Alabama Woodworker's Guild, Montreat Side Table
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Montreat Side Table Part 8: Making Panels

I had this odd feeling as I began the next step for bringing my Montreat Side Table design to life. After adding some distinctive design elements to the table (see this post), I returned to some very basic woodworking. I began breaking down and milling stock to make panels. These panels will become the bottom and middle shelf as well as the top of the table. Excitement builds as a project begins to take shape. And that is what has been happening as I added the walnut slats to the sides and back. Now, it seems that forming these needed panels isn’t so exciting. But then that is the challenge: Find an exciting, even creative side to this next step; a step which could be considered among the most mundane of woodworking tasks.

Let’s take a look at the next step in construction…

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I am building the components shown in blue.

As shown above, I will next make the items highlighted in blue the largest of which is the table top measuring 24-1/2″ deep by 28-1/2″ long.

I created a material cutting diagram for these three components and stopped by City Hardwoods in Homewood, Alabama. As you will see in a minute, I use material cutting diagrams and cut lists at this point only to help me get organized for this next step. I am at this point only loosely following this information.

At City Hardwoods I picked up two big, honkin’ white oak boards which were $$$$$$$. When spending considerable money on lumber, the purchase deserves respect. I carefully selected two 9′ long by 10-1/2″ wide 4/4 boards studying each board for color, grain, defects and straightness (is that a word?). I have a little oak on hand which will handle one of the panels. These two oak boards will provide material for the other two.

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Layout for the best grain orientation.

This is where I can begin to be creative with this panel making process. As shown above, I have the ability to choose how I want to best use the grain and figure in these boards. Blue tape indicates one board and note how it aligns with the cathedral grain shown.

This is why material cutting diagrams shouldn’t be strictly followed. They can be a starting point and I knew I would be able to get three or more boards out of this one piece of lumber. But, I did not make a final decision on three boards or their exact placement until I closely studied the lumber for grain and figure.

Next is breaking down these long and heavy boards at my miter saw station.

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My rolling miter saw stand.

I am fortunate to have a mobile miter saw stand (see the construction of this stand here) which can easily handle this nine foot long board. While I didn’t have to, I can roll around and position it to handle even longer boards. This is part of finding the fun in mundane tasks: I get satisfaction from using this miter saw station because I built the stand helping me safely and efficiently cut these boards.

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Next step, using my jointer.

After cutting the boards to rough size, I needed to flatten an edge with my jointer. This old Craftsman jointer is really only good for jointing small pieces of wood. In fact, I had trouble getting a flat face on one board and just couldn’t seem to get two or three of them edge jointed straight.

Before wasting any more of this beautiful oak, I decided to drive over to the Alabama Woodworkers Guild workshop and use their equipment.

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The AWG workshop. Two jointers in the background and two planers in the foreground.

A typical visit to this workshop usually has at least one or two other woodworkers using tools. This time I had the whole place to myself (except for the shop supervisor). Using the guild’s big jointer and wide planer made all the difference in the world. I got straight and flat boards with ease. And this wasn’t mundane since I was using such nice tools and a great workshop.

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Panel glue-up on my assembly table.

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The almost finished panels.

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A lot of work left to do. Note the lumber against the green wall and the lumber in front of the windows in the background.

A side note: I have been pointing out all the unused lumber in my workshop. I need to tackle a small, quick project soon to make use of these boards.

Back at my workshop, I glued together the boards for each panel; three boards per panel. Earlier today, I trimmed them a little and went back to my guild’s workshop and sent the panels through the planer just to do a little touch up. The largest panel in the photos is the top. Due to its width, I had to use the guild’s new Jet drum sander to get it flat and that went well.

So, with a little effort towards making the best of each step in this process, I can get a sense of satisfaction that these panels are all glued up and looking good. The ends are still rough. Each will get a unique end profile to fit around the legs and with the top, there is an angled design I’ll add. Another side note: The three panels as seen above weigh 32 pounds; a reminder that tables made of oak are heavy.

Next, I’ll need to complete several small steps: add the angled detail to the lower stretchers, cut the top to final size and shape, drill holes for the adjustable shelf supports, then plane and sand everything smooth. After that, I’ll pre-finish everything and then glue the table together. Then final assembly will be adding the drawer which will include my first ever hand cut dovetails.

Plenty more exciting steps to come.

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