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Room for expansion

     With four children, a son-in-law, foster children, and significant others, family dining at the Kemmet household is an ever-growing event. My wife doesn’t ask for much, but she was clear on one thing: at holiday family meals, no one was to eat at the countertop or at a card table. In other words, I was being asked to design a dining room table that seated six normally, but expanded to accommodate 12 for special occasions.  My first reaction was to research the designer of furniture for the Titanic, but he apparently “went down with the ship”.  While I’ve built several tables over the years, I’ve never designed one that would expand to over 11’ long.

     Normally I build Greene-and-Greene style furniture, but I wanted to stretch (pardon the pun) a bit for this table. I’d seen some images of furniture incorporating rough-cut granite slabs into the bases. And since our house is nearly totally filled with hand-crafted furniture, this might be my last opportunity to build something so non-traditional.

    After a few hours at the drafting board (yes I’m still designing non-digitally), I came up with several contemporized G&G designs incorporating granite into the legs. But, after looking into the cost of custom-cut stone, it was evident my wallet did not match my imagination. Time to practice what I preached, so I turned to helpful community at WOOD Online. After posting a question about my dilemma in the General Woodworking forum, someone mentioned using Platinum Corian, a granite look-alike. But, the smooth cut edges were not what I was looking for. Larry Jenkins, a long-time forum contributor, told me about his work rouging up the edges of Corian with a ¼” chisel and mallet to create a textured edge. I picked up a few Corian scraps and did a little testing at home. Larry was spot-on. By chipping away at an edge with a narrow chisel and then rounding the sharp edges with a Dremel and round-nosed bit, you could get some amazing results.

     Since I knew the leg construction would be labor and material intensive, I built several full-sized prototypes out of 2x material and particleboard painted gray like the one below. The first image is my initial attempt at the leg configuration. Close, but no cigar. I tweaked the design through subsequent models until I struck on the design I liked. Although all the prototypes went to the neighbor’s fireplace, the time and effort spent to finalize the design was well worth it. What sometime looks good on paper doesn’t always look good in the dining room.


    After a few phone calls, I was able to locate and purchase just enough Platinum Corian at a local countertop shop. They had a piece left over from a recent install that fit my needs and pocketbook perfectly. Shown below is a quick over-view of the construction process.

    With the design finalized, the first step was to build the Corian bases. To do this, I epoxied two pieces of Corian face-to-face for each of the four bases, and then bevel-ripped the edges on the tablesaw. Safety glasses and dust-control are a must when cutting Corian. Next, I chipped the edges with a chisel, round any sharp edges with a Dremel. This is close-up work, and safety glasses are an absolute necessity. Next, I marked the location and drilled a pair of counter bores in each Corian base for bolting to the laminated leg bottoms as shown below.


   For a sturdy fit of the aprons into the top of the lamianted legs, I cut a pair of perpendicular notches in the top of each leg.


     Then each apron had a mating notch cut into it. The aprons locked together and fit nicely into the leg tops for a super-sturdy joint.  The image below shows a leg assembly stained, ebonized, and the Corian fit into place. The image below shows a leg assembly prior to staining and finishing. To highlight the groove the Corian uprights fit into, I ebonized the grooves.


     The image below shows a leg assembly prior to staining and finishing. To highlight the groove the Corian uprights fit into, I ebonized each grooves.   


    Shown below is the finished piece. Although I normally used Minwax Antique Oil for my pieces, I don’t find that tough enough for a tabletop. For tabletops, I normally apply about four coats of gloss polyurethane followed by a coat of satin. But in this case, the gloss made the grain of the African Mahogany pop so vibrantly, I left the gloss finish. This is the only piece in our home with such a shiny finish.



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