Refinishing An Old Friend

I took the time to refinish a project that took me many years to create.  It’s been well over a decade since I’ve completed the table and put it into use in my home.  I use it mostly as a table, but it’s one of the few things that I have built that I kept for myself.  It’s great to see what happens to wood as it ages together with the joinery you force onto the wood.  It was my first encounter with the a sled jig attachment for chain saws used to slab lumber.  I would like to thank Dan Riggs for introducing me to this method.  I went to Mr. Riggs Property in Atlanta, Georgia to Slab some hickory that had been laying on the ground for about 9-12 months if I remember correctly.  It was the late 1990’s when we cut the slabs and I got to keep a few pieces for helping.  The table was put off for about another 3 years or so as you must let lumber dry.  I stored the hickory in my parents garage and I think my dad used it once to load a motorcycle onto a trailer or truck.  The Hickory slab was about 2-1/2in. thick and much longer at the time and it was not phased by the weight of the motorcycle.

The Mahogany came from my former employer Turner Productions/Turner Studios at the time of my early employment there came a decree from Jane Fonda and Ted Turner to stop using rain forest wood in our productions.  We had a healthy stock of Mahogany already in storage from previous projects.  From time to time some of the employees would buy some of the forbidden lumber for this that or the other and for the most part was collecting dust when I came around.  I purchased some of the 8/4 mahogany and thought it was a nice contrast the hickory.  It was my first attempt to tip my proverbial hat to George Nakashima’s work.  There are no metal fasteners used in the construction.  Only joinery.  The legs are a mortise and tenon through joints with lower rounded corner supports dovetailed into the leg tenons and  contrasting butterfly keys to hold the lower leg sections together.

I used butterfly keys to hold the branch to the truck too.  It was further accented by the fact that while sitting on the ground in Georgia for nearly a year the bugs bore little holes into the hickory I filled with clear epoxy.  One of the striking contrasts for me is that this hickory is so unapologetic inconsistent with ideal piece of lumber for woodworking.  Yet it is so familiar to me because often what I chose to be the show piece lumber would be overlooked for the qualities I am celebrating here in the worm holes, knots, branches and bark.  To counter the natural edges of the hickory and other flaws I mentioned I picked some of the mostly flawless mahogany I could find.  It is a really great color and wonderful to work.  It is finished in Tongue Oil as was the reason to drag it out of my house.  As the Hickory splits and time takes its toll on me and the table I hope the table lands in caring hands.  It is my wish that all of the furniture I build outlasts me and finds a quality and appreciative home.  And may neither of us parish in a fire!

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