Transforming table, pt. 4: Finishing tricks and touches

The table is glued together and dry now, but there is work do to turn it into a smooth, polished masterpiece. This is the home stretch, and I’ve got a couple more great tricks to share.

This table has exposed joinery, meaning you can see the dowels and wedges from the outside–all part of the handcrafted appeal. But at this point, those are all sticking out in a not-so-pretty way, waiting for us to trim them flush.

For that I’m using a basic two-edge pullsaw available at any home center for $20, along with one of my favorite tricks. You need one of these saws. It cuts amazingly fast and accurately through any type of wood, it’s cheap, and it’s a pullsaw, meaning it cuts on the pull stroke, which is shockingly easier than pushing a saw and having it bind every few seconds.

The trouble is that saws have “set,” that is to say the teeth stick out a little on each side. And those protruding teeth can dig into your precious project when you try to trim anything off close to the surface, leaving deep scars that are hard to remove.

The trick is using a basic fridge magnet to keep the saw just off the surface you want to protect. The magnet goes on the back side of the saw, and is just thick enough to keep the sides of the teeth from touching down. With the magnet there, you can cut very close to  surface with no danger, leaving just a bit of dowel, plug, or whatever to trim flush with a sanding block or small hand plane (if you have a sharp one).

Here’s how it works, and here’s how to sand and finish our transforming table.

Use as big a fridge magnet as you have and will fit on the side of the saw without hitting the teeth. Place it near the teeth you’ll be cutting with. Tip: Use the finer teeth on these two-edge saws.
This is what the big dowels look like with the wedges inserted and the glue dry. Hold the saw flat against the workpiece, centering your fingertips directly over the magnet beneath. Keep that gentle pressure in place as you work the saw back and forth. Remember, this saw cuts on the pull stroke.
Check it out: Super-close cut with no damage to the surrounding wood!
All that’s left is some sanding with a hard block. Start with 80- or 120-grit paper, and work up through the grits to 220. A block plane will work even better here, if you have one and know how to get the blade truly sharp.
The magnet trick works on the small dowels too. You’ll need to pull the magnet backward a bit on the saw, so it is resting on the top of the table (tipped sideways here) without hitting the trimmed dowels that stick out bit.
Use the sanding block to trim the small dowels, too, and to put a tiny bevel on all the edges. Sand the whole project to 220-grit and vacuum or wipe away the dust.
Now you are ready to put on an oil finish. I like Minwax Tung Oil, but any oil finish will work. Wipe on a lot of it and let it soak in before wiping off the excess. Then let it dry, and sand lightly with 220-grit before putting on the next coat. Repeat that a third time for a soft sheen. Don’t sand the last coat.
You’ve arrived at the finish line. It’s a thing of beauty.
Make two or three and stack them to make a funky, modern bookcase.



2 thoughts on “Transforming table, pt. 4: Finishing tricks and touches

  1. Great project Asa. I noted the items on your bookcase and realized we must have more things in common. I’m glad to see you’re back to writing and I look forward to gifting your book to many new woodworkers in the future.

    All the best,


    1. You’re too kind, Shawn. Yeah, I always throw stuff on my furniture pieces that tell a bit about who I am, without the really weird stuff! Don’t want to scare anyone!
      The book turned out great. Watch for it in summer 2017!
      Thanks for following my blog. I’ll check yours out too!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s