Ming Inspiration (7)

The bubinga has made an appearance on the scene. I went down to a truck depot down near Springfield MA to pick up my bundle of sticks. Given the fact that the piece of wood in question was $6400, and given that it had been purchased based on one photograph and that I was trusting in a seller (Good Hope Hardwoods) with whom I had never dealt previously, and given that I had not been able to find another suitable piece of material anywhere in the country, well, as the proverb goes all the eggs were in one basket: I was a just a little nervous to see what had arrived. Fingers were crossed that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

And here is the pile ‘o planks that greeted me:

A view of the plank end-cuts shows the color a bit better and gives a vague idea as to how the grain runs, most obviously on the second piece down:

I was pleased with what I could examine, though of course with the pile bundled tight together, I couldn’t really see what I had yet. The guys at the truck depot seemed pretty impressed with the wood too- they’d never seen anything like it. I told them it was bubinga. They said gesundheit!

Time to load it on my truck. I folded the flatbed sides down so the forklift would have a clear path:

It’s a heavy pile of wood, though not any great strain for my truck, which can carry 2000lbs with relative ease:

With the ratchet straps on, I couldn’t fold the sides back up, so I took them off (just six little clips hold them on) and roped them down on top the pile:

The bed on my truck is 7′ long, and the sticks are a bit more than 8′ in length. All four of those sticks were sectioned out of one slab of wood.

The journey back to the shop was uneventful, and a few days later I set to work on a little slicing and dicing.

The first order of business was to prepare the blank for the table top boards. This is the width of material I started with:

Here’s the piece then that will be the source of those all-important top panels:

I made some marks and ran a string to see how the grain was running:

At this point, the run of grain was looking a little steeper than I would like, and in consideration of how the two top panels would be swung out and oriented to one another, I ran another string along the middle of the board, to see how it compared:

The second string was only slightly swung off of the long axis of the stick, so I decided to go with that. Obviously, the buttress end of the trunk is at the far end of the above picture and the grain of the stick on the left side (the bark side), as you move along from foreground to background, is diverting more and more due to that buttress flare.

I snapped a line on the edge to make a cut which would make the slight compensatory adjustment for the general run of the grain, then I unleashed the 380mm Makita:

The wedge you see in the above picture was a precaution in case the wood wanted to pinch the blade as I cut, however this turned out to be unnecessary as the wood was very stable in cutting. This was great news, as it meant that the tree had not only grown straight and plumb, and was thus largely free of any reaction wood, but the kiln drying had been done well and there was minimal, if any, case hardening:

Then I measured out the width I needed, snapped a line and ripped down along the other side of the stick to obtain the table top blank:

Setting the off-cut back against the edge of the blank, you can see how there was virtually no movement along that rip line:

One of the things I love about bubinga is its stability.

Here’s the end grain view of the table top blank – virtually all of the face of the piece is in VG (Vertical Grain) orientation:

Now onto the rough cut-out of the table rails:

This piece had a crack at one end, which is the reason that I sliced a 2.25″ off-cut on the right. I can make use of that piece as batten stock so nothing is wasted here.

These are the two main table rails, rough-cut (2nd and 3rd pieces from the left):

A little more Sawing for Teens®, and I now had the principal structural members roughed out:

From the left, we have the center rail, the two outside long rails, then the piece which when crosscut in half gives both of the short end rails, and the 2 sticks on the far right yield the leg blanks. The leg blanks have the desired near-perfect 45˚ rift grain orientation.

Well, I breathed a sigh of relief at how well all of that went. The material is just ideal for this project and is proving to be very well behaved through the roughing-out stage. I’ll let those pieces sit a few days to let any movement that is possibly going to occur to work itself out, and then it will be time for round 1 of the jointing and planing stage. In a few more days I will be taking my table top blank to Berkshire Products in the far western portion of Massachusetts to get some re-sawing done. I’ll be bringing the camera along for that so I hope you’ll stay tuned to the blog.

Thanks for visiting! Next up: post 8

9 Replies to “Ming Inspiration (7)”

  1. The way you read the wood, it's as if you see it in its living (tree) state. I had no idea this much attention to the exact direction of the grain, etc. went into this. Fascinating!

    As the future owner of this table, I'm amazed and dumbfounded to see/learn how this project progresses. Much more fun than buying a piece prebuilt.

  2. gderamel,

    so glad you're enjoying the process. I am pleased to have this opportunity, to say the least.


    yes, it is awesome material. Sometimes I think it would be great to work with bubinga for every piece of furniture.


  3. Nick,

    well, I imagine my thumbs will be getting a workout with the scraper. I am contemplating cutting a new plane dai at 55˚ or so, or possible obtaining a western scraping plane. Should be entertaining…


  4. That is some stunning timber, Chris. I am really looking forward to following this project.

    I also love the Land Cruiser truck. Kewl.

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