Ramble in the roots, had the marvel, moved the proof

Slab Desk - Finished!

Morning everyone.  I have some post-thanksgiving blues today (kinda like, post-birthday sadness... long story and not something I'm likely going to post about publicly) and need to do something to take my mind off of it.  So here's the final update on the slab desk, with the exception of hopefully posting some better photos of the finished piece at some point.  

All of the following happened concurrently over the course of about a week, but I'm going to break it up for clarity.  

Finishing the top of the desk:

I ended up doing three coats of the Arm 'r' Seal, letting each one cure for about 12 hours, then sanding with 400 grit sandpaper to get all the little imperfections out.  I didn't sand the final coat, but instead buffed it out with 0000 steel wool, and put two coats of paste wax on it.  Since I don't have a particularly dust-free (*ahem* cat-hair-free) environment in which to finish, the surface is definitely not perfect, but it's not something most people would notice.  Overall, it's a very good-looking top.  I like it so much, and it feels like it protects so well that I may go back and refinish my table with this.  That's a big if though, it'd be sooo much work.

Anyways, here are some photos of the finishing process

Desk surface prior to any finish

Action shot series part 1!

Action shot series part 3!

Action shot series part 5!

Action shot series part 2!

Action shot series part 4!

Action shot series part 6!

Dunno what happened with the color on this one, but this is after the first coat, which was a HEAVY application and I've included it to highlight how different parts of the wood absorb the finish at wildly different rates.  Compare this one to the final coat a few photos below and you'll see what I mean.

Another showing different absorption rates.  I think this was after the first coat had fully cured.  

First coat sanded with 400 grit sandpaper and ready for a second coat.

Second coat.  It goes on sooooo much smoother.

Immediately after the final coat was applied.  A far cry from the first coat!

Finishing the Legs and Aprons:

The legs and aprons were finished very similarly to the top surface, except that instead of brushing the Arm 'r' Seal on, I wiped on the finish with rags, and I only did two coats.  The legs and aprons don't need quite the same level of protection that the surface of a desk needs, so this should be plenty adequate.  Also, wiping the finish on makes it significantly easier to get a drip-free surface, something I still don't have a great handle on how to accomplish with a brush.  

Here are a few photos from the leg and apron finishing (just a few... it's not THAT thrilling. ;-) ):

Prepped legs

One coat of finish

Prepped legs on the left, completely finished legs on the right.


The final stretch!  With the bulk of the finishing done (i.e. all of it, ideally, but not quite.  You'll see.) we can start assembling.  I may have mentioned in a previous post that the back apron/support joinery wasn't as tight as I had hoped it would be.  There was definitely a little vertical play in both ends and a little side-to-side play in the non-square leg (back left).  I ended up wedging both sides to take up the slack.  I wish I had just PLANNED to wedge them, because it ended up looking great, but no, it was to correct for a mistake.  The good new is that the joints feel incredibly solid now.  

Saw kerfs in the tenon to receive the wedges.  The drilled out bits are for strain relief.  They were probably unnecessary, but maple is so hard splits so completely when it goes that I didn't want to take any chances.

Wedging the first joint

Wedging from all angles (this is the non-square trouble leg)

After the back two joints were wedged and glued, it was time to glue and assemble the rest!

Final glue up of the base!  Clamped for the night.

I went back and planed down the areas where the tenons protruded through so that now they're totally flush with the leg surface, but that meant damaging the finishing I had already done.  While this did add a little extra work, finishing in pieces prior to assembling was the right way to go: it made glue cleanup a lot easier, there were no difficult corners to reach, and overall, I think the quality of the work was just a lot higher.  Redoing the finishing over the tenons just mean sanding things out with 220-grit paper and then 400, and wiping on another coat of arm 'r' seal. I was planning on sanding that coat out at 400 and then doing one more coat, but have been pretty laid up all week recovering from a cold and haven't gotten around to it.  

Post gluing and planing wedged joint.  The little bit of damage to the finish was non-trivial but not a big deal in the end.

Other wedge joint.  You can see the marking gauge marks where I overshot things. :-( Still learning! 

Finally, it was time to mount the assembled base onto the slab:

Mounting the base to the slab top.

Here are some of the finished piece.  Again, I apologize for the quality of the photos; we really don't have a good spot to photograph furniture in our apartment.  Either the lighting is always off or there's clutter in the background.  These are the best I could come up with thus far. I'll give it another shot (pun intended) sometime if I have an extra hour or two.  

Front of the desk (taken in our living room, which seems to be the best for photography).

Back of the desk (taken on our rooftop patio around 7AM, which is NOT the best for photography)

Detail of the dovetail keys, patch, and wedged tenon.

One with it still in the "woodshop"

Enjoy.  Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!