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Ideas on building a beam coffee table

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Jogeephus

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This week I've been in demolition mode. I tore down one house and two barns that were built in the 1800's. Inside the house were these 6x6 heart crypress beams that are hand hewn. Some time back I saw a coffee table made from beams such as this. Table was kept as original as possible. Basically cleaned, joined and polished. Table was about 3.5' x 5.5' x 2'. Its legs were simply galvanized pipe. Table top was basically just the beams cut to length then joined together somehow.

I want to do this out of the beams but don't know the best way to do it. I was thinking about pegging them together but on the otherhand I thought that maybe useing threaded rod with inset bolts on an alternating pattern might do a better job then pegging the outside beams. Any idea would be appreciated?
 

novatech

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Dowel them together. No exposed work on the outside. You could also use 2x's under it with lag bolts.
I hope you have plenty of help when you decide to move it inside.
 
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Jogeephus

Jogeephus

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novatech":1wlq37wh said:
Dowel them together. No exposed work on the outside. You could also use 2x's under it with lag bolts.
I hope you have plenty of help when you decide to move it inside.

The table I saw probably weighed 500 lbs. but it sure looked nice.
 
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Jogeephus

Jogeephus

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You wouldn't have any suggestions on how to best line up the beams to drill the holes would you? I got to thinking about this today and since the beams aren't exactly square - this might pose a bit of a problem. Maybe moreso than getting it in the house. :lol2:
 

dun

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Jogeephus":d1ll8hro said:
You wouldn't have any suggestions on how to best line up the beams to drill the holes would you? I got to thinking about this today and since the beams aren't exactly square - this might pose a bit of a problem. Maybe moreso than getting it in the house. :lol2:


Long pipe clamps to hold them all alined and a long/extended auger.
 

novatech

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Put them side by side on a table or floor. Arrange them where they fit the best. Wedge the ends up with wood shingles until they line up. Draw a line across each end grain so you can realign later. You will need to buy some dowel markers. They are like buttons with points on each side. Put them between the beams and clamp together while realigning the reference marks on the end. Pull them back apart and the dowel center points are marked. I would not try and drill all the way through. About two inches into each side should do. You may need a jig to keep the drill going at a perfect 90 degree angle on each side. Some glues require a tight fit,(carpenters glue) others need a loose fit (epoxy). You may want to drill a couple of outlet holes through the bottom for the excess glue to run out the bottom as you clamp together. Normally you would not worry about this but you are working with an already finished top.
The hardest part may be getting the beam sides flat enough to make a good tight joint. You may have to find someone with an 8" jointer if you do not have one. In lieu of this you can hand plane and scrape. The other way is to leave some minor gaps between. This may work better as the top surface will not be aligning perfectly anyway. I have filled some gaps with sawdust and applied clear polyurethane over the top. You can also use a syringe and inject a filler between. Colored or clear epoxy works good. Be very careful not to over fill. If you use the clear not much problem with over fill as you can coat the entire top just like polyurethane.
 

Doug in KY

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Here is a thought. Drill and dowel the first post. Oversize the dowel hole on the second post. Lay second post down, holes facing up. Fill second post dowel holes 3/4 +/- full with 2 part epoxy. Insert dowels from post one into dowel holes in post two. Repeat process to get desired width. Be prepared to align and the two pieces quickly as the epoxy will set up in a matter of minuits. This all assumes dry fitting each piece before the epoxy is used. Novatech makes a very good point about joining the sides.
 

novatech

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Doug in KY":2t5sfakk said:
Here is a thought. Drill and dowel the first post. Oversize the dowel hole on the second post. Lay second post down, holes facing up. Fill second post dowel holes 3/4 +/- full with 2 part epoxy. Insert dowels from post one into dowel holes in post two. Repeat process to get desired width. Be prepared to align and the two pieces quickly as the epoxy will set up in a matter of minuits. This all assumes dry fitting each piece before the epoxy is used. Novatech makes a very good point about joining the sides.
You can buy a slower setting epoxy, filler/thickener, color additive, etc. I have been using "West System Epoxy" for years. Even built a wooden hot tub with it. Built a hollow 30 ft. mast for a sail boat with no screws or nails. Here is their site; http://www.gougeon.com/
Great for restoring rotted wood. Does not hold up under UV rays out in the sun.
 

Fred Belknap

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If I was doing it for myself I would joint the sides on an 8" jointer then run them through a thickness planer to get them the same size. Then they could be drilled by carefully aligning the holes using a jig. I would use an all thread bold through the width. Countersink the nut on each side and plug the hole with a dowel made from a like piece of wood. I would use three all thread bolts. Sounds like a fun project. One thing for sure you won't break it down standing on it. :)
 
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Jogeephus

Jogeephus

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Thanks for all the great ideas and advice. I can see this thing happening and think it will be very easy to build - if I can be precise with the joining.

Two other questions. The beams have collected years of dirt and dust and need some major cleaning. Do you think it would hurt them if I used a pressure washer with soap in it and hot water. My washer will peal the hide of you but it won't cut the wood I don't think. Any ideas?

Next question is the legs. Table I saw used galvanized pipe as legs. 1" I think. It was threaded with those flared cap things on the end. I had thought about lathing down some old growth pine longleaf but the weight of this thing would probably be a really tough to adjust and get level. Pipe seemed practical and allowed adjustment and was not noticeable unless you are curious enough to get on your belly and give the table a look over like I was.
 

Doug in KY

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Jo,

Have you got a small scrap piece of the wood to try your preasure washer on? If no scrap, you could try your washer on the bottom of the center piece of the table. If it harms the wood and your friends notice, they have had too much of your snake bite medicine, have fallen on the floor and can't get up. Help them up, take them home, they won't remember in the morning anyway.
 
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Jogeephus

Jogeephus

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Doug in KY":1786e92e said:
Jo,

Have you got a small scrap piece of the wood to try your preasure washer on? If no scrap, you could try your washer on the bottom of the center piece of the table. If it harms the wood and your friends notice, they have had too much of your snake bite medicine, have fallen on the floor and can't get up. Help them up, take them home, they won't remember in the morning anyway.

That seems to be a big problem with my friends. They are always falling on the ground or end up sleeping in their trucks or something silly like that. Its like their compass in their head is broke or something. Don't understand it myself.

Yeah, I've probably got a 100 feet of beams I drug out of one old house. I can test it on an end or something. I want to find something that doesn't require elbow greese cause I don't want to ruin the wood with the greese. ;-)
 

denoginnizer

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Seems like you could find something with more character than pipe for the legs. cow horns? deer antlers? old weathered fence post something old with a story would be great
 
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Jogeephus

Jogeephus

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denoginnizer":2t036hfe said:
Seems like you could find something with more character than pipe for the legs. cow horns? deer antlers? old weathered fence post something old with a story would be great

That was my first impression too when I first saw the table I saw but the more I thought about it the more I could see the reasoning behind it for functionality due to the shear weight of the table. Using the threaded pipe would allow ease of adjustment to properly level the table if it needed it later but it does not look proportionally correct. (assuming you lay on your belly to look at how its made like I did - I'm bad about this. Gotta see how stuff is made, especially drawers and stringers)

That said, I do plan on exploring other alternatives but I don't know if my limited woodworking abilities will allow me to do much more than this. :oops: I have thought about just taking some short cuts of the beams and using them as legs. These could be pegged to the top. Or possibly doing the same with some old heart cypress fence posts that were used around the mule pen by the house. I think this would look better for those belly-crawlers out there.(I'm sure I'm not the only one) :lol2:
 

Jalopy

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Jo I like your idea of the beam as legs. You could cut the legs all the same length then do a half lap joint on the upper end so the weight of the table is setting on the legs and then on the bottom you could find some adjustable ends that would screw up and down to allow for fine tuning the level on the table. Just a thought.
 

upfrombottom

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I'm sorry I didn't read this thread sooner. If you want to clean old wood, use a solution of
TSP (trisodium phosphate) and a soft bristle brush. Just apply it with the brush let it set for a little while and rinse it off with a hose. It is sold in most paint stores and lumber yards. It will clean most all raw, weathered, or any painted wood, without damaging the character of the wood.
 
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Jogeephus

Jogeephus

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UglyJake":fvxvx1sl said:
I know this is an older topic, but how did the table turn out?

Haven't done a thing with it cause I got side tracked with another table. Upfrombottom, thanks for the suggestion on cleaning the beams. I'll try that. I need to pull these up and start on it but I'm torn on making a hunter's table out of some cherry I've been drying. I have about 1500 BF of 1 by stock and some 8 x 8 cherry beams that finally got dry enough to work. If I can build one of these I have in mind I'll probably build several since building the jig is going to be the hardest part. Its obvious I need to retire so I can have time doing the important stuff that keeps building up on my list.
 

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