How to Build a Wood Slab Table
Building a Wood Slab Table
I wanted to share my experience as an inexperienced wood worker; hopefully this helps someone looking to build a wood slab table and gives them the encouragement to do so!
The way this all started was because I was looking to buy a desk, and all of the desks I really liked cost between $600-$1,000. I was not going to spend that, so I decided to build my own slab table from California Redwood. I chose redwood because I love the way the grain looks.
Lets start with finding a slab: I bought my redwood slab on e-bay, and it was relatively cheap, I recommend looking at seller ratings before you buy and don't be afraid to ask questions! ($175, which included shipping from CA to NC.) There are a couple of things that you need to look for in a slab regardless of the type of wood you are using.
- Moisture Content: I did some research on this, but it is not recommended that you put any type of finish on wood that has over 10% moisture content. Anything over 10% and the wood will become mold/mildew ridden and the piece will be completely ruined! My advice is to buy a kiln dried piece of wood or a piece that has been properly "stickered". For those that don't know stickered means dried without a kiln, and the slabs are usually placed on 2x4s to allow air to pass through.
- Thickness: In order for the slab to hold up as a table it has to be at least 2 inches thick!
- Bark: I know that bark looks really cool, it gives the table that live edge look, I kept the bark on my slab. However, almost no seller will guarantee that the bark will stay attached. Just be wary of this and you may prefer a slab that looks good with out bark.
Once you get the slab you need to let it acclimate! this is important! I let my slab acclimate 2 weeks before I start any finishing work!
Finally finishing the actual slab. I started sanding (by hand, I would recommend a belt sander if you have one). Let me explain why you sand the slab; the first reason is because it takes away imperfections in the wood and makes it smooth, the second reason is because it helps the poly urethane adhere to the wood better.
- When you start sanding the faces of the slab start with a lower grit sand paper around 120; then work your way up to 220. This is where most people stop, I went all the way up to 320 and then 420; just to get the wood extra smooth.
- Now, like i said i left the bark on the table, I wanted to sand it down a little to make it a little less rough to the tough. I took a sanding sponge of 220 grit and gently sanded the bark, this helped keep it smooth.
- The last step before applying your protective coat is to use a tack cloth to wipe down the slab. A tack cloth is specially designed to take away saw dust from wood. It works great and it is a super important step to do remove all of the saw dust from the piece!
The next step is to pick the stain/ protective coating you want. For the most part you will just use a protective coating on a slab, the reason you bought the slab is because it is naturally beautiful. I chose quick drying poly-urethane; for the sole reason that I live in an apartment complex and did this on my balcony, so I wanted it done quickly!
I wanted to go a little bit more in-depth on choosing the appropriate protective stain ( this took me a while to figure out what was right for me.). You have basically three options: Poly-Crilic, Linseed Oil, and Poly-Urethane.
- Poly-Crilic: is a water based protective seal that does not produce fumes that harsh. However, it is less durable than Poly-Urethane. It also is not completely water resistant.
- Poly-Urethane: Is an oil based protective seal that produces harsh fumes. However it is water resistant and incredibly durable.
- Linseed Oil: is not a protective seal at all. It is more of a stain. It does not protect the wood in any way, but it is marketed as a protective seal. Now with that said, their are products that are poly urethane based and have linseed oil in them, these are more durable and water resistant.
- Warning: Please be sure to use a well ventilated area the fumes are very toxic.
Also you will need to chose the type of applicator you will use, I chose a foam brush, but you could also use a natural hair brush as well.
- After you have picked the protective coating and brush that you will use, dip the brush into the coating and start spreading it on the wood. Make sure that you are brushing with the grain of the wood not against it!
- Once you feel that you have an even coating on the piece leave it alone and let it dry for the amount of time that the instructions recommend.
- After the piece has dried use 220 grit paper to lightly sand the entire piece and pay more attention to imperfections in the finish.
- Use your tack cloth to take away any sanding left over! again super important.
- Repeat these steps until you have the desired coating.
- On your final coat you can go wet sand the piece with a very high grit between 2,500-3,000. This will give the piece a very smooth finish. (I elected to not do this on my slab)
Also just a note you do the same with the sides of the slab, where the bark is.
Some Pro-Tips for finishing the slab:
- You must finish both faces of the slab, this helps to prevent cupping or warping.
- You can use the same brush over again, just make sure you are cleaning it out after each use!
- I recommend applying your protective coat generously, it allows you to build up a coat quicker, and helps hide brush strokes.
After you have completed all of these steps you have finished your slab! all you have to do is attach legs! I chose hairpin style legs, and again bought those on e-bay. I think the desk came out awesome! I challenge you to try it yourself, it is incredibly gratifying to have people over and say "I built that".