Walnut Table for Fourteen Posted February 17, 2016
Friends called on me to enlarge the base and build a
new top for an antique leaf table that had been in their family for many
years. Originally of oak, the top was very worn and they were looking
to replace it with a large, single, solid walnut glue-up instead of
shuffling the leafs on and off as required. The base would mostly remain the
same, but be modified to remove all of the sliding rails for the leafs and
then two new, fixed parallel aprons would be added to attach the center legs
and top to.
This was to be a very large table top of over 9' long by as much as 48" wide
finished size. I had to search far and wide for some black walnut
boards of sufficient thickness, uniform color, and straightness that could
be milled, joined, and otherwise coerced into a large single
After glue up, I decided to add a slight arc to both the sides and ends
to soften the rectangular look of the finished top. The arcs are
traced from a long batten and then cut with a jig saw. Final smoothing
is done with hand planes.
We also added another thickness of 4/4 walnut to the underside edge of the
arc, as well as a 2" skirt of walnut on end. This gives the top the
impression of a thicker construction. End pieces had to be attached
with slots and screws to allow for seasonal wood movement.
The table ends were modified by sawing away the existing short rails and
adding new, enlarged mortises to the leg tops. Fortunately, where were
no metal fastenings through the old mortises, so the new slots could just be
drilled over the remains of the old ones.
New rails of white oak, with large tenons milled on each end, were then
attached to the leg ends. The existing center support legs will also
be put into a bridge built into the middle of the base.
The existing end rails looked to be very strong and will be used unmodified.
The top is finished with several coats of brush-on polyurethane, sanding with up to 400 paper between coats.
I admit to being skeptical on the mixing of the two wood species at first,
but Claudia applied a dark stain to the oak base, which seems to work well with the walnut top.