Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Black Walnut Card Table 07 20 2010


There were three parts to recreating this Samsonite card table and chairs that were built with higher standards of quality than we have today.  Why do you ask did I refinish this card table and chairs?  Could I not go to a department store and buy a new one today?  If I bought a new one, what would I do with the old one, through it in a dump pile like businesses do people they don’t like?  As I go about describing how I refinished this card table you will see there were many engineers principals used in its construction more than 35 years ago.  I have found that principals such as these are lacking in our manufacturing.  Short cuts are taken by corporate America today in this fashion.  They say the best machines have the least number of parts.  That is only true if the time was taken to think about them and make them better with fewer lasting parts.  I could go on for 10 pages with this but frankly I find it quite exhausting.  But most importantly as you look at the pictures of the beautiful new chair and table that I created you will find that you cannot buy anything like this today.  Until of course someone like you reads this and steals the design and mass produces one.  The story of my life.

Three Disparate Parts where considered to be refinished.
1.     The Table Top
2.     The Seat Cushions
3.     The Metal Frames of the Chair and table.

The Processes

I.                    The Table Top
The table top was connected to the frame with 12 brass coated screws that were screwed into the rectangular channel steel that formed the square collar the legs are part of.  L brackets were used at these 12 points to connect the table top to the square supporting frame.  Underneath the vinyl cover of the top was a piece of particle board and the L brackets were attached to the top with rivets that were inset flush with the top.  The particle board was reinforced around its perimeter with four 3” strips of particle board the same thickness as the top.  This gave the edge perimeter twice the thickness of the center and made for a stronger table while still being lighter than if the particle board was doubled throughout the whole top.  The holes of the L brackets lined up perfectly with the holes in the top of the leg framework.  A goal in refinishing the table was to keep it light.  Because that is what card tables are supposed to be.  I decided to replace the whole top.  This presented problems in terms of getting the L bracket holes to line up under the new solid piece top.  The new top is made of Tarkett  Black Walnut interlocking flooring I bought at Menards.  The issue was how to attach those L brackets to the table top without having the heads stick out the top.  But I will get back to that in a while. 
   Five strips of the flooring were glued together lightly at the underside of the interlocking seam with white glue.  I called the manufacturer and asked what the best type of glue to use was and he said PVA glue.  It turns out PVA glue is white carpenters glue according to my internet search later.  Both I and the Ace Hardware salesman where baffled as we looked for PVA glue on his store shelves.  I told the manufacturer when I called him that I was concerned that the wood would puff up when the glue was applied and ruin the top.  He told me the PVA glue would have lower water content.  He said tight bond made a glue of this nature.
  Anyway the glue I used worked fine.  The next day I clamped my new gross top surface to the old one and used a bottom bearing router bit to cut out the top.  The first small bit I used burnt out and broke.  I took more care with the second.  And unplugged the router and took a razor knife to the cutting surface to remove any burnish buildup that dulls and ruins them quickly.  With top aligned to the other top I cut around it.  Upon cutting one side I removed the clamps from that side and placed them on the others.  If there was any misalignment during cutting, or any slipping or sliding the new top would become nongeometrically ruined.

With the top cut the next step was to figure out how to attach the L brackets.  This was a little tricky.  Remember they have to align precisely or new holes would have to be drilled in the framework, sometimes when new holes are drilled you drill all the way through and ruin it.  It is also the mark of a novice or nonplanning types to have to drill “excess” holes.  The true Craftsman learns to lesson variables and variability’s such as these.
  To get the holes to align I drilled out the rivets from the old L brackets and set the old cardboard top on top of the face up bottom of my new top and took a sharpened pencil and stuck it in through the holes and marked the positioning.  Now remember I didn’t want Frankenstein rivets sticking up through my new top surface, so what did I do next?  I marked in from the square edge of my table using a pencil a perpendicular line from the edge that intersected these holes plus an inch or so extra.  It turns out that the holes where all exactly 7/8” in from the side so I indeed had both coordinates to properly position new holes.  But where would I put them.  I made the construction of the edge similar to the original engineering.  I cut four ~ three inch strips of old basement paneling and fit them to the bottom.  This required precision fitting of two of them that were “keyed” or inset in sandwich style between the other two.  The objective was to cut a tight loose fitting puzzle that I could then mark holes to.  Using the bottom side of the new table top as a guide or support I placed the perimeter framework along its edge.  And carefully laid the old particle board top down on it and marked the holes again.  I removed the old top and marked everything uniquely in terms of its place of reference on the new top. As a double check I used my 7/8” in from side and the perpendicular marks to check for proper alignment.  I then took my Makita and drilled 1/8 holes and my marked spots.  Countersunk the abutting surface that would be glued and riveted the L bracket onto these strips.   The rivets on the the side to be adjoined needed a little filing.  And on the L bracket side I fixed them in place at a right angle using Eco Glue, to maintain their strength by keeping them from spinning.  I then scuffed the adjoining surfaces with 80 grit emery clothe and used some Liquid Nails Clear Small Construction Project glue that I once bought free after rebates from Menards to attach the strips, with reference to their markings.
The next day I took a coping saw and loped off the corners of the underlying framework that stuck out.  They were attached later and therefore not rounded with the top edges at that time.  The best tool I found to use to even this edge surface was a Microplane.  This is a razor sharp planer that is very good for finishing work.  Carefully I worked the edge with it so as not to ruin the top surface.  After I got it reasonably smooth I sealed the edge with Gorilla white Wood Glue.  After that dried I finished the particle board edge with dust from the particle board mixed with wood glue to give the edge body.  I then used a mixture of water based yellow paint, joint compound and wood glue to give it a cake like looking lemon edge.  This was then sealed with Polyacrylic clear coat.

II.                 The Seat Cushions
The seat cushions were removed and cleaned with vinegar and a scrubbing with a microfiber clothe.  I found a very interesting product at the hardware store “Menards” it was a can of spray paint made by Rustoleum for use on vinyl/ and upholstery.  I chose the sand color.  This paint was easy to use.  I purchased two cans.  These seats look like the fine leather from an Italian Sports car.

III The Metal Framework of chairs and leg structure

These I cleaned of dust with Krud Kutter. And then sanded off dirt spots with 400 grit sandpaper, sometimes coarser sand paper was used.  The framework was then primed with a Rustoleum automotive gray automotive primer sealer and then spray painted with yellow Rustoleum Paint.  They were then clear coated with automotive wheel paint by Rustoleum. The table leg structure got an extra clear coat of Polyacrylic paint.

Reassembly went easy the holes matched up and this is another work of art.

God Bless Those Who Take The Time And Have The Patience to Explain and Teach Those Who We Often Find Most Inconsiderate Of Others And God Bless Those That Try and Make Honest People Out of Thieves

Thomas Paul Murphy
Copyright 2010 Thomas Paul Murphy