Custom Wood Dining Table Build
Any dining table we build has a lot riding on the design, the build process and the end result. It has to fit a variety of unforgiving specifications. The surrounding space, the existing dining chairs. And even things like unforgiving sunlight all impact what goes into making a custom wood dining table.
This particular dining table had a special demand that was difficult to get just right. Our clients spouse had recently passed away and she was in need of some new and fresh furniture around her house. Something that her made her dream forward instead of the past.
This was the first time we have been hired to build furniture with this specific demand on the line. But what a treat it was to work with such a wonderful client.
Our client knew that she liked contrasting woods. She knew that she wanted something that was an ode to the material itself- the wood. The organic and gorgeous nature of a material that used to be alive and growing. She wanted to see what we could make that would call people to itself.
Often we make furniture that is both a joy to use and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Furniture that demands attention is never an enjoyable piece and will always fight your decor as you change color or styles. Having a custom piece of furniture should both delight and blend in with any style.
We looked at several wood options- mostly walnut. After we ruled out certain styles, like a live edge and claro walnut (due to budget), we were off the races. With our budget set and deadlines mapped out- we began the next phase of design.
We took the requirements and went straight to our design program to begin sketching out a custom wood dining table.
We had to work with specific species of woods that moved at relatively the same rates. And that aged well, together. This was tough but was really a fun part of the build. There are really great options of wood species, both for budget and great contrast together.
This table was really taking shape and we were happy with the direction!
We had the client come and visit before we began the glue up process. We wanted to make sure any last changes were approved before moving forward. As soon as she saw the raw and natural wood, stacked per the plans, she immediately fell in love. There were zero changes we were asked to make.
The rewarding part of custom furniture is being able to be so close to the process, from start to finish. Working with the builder should be a rewarding part of buying any custom piece. One of our mottos is to “always say yes” and figure out the rest as we need to.
We ran the table through our wide belt sander to make sure it was completely flat. The difficult part of a job like this is making sure each species of wood is at the same moisture level. This ensures it will move at the same rates. Each species will absorb moisture differently over the seasons. So after making sure it was dead flat, we let it sit in the shop for a couple days before running it one more time through.
Our client was in love with bowties, more traditionally known as “deadmans”. We made several different styles to make sure they weren’t too bulky. And that they didnt look “stock” or to standard. We ended up with a 9 degree angle and a 4″ long bowtie. This was the golden ticket for a classy feel.
We also added 5 across the 68″ long top. Odd numbers of things always play well in furniture versus even numbers. Your eye and brain will play tricks on you and make you try to divide into an even amount which isn’t possible with 2 or 4. Not sure the psychology behind this but it has always fascinated the creative part of my brain.
We made the bowties out of canary wood. Canary wood looks great against many different species but also doesnt move much once its set in place. This is always critical when doing bowties because they are oriented in a different grain direction than the surrounding wood grains.
Canary wood is often used in making wooden instruments because it doesn’t move much. A critical factor in many dynamics of custom wood furniture.
The light really plays off the bowties well, as you’ll see in a later picture. I was a bit leery when incorporating these into the original plans but man are we glad our client twisted our arm!
Custom Wood Dining Table Finish
We discussed the feeling the client was after, at the very beginning of the project. This is critical before taking on any job because there are numerous factors that must be taken into account. Things like sunlight and surrounding cabinets are so important.
A bunch of well decisions stack up to a piece of furniture that will delight for years to come.
Our client wanted to really “feel” the wood. Many polyurethanes on the market today are a poor option for a finish on a high end piece of furniture. Shellac and catalyzed lacquers are great options but they have their limitations as well.
We really enjoy penetrating style finishes, compared to their “building” cousins.
Finishes like oil based are what we tend to gravitate towards. There are many great options on the market from various manufactures- like 0% VOC and color stain options. Even UV resistive oil finishes.
We ended up choosing Odies Oil.
This finish is great because it is safe on the skin and just a treat to work with. You would have to see it to understand all the wonderful subtleties of this product. It penetrates fast and evenly. And cleans up really well. It doesn’t have any harsh smell so it can be maintained with ease for years to come.
Custom Wood Dining Table Base
The legs were particularly fun because they were an ode to years past. A classical style in turned construction. We built these off our set of plans, there were some minor tweaks once we saw them in their finished dimensions.
We utilized cherry 3×3 legs and began the turning process! Turning wood is a TON of fun. With sharp tools and a good mix of hand tools, this can be a very rewarding part of making custom furniture.
We used loose mortise and tenon construction along with “shoulder skirts”. These metal clips attach to both sides of the skirt and bolt onto a set of hanger bolts. We used epoxy to glue each hanger bolt into the legs.
The custom wood dining table was beginning to take shape now that we had the legs done!
We used a wipe on oil based stain for the legs. We chose a dark cherry color. With all the crevices, the color selection was a bit nerve racking at first. Once we put the color on, its nearly impossible to turn back without making new materials!
The color was a great choice and we were happy with our intuitive decision.
We used 8- clips to attach the custom wood top to the base. These clips are specifically built for wood movement allowances. Which is so critical when working with any sort of hardwood, especially domestic woods. We had to carefully plan the layout of the wood species so that the base would attach to the same species of wood on all sides.
We wanted to make sure that we accounted for wood movement properly. This ensures a well lasting piece of furniture that wont break down and potentially split over time.
Seasonal wood movement can run havoc on a custom piece of furniture unless properly accounted for. We see many pieces of “custom furniture” that aren’t built with this in mind.
Wood is an organic material. And even though you’re working with it in its “dead” state, it still interacts and changes with its local environment. Things like sunlight and moisture between summer and winter humidity changes need to be accounted for. When these naturally occurring dynamics are not part of the build process, the piece of furniture will break down quicker and in many cases, even fail.
This custom wood dining table had cherry incorporated into the build and we were intentional about placing strips on both sides of the table, at contrasting thicknesses to use for attaching the wood base.
If you notice where the slots are cut- this is to allow seasonal movement in the wood top.
Once we applied the oil finish, this piece absolutely came to life! It was amazing to see this dull wood take on a rich and deep glow. The sheen was perfect. The feel was glorious. Truly. As our client said at a follow up visit- “it feels like skin!” Our client was amazed at the warmness of such a piece. Her prior dining table was from a big box furniture store here in Boise and was built for economics mostly. Nothing more. This was a HUGE upgrade for her and she was in tears when we delivered it!
This custom wood dining table was a real treat to have on our calendar this year. It is always rewarding to be invited into a sacred part of someones home- the kitchen table! There are memories and life that takes place atop this quiet pillar in your dining room.
This was a challenging build with the many different species of wood. We were against the contrasting colors at first but after we began the wood selection process we knew we were going to be extremely joyed with the end result.
And when our client came to our shop, and seeing the delight in her eyes! What a treat.
And in this way, you get paid twice- for the build. But more importantly for the satisfaction it brings the user.
We would take on another custom dining table like this in the future? ABSOLUTELY! We went out to visit the table a couple of weeks later, to see how it was aging. And all the sunlight pouring on this gave this custom wood dining a whole new dimension.
Thanks for sticking around and reading all about this custom wood dining table. This was such a rewarding build for us and for our client. We would say yes again in a heartbeat!
Reach out to find out more about this particular piece or to see what it would take to have your dream custom wood dining table built.
What I like most about custom-made cherry wood tables is that makers take into account wood movement to so that the table won’t break or crack with age. This type of care is what Grandma is after when she gets her 52-seater cherry and Brazilian ironwood wedding anniversary table made by the best local custom furniture makers. She would like her table to last a lifetime by being able to adjust naturally to heat, moisture, cold, and wind.
52 seater?!!! Wow, that would be a nice table!
Totally; great point.