Well... Between work, MORE WORK, studies and messing things up more than a couple times, I found myself working on this over a longer period than I expected. You know how it is, life and inexperience have a way of getting in the way. Not even accounting for procrastination here.
So, first things first, a short story of how I messed up: I trusted a too thin piece of pine to help me drill dowel holes straight, and I didn't let the pieces rest after the initial cuts and milling.
Everything seemed fine while it was clamped and each pair of legs during the dry fit were relatively straight, but here's the catch: I didn't dry fit the end aprons, dowel holes were off by 1, 3, 1 and 1 degree in exactly opposite directions across the table. Sure, the good clamps held it down, but when released it resulted in a rocking table, with the legs across front and back being 1/4 closer on one side and 1/4 farther apart on the other. Frustrated, I left it on top of the table saw for a couple days to evaluate how I'd fix it. To add insult to injury, when I came back to it, the side apron had twisted up and out. Maybe the pressure from the clamps vs the dowels, maybe I selectively forgot just how gnarly Surá wood is.
Solution: Change the strategy! I decided to go with loose tenons instead, learning how to make them on the go, of course. But first, I had to undo my mess, and power tools wouldn't cut it (pun partially intended). In my vast arsenal of refined hand tools, I found the perfect one for this task (NOT). A hand saw that came free when a contractor working on my garage had to buy a long magnetic level. To put it simply: a Ryoba immediately went up a few hundred slots to the top of my buy list. But it worked, eventually, and I detached the legs from the aprons and then refined the cut with the table saw and a sanding block.
I then re-dressed the aprons back to straight and since I had to go back, why not improve on the design a little? The legs looked a little bulky so I added a taper on the inner side of each leg for a more pronounced angle. Can I call it intentional now? I did let the pieces rest a little this time... probably more than a week. They didn't twist the tiniest bit this time.
Here's a look into the router-cut mortises and the very-much-still-there dowels. I realize I lost about 1/2" length on each and probably some strength as well, but I decided I'd test that later.
Notice how the bottom crosses slightly with the perpendicular mortise, I had to basically miter-join the loose tenons inside. Speaking of which, here's a pic of the loose tenons before cutting them, after roughing them up with a file:
These were cut on the TS and then rounded on the router table with a matching bull nose bit, and here's how they fit:
Sweet burning smell right there, I was a bit careless cutting those on the sled. This was a dry-fit test before giving them a 45 degree angle in the corners for them to match. But it worked! the angles were correct and the cuts straight, so I proceeded to assembly:
I tested its strength by sitting across the side aprons, and lying down across the end aprons (sorry, no pics of the shop acrobatics). No rocking or creaking, I figured it's strong enough for a coffee table.
The pieces on top of the apron aren't glued up just yet, but I'd use them later on to make sure I connect them to the table top in the right position related to the legs once I got that done. So that's what's next, the gooey stuff.
So as I mentioned before, I was having issues with the resin hardener and the dyes. After testing many dyes and changing the hardener (lucky find of a supplier for resin hardeners), I got the process down and started working on the actual table top:
First and second layers: light blue metallic powder:
Then a layer of blue and a 2 of clear that actually shows depth:
It looks cute, but of course, it never ends up flat with the wood (surface tension and all that), so it's time to mess it up with a clunky belt sander until it's flat!
Then we have to square it up and rough sand it (80), don't worry about the mild tearout, I'll chamfer the borders:
And here it is after adding the base that attaches the top to the legs and some filing to round these things over:
The part of the wood closer to the middle is glued, the blocks are glued and screwed, the outer side is held by the blocks. This allows for barely 1/4 of movement, but with each piece of wood being around 8" wide, it should do well unless I decide to keep it stored in a water tank.
I chamfered all the edges before final sanding, then sanded all the way to 180 grit:
Time for the sealer. Another moment that gives the illusion of being close to the finish line but not quite. You see, this sanding sealer, while fresh, looks like finish, but it doesn't flatten out, and looks inconsistent until you sand it. Basically, it just fills, but in some of these pics I let myself go crazy while it was fresh. Bottom first!
That bottom layer got curly while drying, happy it doesn't show from the top. Legs and aprons:
First coat(out of 3) on the top before final assembly:
It dried up, with disappointing results, so I sanded the first coat of sealer, assembled the base of the top to the end aprons and applied the second coat. Note the surface is still not "flawless":
Oh my, that looked almost finished... until it dried. Then sanded down everything and applied the final coat of sealer only on the top. Shop light sure brings out all of the crazy grain patterns:
Past the illusion of being done, next day I sanded for the last time before applying finish, all the way down to 320.
Now THAT looks right!
For finish, my plan was to use satin poly, sanding a little between wiped-on coats, but apparently, having a non-absorbent base makes it harder to get a perfect coat, and I was constantly fighting bubbles or the tiniest particles of dust, even in a closed area where I let it set before even touching the finish. And as I removed the bubbles/dust particles by sanding between coats, I invariably ended up chewing away the previous coat. This set me back at least a week and a half.
The solution: a thicker, flatter coat. I grabbed the paint gun (Tacklife's version of an "HVLP" turbine) and sprayed the first coat, then sanded to 400. Very little bubbles or dust when using that thing, it was MUCH better than I expected.
Then a second one and sanded to 600 after letting cure for a couple days:
Waited 1 week, then polished a little focusing on the epoxy parts:
This is not the final final finish, as I need to wait a couple more weeks before applying satin wax, but it's close enough and it's ready to be used, maybe this is a better view of the "just done" table:
And at this point I though: "well that was a lot of work, I want a few glamour shots to show it off". So I told a friend who actually has a decent camera to help me out. He liked the table a bit too much and decided to take it out for a date at the park:
The grain and figure shine very differently depending on where the light hits it, it's really an atypical piece of wood on that top, and I like to think I made it so that the metallic shine in the middle follows.
So there you have it, folks! It was quite an adventure and I learned much more than I bargained for. What do you guys think?
As for me, I will be using it until I land on a design idea for a more utilitarian coffee table that looks just right, and then, I'm confident enough someone else will like it enough to keep it for a while longer.