Saturday, July 26, 2008

Islands coffee table

This project is quite a departure for me, as most of you know, I usually make arts and crafts reproductions, this is a very modern design and its made entirely from MDF. Dan brought me the picture to the left and asked if I could make something like it. We went into the shop and started playing around and discovered that I could but not out of solid wood.


What I decided I would have to do is to start with a posterboard pattern with inside curves no tighter than 1/2 inch. This is the limit because I wanted to use a 1/2 inch flush trim bit in my router table.


To start I make a pattern out of 1/2 inch MDF on the band saw, I used the oscillating spindle sander to clean up the sawmarks and to smooth out the curves. Once the final pattern is complete I transfer it to 3/4 inch MDF 20 times, and once more to 1/2 inch MDF, this will give me a total height of 16 inches when complete. I rough cut the outlines on the band saw staying at least 1/8th inch off the line. It seems like a lot of work but cutting each one took less than a minute.
I glued the rough cut to the pattern and held it in place with a few Brad nails.... I know I know... I feel kind of dirty...
Since I have a 2 inch long flush trim bit I was able to glue and nail 2 of the rough pieces to the pattern, this makes the whole process go twice as fast . Here you see the bearing of the flush trim bit running on the pattern while the entire thickness of the rough pieces will contact the router blades.



I repeat the process of glueing and nailing two more rough blanks to the routed piece, the pattern bit bearing now will ride on the bottom of the area that was just routed.



As you can see the stack gets rather high rather quickly, it also gets rather heavy. I considered hollowing out the center pieces to reduce the weight but decided that the weight would add stability to the tall narrow "islands".


Here they are, the two islands ready to send off to Dan. They are pretty smooth after the routing but the bearing on the bit tends to indent the edges of the MDF, he'll need to hand sand the edges, prior to priming and painting them. These were the easy parts, now comes the tabletop with its own "shoreline" that will be made using the same process. I'll be able to make the legs, top and sides partially buy building "boxes" out of MDF", this should save some weight and some time, but it still needs to be strong enough to support the "shoreline", there is still some engineering before I start that build.

"A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money."
John Ruskin



9 comments:

Chris (A.K.A. Super Niece) said...

Holy wow! What a really neat way to assemble this monstrosity!:) I know Dan is going to be really impressed with how you pulled this off too:) I know it's not your thing, but thanks for helping him out anyway and sacrificing you artistic ethics!!! Now, about my couch....:)

DB said...

Hey Brad! This looks really awesome so far. I realize that I probably did not show a sufficient amount of excitement when you were explaining some of this to me on the phone a few weeks ago but I do really appreciate it. I was just a bit confused by what you were explaining to me. Anyway, it looks awesome. I can't wait to see it in person! Your efforts are greatly appreciated and I am very impressed :)

Vic Hubbard said...

Hey Frog,

That's really cool! Remind me to ask about the scar left by the bearing on the bit next time I'm in on a Chat Night over at Marc's. I get it even with a brand new bit? It's actually from that funny washer between the bearing and the bit. Happens every time...very annoying.

Brad Ferguson said...

Vic, what it looks like is that the bearing leaving a mark on the soft MDF edge, I've noticed it on soft woods too, all I can figure is that I'm applying too much pressure against the bit.

Shannon said...

Brad,

Interesting to see you depart from A&C work. This is an intriguing piece you have started. I don't envy you all that MDF dust though. Routing MDF has to be the worst. Make sure you use extra primer on those edges to seal them. I normally use drywall plaster on the edges then sanded smooth before painting.

Margaret said...

What a neat project! It looks like quite a process!

TheWoodWhisperer said...

haha, you did it man! nice. I am glad you documented this.

Anonymous said...

nice job, tell us why you could not have done with this with plywood or even solid wood ?

Brad Ferguson said...

Thanks for the comment, Plywood would not have worked to give you a smooth surface, maybe solid wood could have worked but remember it would have been almost all endgrain and I'm afraid there would have been too much tearout.