two determine the dimensions and materials.  The third led me to rule out a drawer that might interfere with my legs when I am sitting at it.  It also meant that there will only be one shelf across lower stretchers.

We spent some time discussing whether to put the table on casters.  Heavy duty, American-made ones that look good are large and expensive, but I wouldn't settle for anything less, though 450 lb. capacity per caster may be a bit over the top.  In the end, we decided that being able to move the table around easily was worth the appearance hit.  I couldn't find ones with stops that I liked, so there is a risk the table will move around too easily in use.  If it does, I am going to make some custom chocks from white oak that will surround the wheels.

I also worried about how big of an overhang the table should have.  Four inches seems quite large but it is within design guidelines I consulted and will make it more comfortable to sit at.  Visually, I think it is pushing it though, because the table is only 25" wide.  I may offset it so there will be a larger overhang on one side that will be comfortable for sitting at the table.  I'll be able to judge stability before deciding. 

So, this will be a fairly simple project: a top, sixteen mortises in the legs for upper and lower stretchers and a shelf across the lower stretchers.  Basically, the requirements determined the design.

Off I went to the lumber yard, where I received sorta good news and bad news.  The bad news is that white oak is in short supply because of all the demand for whiskey and wine barrels, so it cost $7.50 per board foot and there wasn't a lot of selection.  Further, they didn't have any 12/4 stock, so I have to laminate the legs from 6/4.  The sorta good news was regarding the top.  They were having a closeout sale on prefinished laminated maple countertops in these exact dimensions for $120, compared to about $80 for material and supplies to make my own.  As I am in a hurry, I bought one.  It turns out not to have been a great purchase because when I got it home and unboxed it, one edge had been run through a jointer against the grain, resulting in both a washboard and bad tearout, and one end had checking.  They just applied finish over the top of it.  I had to cut off the end and resurface the edge, then refinish both sides.  The top surface was fine though.

The total cost of materials was $120 for the top, $170 for lumber and $80 for the casters.  Sounds expensive until you price commercially available ones of the same quality.

I ripped all the pieces to width on the bandsaw, jointed them and used the lunchbox planer to surface them because I am in a hurry.  With one exception I will describe later, the rest will be all hand tools.