Button, button…

When I was writing my blog post yesterday morning I realized I’d forgotten to make a provision for attaching the top to the table base.  I kew I needed to do it, but in the excitement of getting close to glue-up I lost sight of it.

So first thing, I drew up some quick dimensions for a batch of buttons to attach the table top, and headed out to the shop in search of a suitable off cut to use in making them.  I found a piece and went to town.  The article I linked from yesterday’s post shows Christian Becksvoort making them but cutting a rabbet across a scrap and then cross-cutting.  My scrap had the grain running in the wrong direction to do that, so I set up a dado blade to cut a rabbet in the end, then cross cut it with a hand saw to length, then repeated until all my stock was gone.  Add counter-sunk holes for a #10 screw and some chamfers and they were done.  I tossed them in a bag of linseed oil for the rest of the day after I took this picture.

Table top attachment buttons

Table top attachment buttons

Then I cut some slots in the back of the skirts to receive the buttons.  I set up stop blocks on the router table and cut these to depth in two passes.  I set the distance from the edge of the skirt to the slot about 1/16″ larger than the step in the attachment button so when they are installed they will draw the table down snugly.  The slots are long enough to allow the buttons to slide about 1/8″ in either direction when the wood moves.

Test fitting the attachment buttons to the skirts

Test fitting the attachment buttons to the skirts

How would I do this without a router table?  You could certainly chop shallow mortises in the back like this, that would be simple enough.  You could also saw or plow a thin groove and use these Z-clips from Lee Valley instead of making wood blocks.  I used them on a little side table I made once and they worked out OK…  They loosened up about a year ago, but the table is about 15 years old at this point and needs some re-jabbing anyway.  I’m replacing it with the Thorsen table, and I’ll clean it up and refinish it then.

Alternate approach -- Z-Clips from Lee Valley (click picture to visit their site)

Alternate approach — Z-Clips from Lee Valley (click picture to visit their site)

Then I started the process of sanding all of the details on the legs, skirts and stretchers.  This takes a long time, it’s mostly hand work with little pieces of sandpaper to shape and blend the details.  I have the skirts mostly done and still have work to do on the legs.  Probably two more hours before I’m ready to glue up the base.  I’m working everything up to 150 grit first, then I’ll go back over everything with 180, 220 and probably 320.  It makes a big difference to my eye.  The color of the sanded wood looks much lighter because it has sawdust in the pores, I’ll clean it between grits and wipe it with water to raise the grain (san scuff sand it again) before assembly.

Detailing the skirts -- one skirt is untouched and the other is done to 150 grit.

Detailing the skirts — one skirt is untouched and the other is done to 150 grit.

The other pair f skirts, also to 150 grit.

The other pair f skirts, also to 150 grit.

The BBQ Update

By the way, the pulled pork came our excellent.  It was on the smoker from 11:30pm Saturday night until 5:30pm Sunday (18 hours).  You want to putt it off when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees.  I wrapped it in foil and let it rest an hour, then shredded it with a fork and tossed it with a little BBQ sauce.  The best way to serve it is on a bun with a scoop of cole slaw in my opinion, but my family doesn’t like slaw.  Tonight, as penance for the BBQ excess, I’m sticking with brown rice and tofu…

18 hours on the smoker, just in time for dinner

18 hours on the smoker, just in time for dinner

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My other, other project

So I’m working away on the Thorsen table today, and you probably know I have the Thorsen cabinet mostly done except for the stained glass.  While I’m working I’m also annoying the sweet smell of pure hickory smoke wafting in from the smoker just outside my shop.

I put a 8.5lb pork shoulder on to smoke last night at 11:30pm.  It should be done about 2:00 this afternoon, and I’ll wrap it in foil and pack it in a cooler to rest until dinner time.

I tweaked my rub recipe, I like this version a lot.  It should be applied liberally and left to sit in the fridge for at least two hours, longer is better.

Pork Rub
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sweet paprika
4 tablespoons coarse hickory salt
2 tablespoons fresh ground rainbow peppercorns
1 tablespoon “smoked” paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons celery seed
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
Pork after about 11 hours of smoking, another 4 or 5 hours to go

Pork after about 11 hours of smoking, another 4 or 5 hours to go

Sweet, sweet hickory smoke

Sweet, sweet hickory smoke

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Lotsa Details Done

Good day in the shop yesterday, although it was a close thing.  The third book in a trilogy I was reading came out recently, and when I get caught up in story the house could burn down around me without me noticing.  Luckily I finished the book with plenty of daylight left.

My goal this weekend is to get the Thorsen table as finished as I can.  I’d like to get it to the same state as the Thorsen cabinet I’m building so I can finish both pieces at the same time.  After wrapping up the piercings the day before, my next jobs were the cloud lifts in the skirts and the waterfall leg detail.  Both of these were pretty simple, mechanical tasks compared to the piercing.

First the cloud lift.  No real magic here, I made a simple MDF template with some scraps to locate the skirt and toggle clamps to hold it firmly in place.  I traced the outline of the lift detail onto the skirt and sawed away the waste, then pattern routed the part to clean it up.  I did a sample part to see if I could route all the way across, but as you would expect on the right side there the bit is cutting into the unsupported end grain it splinters.  Not a big deal, I just clean it up to the halfway point and flip the part in the fixture.

Pattern routing the cloud lift detail after sawing out the waste first

Pattern routing the cloud lift detail after sawing out the waste first

Then on to the waterfall legs.  I used the same approach here, but I had to make sure that I set the fixture up so that when it was made I would always be cutting “downhill” to avoid tear out.  I laid out some guidelines for where the steps on the waterfall would be, and routed them into the pattern in two steps.

First I set the fence on the router table so the bit protruded 1/8″ and set a stop block to allow the part to only reach the upper waterfall mark.  Note that these layout marks are on the back of the pattern, when it’s in use the waterfall detail will be on the right side of the pattern.

Making the waterfall pattern, step 1

Making the waterfall pattern, step 1

Now reset the fence so the bit extends 1/4″ and reset the stop block so it aligns the bit with the lower waterfall mark.

Lower waterfall step routed out

Lower waterfall step routed out

Next I used a rasp and some sandpaper to shape the  outside curves, after that it was just a patter of attaching the stop blocks and toggle clamps to the base.

Outside corners of the pattern rounded over

Outside corners of the pattern rounded over

Then I marked out the detail onto the legs in pencil and headed into the metal shop to bandsaw off the waste.  This detail only goes on the inside faces of the legs, and I was terrified that I’d lose track of what I was doing and put it on the wrong face.  You can bet I was very careful to triple check each leg before I sawed it.

Removing the waste on the legs

Removing the waste on the legs

Then I put the pattern to use, clamping each leg into place and using the router to make sure the steps were identical.

Pattern routing the step in the legs

Pattern routing the step in the legs

Once the steps were cut into the legs I set up a 1/8″ round over bit and went over all of the edges of the legs, the bottom edge of the skirts and the outside edges of the stretchers.  The bit can’t reach the stepped faces of the leg, so I used a rasp, file and sandpaper to shape those.

Leg after routing, but before hand shaping of the sharp edges

Leg after pattern routing, but before rounding over the sharp edges

Edges rounded over, these are the inside faces

Edges rounded over, these are the inside faces

Outside face

Outside face

I’m very close to being able to glue up the table base.  Everything needs to be finish sanded, and (OMG, I almost forgot!) I need to figure out how I’m going to attach the table top.  I guess I’ll make some wooden buttons and carve some slots in the side like this picture.  Wow, I can’t believe that almost slipped pass me.

Wooden buttons for attaching a table top (see https://www.finewoodworking.com/media/TabletopsFlat.pdf, click picture to read article)

Wooden buttons for attaching a table top (click on picture to read article)

Ok, so as I was saying…  Before I can glue up the base I have to make slots for attachment buttons, and finish sand everything.  I have the lower shelf already cut, I just need to rabbet the back and notch the corners to fit around the legs.  The wood for the top is prepared too, I have to make the breadboard ends and mortises for 16 ebony plugs though.  Sounds like a pretty full day ahead of me.

Legs awaiting sanding

Legs awaiting sanding

 

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The hard part is done…

Ya know, saying “it’s all downhill from here” is probably something that a guy should never say.  Like saying “traffic is really light today”, it invites a giant pile up and hours of delay.  But, there, I already said it.

Cutting the pierced details on the table skirts was stressful.  Overall I did a pretty good good job, but it’s amazing how your eye can pick out the tinniest little irregularity.  I sawed “right on the line” when cutting these, but that meant that in come places I was just leaving the line and at the other end of the spectrum I was just erasing the line.  That is a variance of .010″ to .015″ (about 1/64″), but it’s obvious to my eye. (and even with contacts my vision is still a little dicey).

So I did the best I could, and I’ll clean them up with a file and sandpaper and call it good enough.

First I sawed out the detail to match the first, more complex design.

Two skirts done, no cleanup on the piercing yet

Two skirts done, no cleanup on the piercing yet

Then I printed out the other two templates.  I used the same approach of laying down blue tape first, then using spray adhesive to affix the the template.  This works well, the whole mess peels off easily.  I did a sample piece with just the template and spray adhesive and even after washing with acetone and scraping the wood is still gummy.  I marked the locations for the end-drill reliefs, drilled the holes and was ready to roll.

Patterns glued down for the other two skirts

Patterns glued down for the other two skirts

I expected these to be easier to saw out — and they were — but straight lines really seem to show off any irregularities much worse than curves.  I sawed them and didn’t fret (no pun intended) about undulations.  Then I told them to the bench and did some hand work to try to true the cuts.  I’ll probably do a little more fine tuning on the sawn reliefs when I go out in the shop this morning and look at them with fresh eyes, but I think these are close to being close enough.  Maybe.  What do you think?

After I deal with the cloud lift detail along the bottom I’ll sand the faces of the skirts and break the edges of the pierced areas, which will soften things up a bit.

Nearly (?) complete skirt piercings

Nearly (?) complete skirt piercings

I did a quick dry fit to see how things are looking, I think this is going to be nice when it’s finished.

Dry fit assembly of the table

Dry fit assembly of the table (yes, one stretcher is backwards)

Next, cloud lift detail on the skirts, water fall detail on the legs, rounding all of the edges and sanding.  Once I get the base glued up I can make the table top with the breadboard ends and fit the lower shelf.  Hopefully it won’t be too hot today to keep working.

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Thanks Lie-Nielsen

Last week I dropped my Lie-Nielsen saw, with the predictable results.

I emailed them to inquire about purchasing a replacement handle – I assumed they would be willing to sell me a handle to get my saw working again.  I was wrong.

Instead they sent me a replacement, gratis.  Wow, right?  I certainly didn’t expect that, but it really made my day.  The handle showed up in Wednesday’s mail (having shipped Monday from Maine to California).  I installed it last night and I’m back in business.

Happy new saw handle

Happy new saw handle

This weekend I’ll finish the details on the base of the little Greene & Greene table I’m building.  I hope.  I’d like to see it glued up and done soon.

 

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Ruining the skirts (NOT!)

Yesterday wasn’t terribly productive in terms of how much I got done, perhaps just slightly ahead of “watching paint dry”, but I’m happy with how things are coming out.  It was about 85 degrees outside, and my wood shop feels like it’s ten degrees hotter than outside.  It’s weird, because the other building where I have my metalworking junk is probably 10 degrees cooler than outside.  Maybe I should only do metalwork in the summer…

I decided to do a little more scroll saw practice, but after a couple of cuts I decided that I was good enough on the shallow curves, and that the tight curves were too unpredictable.  The really tight turns also seemed to show up mistakes more, and if I got off the mark it was harder to correct.  So I did the only reasonable thing — I changed my design to avoid the tight turns.

Not by much, mind you.  I just changed the radius on the really tight turns to be a standard fractional drill size so I could drill out the ends and concentrate on connecting the lines in between.  I had to scale up the piercing a bit to make it look right, but I think it’s good.  I printed out my templates, and headed out to the shop.  Here’s how it went down:

First, I laid down blue tape on the wood.  I discovered that the “Super 77″ spray adhesive I’m using is just too sticky and it makes a mess getting it off of the wood.  This way the pattern sticks to the tape instead and the whole mess just peels right off when I’m done.

Lay down blue tape to prevent the spray adhesive from gumming up the wood.  Strike a center line on the part.

Lay down blue tape to prevent the spray adhesive from gumming up the wood. Strike a center line on the part.

You can just see the centerline I laid out on the tape, I carried this over the top edge of the wood so I could use it to align the pattern with a “tape hinge”.

Pattern lined up on the center mark and hinged with more blue tape

Pattern lined up on the center mark and hinged with more blue tape

I included center marks on the new pattern so I could accurately drop in the drill locations.  This is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Pattern glued down, hole locations centers marked with an awl

Pattern glued down, hole locations centers marked with an awl

Then I drilled the holes for the ends of the design elements.  For the “Star Trek Communicator” shapes I just drilled a 1/8″ pilot hole, far enough away from the line so I could nibble away the waste and start exactly on the line.  I thought about dropping in a tangent circle at the tightest point in the arc for another drill but decided I could cut that without panicking.  I think I will do that for the other skirt though.

Holes drilled to create the end arcs in the design.  I used fresh brad point bits with a backer board to prevent splintering on the reverse side.

Holes drilled to create the end arcs in the design. I used fresh brad point bits with a backer board to prevent splintering on the reverse side.

I’m using a “#5 Flying Dutchman Ultra Reverse” blade, high enough blade tension that the blade makes a nice high pitched “twang” when plucked and a relatively low blade speed — maybe 1/3 of the maximum speed.  I’m also wearing a #5 Optivisor so I can see the line and going relatively slowly, maybe half the speed I could theoretically push the board through the saw.  Seems to work.

Initial shapes cut out

Initial shapes cut out

End shapes cut

End shapes cut

The cuts aren’t perfect but they aren’t far off either.  There are a couple of little burs where I transitioned between the drilled holes and the sawn areas, but they are all undercuts (e.g. I left a little extra material instead of cutting outside of the line, or over cutting).  There are a couple of little undulations as I sawed slightly to one side of the line — I tried to split the line, or cut to the inside of it, but this difference is just barely visible.  I can clean all of this up with just a little sanding.

One skirt done, three more to do

One skirt done, three more to do

I’ll see if I can get an hour in the shop tonight and saw the matching skirt like this one.  I already updated the pattern for the other skirt to add the tangent holes for the ends of the design.  That design is significantly simpler too, it should be less challenging to cut.  A little file and sandpaper should smooth out the piercings nicely, then I need to figure out how to round over the edges.  I can do it with sandpaper I know — and probably will, as I want sort of an organic rounded shape anyway.

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Stuff I like, part 1

The internet is a pretty wonderful thing when it comes to publishing information.  I remember when I was first trying to learn about metal shaping in the 1980′s.  I had a handful of books and magazine articles (and was glad to have them) but going beyond that wasn’t easy.  I met people, took some courses and learned what I could.  Then in the early 1990′s I attended a talk about “Mosaic” and the “World Wide Web”, when I got back to my office at work I figured out how to download Mosaic (which was, of course, the first web browser) and started trying to search the internet.  I found something called “ArtMetal.com” and was immediately networked with a bunch of people around the country who shared similar interests.  Sadly, it looks like the original ArtMetal site archives at Washington University are gone and the current site has loads of broken links.

Chris Ray

One of the first internet buddies I made was Chris Ray, a blacksmith and sculptor in Philadelphia.  I had a business trip to the east coast once where I managed to add in a side trip to visit Chris and stayed with him for a couple of days.  He had an interesting live/work space in a scary area, and we got to play in his shop raising abstract shapes from thick copper and forging iron.  I have two original Chris Ray pieces, one from his “Flotsam” series and another that is a house number that I commissioned, and the plant hanger I made at Chris’ shop around 1995 still hangs on my front porch.

"Nomad" by Chris Ray, wrought copper

“Nomad” by Chris Ray, wrought copper

Street number forged/fabricated by Chris Ray for my house

Street number forged/fabricated by Chris Ray for my house

Plant hanger forged by your truly under Chris' watchful eye.  I was trying to get a plowing, plastic shape like taffy melting.

Plant hanger forged by your truly under Chris’ watchful eye. I was trying to get a plowing, plastic shape like taffy melting.

But I digress.  I’m just pointing out the obvious; the internet makes access to information on art, craft and processes easily available where previously it was difficult to find information and artists had little chance of broad recognition outside of a lucky few individuals.

Theodore Ellison

I found Theodore Ellison’s web site through a posting on a G&G mail list about some beautiful wood doors that had these stunning stained glass panels in them.  I’ve spent hours browsing through the pictures on theodoreellison.com.  I really like his compositions, use of color and decorative soldering.  Do yourself a favor and take a look at his work.

Detail of a cabinet door designed to match nearby windows

Detail of a cabinet door designed to match nearby windows

Having done a few simple stained glass projects, I really appreciate the details in his work.  The decorative soldering is something that I want to pay particular attention to in the future.  Take a look at the details on the glass panels in this door from his blog, the solder seams become realistic branches in the tree.

wood and glass detail of Dunsmuir Door by Theodore Ellison Designs and the Craftsman Door Company

wood and glass detail of Dunsmuir Door by Theodore Ellison Designs and the Craftsman Door Company

Debey Zito

In the same way I discovered Ellison’s work through the Craftsman Door Company, I discovered Debey Zito through Ellison’s blog.  Both are members of Artistic License, a local San Francisco organization of craftspeople involved in historical architectural work.  Zito and Ellison collaborated with other local artisans, including coppersmith Audel Davis, to create this stunning room — an homage to the work of CF Voysey.

zito_07

Ravens (a popular motif) recall the lively birds in a fireplace grille by Voysey. The oak trees are all about California. Photo: Nathanael Bennett

There were pictures of several of Debey Zito’s pieces, but this is my favorite by far.  Interestingly, she has made several pieces of furniture for the owners of the Blacker House, including this one.  I like the lines of the cabinet, the decorative (inlay?) on the upper panels and the sculpted metal handles.  Really, really nice.

Aesthetic Cabinet. 70"H, 60"W, 23"D. Black walnut. We have made this piece several times. One is in the Greene and Greene Blacker House with water lilies carved on it. Photo: David Ramsey.

Aesthetic Cabinet. 70″H, 60″W, 23″D. Black walnut. We have made this piece several times. One is in the Greene and Greene Blacker House with water lilies carved on it. Photo: David Ramsey.

Voysey Desk and Chair. Desk: 53"H, 44"W, 17"D. Chair: 45"H, 23"W, 22"D. Black walnut. Photo: David Ramsey.

Voysey Desk and Chair by Debey Zito. Desk: 53″H, 44″W, 17″D. Chair: 45″H, 23″W, 22″D. Black walnut. Photo: David Ramsey.

Christopher Vickers

Since several of Debey Zito’s pieces are inspired by CFA Voysey, I decided look more into his work.  Which lead me to Vickers’ website.  He is a craftsman in the UK, and he produces both wood and metal items, but it’s his metal lighting fixtures that really are stunning in my opinion.  There is a lot to look at here, primarily English Arts & Crafts styled work.  Some, like the Voysey items, tend toward the abstract.  I haven’t looked at everything on his site yet, and need to stop if I have any hope of getting work done in my shop today, so I’ll leave you with this simple but elegant hanging light.  I think it’s just spectacular.

Birmingham Guild of Handicraft Pendant Light.

Birmingham Guild of Handicraft Pendant Light.

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Practicing using a scroll saw

I never imagined I’d own a scroll saw, much less find myself watching videos about “scrolling” and practicing with a scroll saw.  But that’s what I’ve been up to today.

Whaaaat?

Original Thorsen Plant Stand

Original Thorsen Plant Stand

Yeah, the next step on the little Thorsen table is to cut out these abstract designs in the skirts.  I don’t know how the Halls did it, but my thought was to use the scroll saw I got when I was making the Gamble Inglenook sconce.  I learned that sawing accurately on a scroll saw isn’t as easy as I’d hoped.  On the sconces it was mostly straight lines, I sawed as best I could then spent a lot of time cleaning up the piercings with sandpaper stuck to a piece of sheet metal to make a thin file (of sorts).

Piercing for the Inglenook Sconce

Piercing (pattern) for the Inglenook Sconce

My concern of course is that any little screw up in the piercing is going to show up like a nose wart on a beauty queen.  If I can cut them accurately the sawn edge won’t need much attention to be “finished”.  If it’s wavy and over cut, all of the sanding in the world won’t help.

I found a close up view of the piercing in the “taboret” from the Thorsen house, which has the same design.  Take a look at how nice those shapes are.

Taboret detail from the Thorsen house.  A little wider and 3.75" shorter than the "plant stand".

Taboret detail from the Thorsen house. A little wider and 3.75″ shorter than the “plant stand”.

So, what else could I do but spend some time practicing.  I’ll give away the surprise ending: I still need more practice.

I started by watching a couple of YouTube videos on scroll saw techniques.  This one seemed to have most of ht basics:

I downloaded the practice  pattern and headed out to the shop where I glued it to a scrap of 1/4″ pine, fit a blade in the saw and proceeded to embarrass myself.

Practice pattern glued to some pine

Practice pattern glued to some pine

The straight lines aren’t too bad.  That is to say, I didn’t totally screw those up.  The right angle turns are going to take some more practice, although I can do “ok” on those.  Curves, those are going to take a lot more work before I’m comfortable with them.  I did all of the practice elements, then decided I was tired of practicing and wanted to do the real project.  Luckily I didn’t give in to that impulse.

Practice circle

Practice circle

Instead I decided to practice on the same type of wood (Sapele) in the same thickness (3/4″) as the skirts.  I glued a pattern to the wood and drilled access holes for the blade.

Sample pattern

Sample pattern

I fitted a fresh “Flying Dutchman Ultra Reverse #5″ blade, set the tension, slowed the speed way down, and went to town.  The results?  Not horrible, but no where near good enough for the table.  The long arcs are OK, the tight turns on the ends are tricky, you have to rotate the piece a lot factor than you would imagine.  The moon lander shaped arc on the end detail came out pretty sloppy in particular.

One word: MEH.  Almost, but no cigar.

One word: MEH. Almost, but no cigar.

The finish from the cut is very nice, if the cut is fair then it probably won’t need any sanding.  I tried some scroll saw sanding files to try to smooth out some of the undulations.  It helps, but the files are kind of a joke.  Using light pressure it would take several files to get the job done, and they really only work well on gradual curves.  They are marginal on tight turns, and useless on tight areas.  A spindle sander with a tiny drum might work in some areas, but I don’t have one of those.

I want to get this figured out though, I can see being able to cut accurately with this saw being a real asset for some of the furniture that I want to make.  Eventually I want to try doing “Greene & Greene style inlay” or Bolection Inlay.  More practice tomorrow.

Some detail sanding done, but this is certainly not going to fly (except into the kindling pile)

Some detail sanding done, but this is certainly not going to fly (except into the kindling pile)

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Time to start on the details…

All the skirts, legs and stretchers are cooperating nicely. Next I will do the details on the skirts.

20140711-132637-48397482.jpg

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Table Tenon Trimming

I got exactly half of my tenons trimmed.  Since both my band saw and my only carcass saw are DOA that made me stop and think about my options.  I have to saw away a little over half the width of the tenon, then tune it up with a plane so it fits properly.  I used my scroll saw on these, which worked OK.  Probably a good warmup for doing the piercing, but it’s like using a pair of tweezers to put your shoes away — it’s just not the right tool.  As I think about the other tools I could use to do this it makes me realize how easy it is to get locked into one way of doing a job.

Regardless, I got the tenons on two skirts and two stretchers trimmed up.  I’ll get the others today, and then move on to the details that make this table special.  Probably the piercing next, then the waterfall legs.  Need to start the top too.

I’m happy with the fit of the tenons.  They slide home with firm pressure and a light tap or two from the mallet, and the shoulders close up almost perfectly.  They do look a little plain at this stage, but that is about to change.

Two sides of the table dry-fit

Two sides of the table dry-fit

 

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