As I worked in the family business, I built many pieces of reproduction furniture, including entertainment centers (styled after period designs), highboys and lowboys, scads of tables and more – all for paying customers. After I left the business to return to the real world to make money, I seldom walked into a shop, unless it was on a visit back home.
Today I get more of an opportunity to step foot into a woodworking shop as my business affords me a few days away. Luckily, I only need to drive a couple of hours north to access a full shop of woodworking machines, hand tools and supplies – I can even raid the lumber stack as I long as I pay for the materials. That’s nice.
What’s even nicer is that I’m not building for customers. I can plan and build anything that catches my eye, or for which I have a need. After coming up with rough dimensions and an afternoon of material reconnaissance, that’s exactly what I did. I stole away for a long weekend, driving north to spend a few days knocking out a contemporary (at least to my mind) table for my kitchen; it would be a combination of wenge and tiger maple.
Get The Most
Wenge is not the least expensive wood found in the lumber stores these days, especially when working with 8/4 material, which is what I’m using for the framework on the table top. Job No. 1 to softening the blow to the checkbook was to rip the material getting the best bang for the buck.
Not only was it necessary to pull all the parts from the material I had on hand, it was just as important to keep the grain of those pieces looking its best. I like to have quartersawn stock for rails and stiles because it looks the best to me, and because it is more stable over a long period of time – if I have to trim the width of my material, I make sure to rip away as much of the flat-cut grain as possible. (Fig. 1)