I once met a master carpenter who built furniture only from wood that he found on walks through the forest. He told me that he never built a chair to build a chair or built a table to build a table and so on, instead he gathered wood on his forest wanderings and decided what the pieces were best for. I admire this philosophy but frankly have no time to live by it. So I went to my local mega-lumber yard and picked me out some good old timber.
For my rustic table I decided to go with a hard and heavy wood. I wanted something that also had a fine grain and not too many knots, like pine, so my first choice was to go with classic Oak. Oak is beautiful and I highly recommend it for building any furniture that is meant to last the test of time, but it has grown expensive as of late. So instead of Oak, I went to the closest/cheaper alternative, Ash. Ash is a hard and heavy wood, its grain is not quite as fine as Oak but the burl structure in the wood tends to be a bit more wild in appearance and, to me, looks quite interesting. The prices were 84Euro/m^2 for Oak and 44Euro/m^2 for Ash. Striving to be rational, I chose the Ash over the Oak. Ash is hard, Ash is rustic, Ash is cheap.
When designing a table I had to think about the room which I was designing it for. While thinking about dimensions, I also wanted to build a table that would complement the architecture and aesthetic of our apartment.
After I decided on a style I began drawing. For starters, I used the classic method of doodling in a notebook, but for a better visual I used a CAD program called SketchUp. Some of you may have heard of this useful, layman’s CAD program that is offered freely by Google. I used it to design a 3D model of the table I had in mind. It was easy and fun to use and I suspect I’ll be fiddling with it again in the near future.
For the design, I decided on something timeless, it’s called “barn” or “farm” style. It is very robust and rustic, and I feel it is the type of table that could support two large turkeys on Thanksgiving Day, withstand the slamming of large beer steins, and outlast my son’s destructive phase, all while maintaining a noble and austere appearance on four simple legs.
Here is my 3D design and some sketches.
I designed the dimensions of the table 2 x 1 x .78 meter to fit perpendicular with the length of the room. 2 meters allows for 6 seats, 1 meter allows for conversation, .78 meter accomidates my stocky legs and short arms. Not too big and not too small, these proportions will make the table look like it belongs to the room and not the other way around.
My family and I are moving, and we need a new dining table for our new apartment. My first thought was to look into tables sold at Ikea(even though I hate Ikea). I quickly found that a good table made from massive wood can be quite pricy, and since Im a semi-rational economic ape, a “cost-benefit calculation” showed that building a table myself would be a far better solution than going to Ikea – despite factoring in the delicious hotdogs that would surely be included with a visit to Ikea. By the way, you can forget about going to most other furniture stores to find a table: sure they sell beautiful tables, but they will charge a 1000% markup. Any good table found at an antique store will also cost a pretty penny.
Besides, building your own table has a high intrinsic value. I mean, there is something incredibly fundamental and beautiful about building a table, and about working with wood, a material that seems to live and breathe. The process from freshly milled boards to our first dinner can be found here.
Do your own “cost-benefit” analysis, find what is right for you. Maybe this blog will help some.