My friend, Kyle, needed a table for an upcoming performance art show related to playing and running tabletop games. He wanted a table that could act as a physical document of play. The table as a sort of participant in the games. After his shows he’ll be using it for running other games over the years, and likely it will also become a dining room table.
Beyond that the thought was to make something that looked natural and would also show its scars visibly. Over time, and with use, the table will pick up scratches, dings, and nicks. If someone spills something on it, the finish might run or dissolve and that is okay (and desirable!). The hope is that over time the table itself has a clear and readable history.
Here’s some additional shots of the table:
I source as much of my wood from Urbanwood as possible including everything for this project:
A Gnarly Slab
After a lot of searching I found the perfect slab of pine for the top of the table. Plenty of knots “ugly” spalting and damage from bugs. The price for it had been reduced and reduced again. Under many other circumstances it would be a terrible piece of wood to use for a tabletop. However, for this the gnarlier the slab of wood the better!
To get the right length and width for the top it needed to be subdivided and glued back together.
Here are some shots of dividing the slab up so I could get the right width and length from it and then planing it down to the right thickness:
Apron and Legs
For the apron and the legs I went with oak. It’s hard and stable and matches the pine top well. Similar to the top, we wanted legs with interesting details. The knots here don’t have much of an effect on the strength of the table, but they make the legs far more interesting to look at and give it a tactile feel. Here’s some progress shots just before glue up matching the boards together, and then after the hanger bolts were installed.
The table is finished with an amber shellac. Shellac should probably never be used for the top of a table. It’s not terribly durable and can dissolve in alcohol. At a minimum if you want to use shellac you should do a final coat of wax. Again though, it’s perfect for this: provides a nice finish that will degrade over time as people use it.
Here’s a before picture alongside a detail shot of it after the shellac was applied:
This was a really fun project! I can’t wait to check back in on the table in a year or two or ten to see what has happened with it. Woodworkers can often get obsessed with making our pieces as permanently perfect as possible. It was a refreshing challenge to make something that was intended to be used and show its scars proudly.
If you’re interested in collaborating on a project, or commissioning a table like this of your own, please reach out!