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Project Spotlight

A Table Created from Walnut and Steel

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Sometimes it’s great to experiment. You never know what you might come up with. Sometimes you hit on a novel idea that turns into a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture.

That’s the case with a table I created using steel and a walnut slab. By being unafraid to test the limits of fabrication, I built a rugged-looking piece that can accentuate any room and, of course, serve every practical purpose that any preassembled store-bought table could.

Home hobbyists don’t have to be confined to using steel and walnut for such a project. You can fabricate a distinctive table using any combination of materials. Whatever you choose, don’t be afraid to push the limits of your building skills. The result can be something spectacular.

Download the Project Guide
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Step 1: Plenty of Steel Rods

Start by cutting 3/4-inch x 3/4-inch steel stock rods that will eventually connect to the perimeter of the walnut slab. This project requires about 130 rods. The intention is to mimic steel flowing around the natural shape of the walnut.

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Step 2: Cutting the Slab

We need to cut the slab. The unusual part of this project is that I cut out the natural bevel of the slab. But the wood needs to be prepared for later on, when the steel rods are placed. After cutting, use a scrub plane to clean off the top of the slab and
a palm sander to smooth out the surface.

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Step 3: Piecing the Build Together

It’s time to place the steel rods around the slab. Tack weld the rods to each other. On the cut sides of the slab, tack weld 1/8-inch steel plates to mimic natural bark. Drill into the steel and slab and connect with screws. The screws are embedded below the surface and filled with weld. Grind the welds down so the steel surface is flush with the slab surface. The weld bead actually burns into the wood, establishing a blending of the burned edge of the walnut with the organically shaped metal. This is followed by the final welds on the sides and on top of the steel rods, followed by grinding. The individual pieces of steel become one full piece that surrounds the slab.

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Step 4: Smoothing the Surface

We’re about ready to lay a finish on the slab. First, however, prepare the wood with a belt sander, followed by a palm sander, to smooth the surface. Finally, use a grinder to clean up the welds.

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Step 5: Putting Down a Finish

Use antique black gel for a finish on the steel sides and polyurethane for a finish on the walnut and exposed steel on the top. A light sanding and wax job will complete the finish.

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Step 6: Connect the Base

A table is of no use if it sits on the floor, so legs and a base are needed. While there are several options, I used a Y-shaped, three-legged base for this project. First, the base is built, using 1-inch-thick steel connected to a steel disk. Tack weld the base together, followed by the final weld and grinding. A dye grinder can help make a seamless transition from the round of the oval disk to the flat of the base.

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Step 7: Fasten the Legs

Weld the legs to the base. The legs are cut to 17 inches. Use the antique black gel to finish the base and legs, followed by steel wool.

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Step 8: Final Step

Place the slab on top of the legs. There is no need for a physical connection between the legs and slab, because its weight keeps it in place. And there’s your table, a useful
piece of furniture and an interesting addition that adds character to the room.