the Life of Zim

26th April
written by dzimney

Balck Walnut

So we’re building a coffee table. We’ve been needing a coffee table for some time now. We’ve talked about building one for a while but haven’t really looked too much into it because of costs. Instead we’ve been keeping our eyes open at garage sales and antique stores with no luck… until this weekend. We stopped into a small antique-type furniture store while scouring the city for garage sales and found this amazing wood coffee table that was damn near exactly what we’ve been looking for. Only problem? Too expensive. So in true Dan and Laura fashion this spawned a whole new quest for the day without really discussing or giving much thought to the idea: let’s build a table. Not like it’s a bad idea, but before we knew it we were searching around for lumber yards all over town and trying to get the wood of our coffee table dreams within a reasonable price.


The Inspiration

We have a basic design in mind and have a pretty damn good idea of how we’re going to build the table, but finding the correct lumber turned out to be more difficult than we’d anticipated. We called a few friends and did some searching around online and found a few places that looked like promising candidates for lumber. The first place was The Rebuilding Center, a truly awesome and true to Portland form warehouse with tons and tons of old used lumber. Mostly doors and window frames, but also a hole lot of 2x4s and spare lumber everywhere. This is where we got our legs. We had a pretty good idea of what we were looking for, which were some thick 6×6 pieces of hardwood to make the legs from. Luckily we were able to find some more moderately priced pieces that will work quite well. I’m not exactly sure what kind of wood it is, but we’re thinking Cedar. The important part is that they’ll make great big heavy legs for our table.

Legs and tops

(bottom-left) 4' and 3' 6x6 Legs
(top-right) 2x14 slabs for the top of the table

Today was the real big treat though. Laura found this place online that’s just outside of the city in the burbs. This guy built his own wood kiln and has been collecting lumber from all around Portland and selling it out of his house. He’ll find someone (on Craig’s List for instance) trying to get rid of an old tree somewhere around town, send his guys to collect the wood and then mill it, air dry it in his back yard, and finally “cook” it in his kiln for three months to fully dry out the wood and then prepare and sell it off to folks like us. He had a ton of really gorgeous wood there. Probably more impressive that there were so many more natural cuts of wood there. Most of it was like a cross section of the tree. Really neat guy.

We told him what were were doing and around the sizes we were looking for and he found three pieces that were really perfect for us. The wood had a bit of a twist in it so he planed them for us as well as he could — there’s a slight twist in the boards yet; hopefully we’ll be able to get away with not having to correct them. He also gave us a bunch of tips and ideas for finishes. And the pieces of wood he gave us are really spectacular. I really think it’s going to add that extra piece of character that’ll turn this project from something fun and something we like, to something we truly love. I’ve still have to make a trip to the hardware store to get some tools and hardware to put the thing together, but the important stuff is in our hands, which feels great. The table’s going to be a real beast when were done with it. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if all the wood weighed 80-100 lbs. As a reference, the leg with the red paint in the picture is about 48″ tall. It’s really going to be a beautiful project and we’re pretty damn excited to get working on it.