SO MUCH FUN!
This was a really fun project! It took me a week to complete rather than the single day (ha!) that I had planned for. My wife really wants to redo our kitchen cupboards and top them off with butcher block counter tops, so this was a bit of a practice run for me. Boy am I glad for having it, too! I learned many lessons!
First, I ordered basswood blanks from Bell Forest Products. I have to confess that I did not research the company before hand (no excuse) so I have no idea about sustainability practices or fair trade policies, or anything like that. I literally just googled “basswood blanks” and voila, up they popped!
Why basswood? I lucked into working with basswood a couple of years back when I built a chest for my daughter for Christmas. It was one of the few choices for “hobby lumber” that I was able to purchase locally, in person. It’s a fairly light stock, not as light as balsa wood, but not too much heavier, either. It sands quickly and effortlessly, takes stain like a sponge, has enough structural integrity to build sizable (though not huge) projects with, and just has a damn cool name.
(Full disclosure, I’m a long-time bass player, so I may be biased.)
You don’t have to go with Bell, but at $55 the price was right for me! Here are a couple of other options, though:
Of course, I like to build with as few fasteners (nails and screws) as possible. So, you’ll need a good wood glue, and lots of it!
For this table I used a polyurethane spray around the edges (3 heavy coats) and a glaze coat epoxy kit for the work surface.
Last, but not least, I fastened the whole thing to a set of black pipe table legs. These come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. Here are some of my favorites:
First, I laid out the pieces of basswood as they would be arranged in the finished project. I then snapped a photo, and began planning out all of my laser etchings:
The laser etcher that I used was by LaserPecker. I ordered the deluxe version (thanks to the S.B.A.), but it comes in many different configurations. Here are a couple of them:
I then glued together only the 3- and 4-piece blocks that would have to be glued together prior to etching. This was primarily necessary for the 4 portraits, but also for the H.S.T. Gonzo emblem and the ship’s seal for the USS Reuben James, etcetera. From there each individually etched piece was processed through the LaserPecker and assembled, piece by piece, to form the entire surface of the table.
I stained the surface and edges of the desk, then flipped it over and glued four 1 x 4 furring strips cut to match the depth of the tabletop. This may or may not have been necessary, but it gave me piece of mind in the sense that it shores up potential structural integrity issues with the butcher block pieces by adding cross supports that bridge most, if not all, of the basswood blanks with the others.
Next, I flipped the whole thing back over and created a basin for the epoxy resin (glaze coat) using several layers of tightly pulled painter’s tape. Glaze coat pours out pretty thick, and maintains a high viscosity all the way through to curing (hardening). This gives it what the manufacturer calls a “self-leveling” quality, which is probably just marketing hype, but it’s also not untrue. You have to work the liquid around a bit to make sure that it gets into all areas, but once it has contact with the entire area, thicknesses pretty much level out on their own thanks to gravity and time.
The key is to have a heat gun or flame available to work out as many of the bubbles that you will inevitably find trapped in the goo–once it is spread evenly–as possible. If you miss this step, you will get dimples and holes where the bubbles remained during curing. They are actually pretty easy to coax up through the gelatinous epoxy, so long as you warm the goop from a proper distance and don’t overheat or boil it. I found that a heat gun was also good for fine tuning the spread of the resin, as it was able to move the material without leaving behind a depression in the surface like the mixing paddle did.
Anyway, the rest is pretty much self-explanatory. Please do watch the time-lapse above of me building this project as described in this blog post.
Thanks for reading!
Stand by to stand by! –Mad Squid