Walnut Midcentury Modern Skinny Entryway Tables

Day 1: Friday morning, Sam and I were pondering what to do for the day. We sat down with our coffee together, like we do every morning, and decided to move into the workshop. There were some drawer boxes that needed to be finished spraying (using the Minwax, see my review of the stuff here) and I was thinking about making another skinny entryway table like we made for Cheri (detailed here).

I grabbed a piece of walnut veneer with MDF core left over from our closet built ins and thought it would be the perfect project to learn with. I snuck this piece over to the table saw and set it down. Then Sam entered the picture. “What are you doing with that?”

“I’m going to make a table. I’m just gonna do it.” I replied. Now, Sam and I had talked about not making furniture out of crap material, like MDF before, but for some reason, I was determined to do so. Why? I don’t know. Don’t ask.

“Erika, who sells MDF veneer furniture?” He asks.

“Uhhhh… Walmart, Target, IKEA…”

“Yeah, China? No, we aren’t competing with Walmart. If you really want to use that piece of MDF, you can lay it up with something; solid wood. But we aren’t making a piece that has a veneer top.”

He was right. But I wasn’t quite convinced 100%. However, this project will prove that I need to take a step back from “design.” I thought I knew something about design instinctually, but it turns out that I’m not quite so good at it yet.

Moving on… we found a 1/4″-3/8″ walnut cladding and Sam guided me: “Use this, lay it up on the veneer, and make a top.” We cut the board down to two identical pieces for two tops. I wanted a totally flat surface, and Sam fell in love with the underside of this board, so we did a his and hers. ( Sam’s on the left, mine on the right.) here it is, layed up on the MDF.

I thought this was a good idea… let’s see who’s comes out more appealing.

Now it was time to find the material for the frame. We decided on a picture frame style with mitered edges. (That frame piece on the right is Urban Walnut, which means the walnut tree was in a city, that absorbed more polluted air, and it turns the wood a pinker color, more akin to Cherry.)

Throughout this time, Sam really gave me insight on how he lets the wood guide him; finding material that matches up, with minimal extra cuts and processing. We found pieces that were perfect for the framing this way! I always had this feeling like “You are in control of the wood, so make it do what you want.” But really, it’s much easier when you put that mindset away on a shelf somewhere and let it be, in a project like this. Just let the freaking wood guide you! (Does this mean I’m a control freak? Man, I sure hope not.)

So then we started with a skirt under the frame. And it was the same thing. Sam found pieces that were PERFECT to use. We cut them down, and ended up changing the script a few times. There was a piece on his skirt that wasn’t quite right, so he used one that was meant for mine instead.

At this point, I had discovered that I get real frustrated with design change. I want to make a plan, and go with it. And Sam makes a plan, but FLOWS with it. I’m really starting to see things his way. But don’t tell him. Haha! We finished up the day with 1 coat of oil. We used Formby Tung Oil on the tops and skirt. This oil gives it a high gloss finish. Sam also explained to me that this oil will melt together with each coat. Unlike poly, which creates its own layer with each coat that is applied.

Day 2: With the oil having somewhat dried over night, I applied a second coat first thing in the morning.

We had an adventurous day, and even bought my new project! (The little Pie Safe)

We showcased the tops, and Apothecary #2 to my parents, and reflected on the process we had been through the day before.

At the end of the day, we added a 3rd coat of oil.

Day 3: Let the oil dry and cure. We were on to other projects.

Day 4: Sam added a 4th coat of oil.

Day 5: Sam added the legs! I can’t believe how perfectly square these legs turned out. Once again, my Sam let the wood guide him. We had a couple of pieces of Walnut that were badly tapered at both ends, which is how Sam ended up with those sticks. They were meant for the garbage, until my scrappy Sam found them!

There were 5 legs we found out of our scrap material, and with the tapered piece, we would have 8.

With the legs on, we got a sneak preview of what beauty these tables were revealing:

A 5th coat of oil was rubbed on to the tops, and they were set aside to cure for a few days.

We’ve been thinking about adding a shelf on the bottom, and haven’t gotten around to it, so the legs are left unvarnished. Do you like them the way they are, or would you add a shelf?

With Love, Erika Nora

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