Week 1: Design + Trip to the Lumber Yard!

OK, so this actually isn’t week one, but who’s counting? Anyway, welcome to the first weekly update of the Synergy office coffee table build! There’s so much that goes into making a piece of furniture out of wood, and I thought you all might enjoy being part of the journey. I’m going to do my best to keep you in the loop, and give you a little background on how this comes together, without revealing the final product too soon โ€” hopefully! Forget what that book Jess is making us read says: In this instance, I think a big reveal is perfectly OK! And yes, there will likely be plenty of typos!


The idea for this table actually came pretty quickly, usually helped by a series of lunchtime walks. I told Jess pretty early on that I thought something more organic would be nice, but I can’t say why I felt that way. But she seemed open to that and so there I went. So in going with that direction, I found little things during my walks that stood out to me. One thing was an image inside this store. It ended up not being the direction I went in, but it helped spark the evolution of the idea.

I knew that the evolved idea from the store was the way I wanted to go, but I was still looking for ways to make this piece special. One of the things I tend to back and forth on is how far to take somehting for it to be unique and different, but there is also a comofort in the familiar, and often reasons why certian things are re-used in furntiure. Because they work from a design standpoint, and a structural standpoint. ย When you go off on your own, you don’t have as many references on how to make your cool unique idea actually structrually sound and buildable. I guess there is fear in the unknown, but also excitement. For this project, I’m chosing to push myself into uncomfortable territory. I dont’ know if the piece will ultimately be successful, but at least I’m giving it a shot. Better to try and fail I guess?


The next little twist on this idea actually came while I was in church. Yes, this is my church and the direction I was looking in at that time. But no, it wasn’t a spiritual moment, and I’m not intending this blog to have any religious tones. Quite honestly, it’s just where I thought of something while I was supposed to be listening to the homily. Or maybe this is just what I was supposed to hear at that time. In either case, I was excited because it was an idea that I’ve never come across before and something that will make this piece extra special and meaningful. You’ll see what I mean someday, if it actually works in testing. ย ๐Ÿ™‚

Trip to Owl Lumber!

This is where I get the majority of my wood for most of my projects. The have all kinds of wood from A to Z, but the walnut aisle is my go to. I’ve traveled to Wisconsin for larger pieces, b/c it’s cheaper, but this is just way more convenient and time-saving. I’ve been going here for years, but I still get kinda stressed out every time I go. You make all these drawings in advance and try and plan how to makimize your lumber so you’re not over-buying, but then once you’re in there, each board presents a new challenge, and so you just kinda end up winging it. As projects go, this one was less stressful than most. They say to buy 20-30% more than you will need, because of waste, bad spots or knots, or mistakes, etc. I think that’s about right. But when one piece of walnut that is 12″ x 12″ x 3/4″ deep is $10, I try and be careful. To put that in perspective, my coffee table at home cost about $350, just for the wood, and that was in Wisconsin. It would have been around $500 here at Owl lumber. That might not seem like that much, but that’s just for the wood. No time, or other materials, machines, etc. This is why I will always keep my day job ย ๐Ÿ™‚

Some shots of the interior, along with my favorite walnut aisle ๐Ÿ™‚

It took me a little over 2 hours to find all the pieces I wanted for this project. I was careful in selecting pieces that had the grain that I wanted, because it will have to do with the concept of this piece. But it can be frustrating because many of the pieces of wood are warped or twisted, which makes it harder to square up and use. So I found the best pieces that give me a head start on that. Then I’ll take them home and let them acclimate to my garage. This is an important step, because the humidity in my garage is different than the lumber yard, and if I started working with it right away without giving it a chance to acclimate to it’s surroundings, it will begin to warp after I’ve squared up all the pieces. I learned this the hard way many years ago. So this last shot is the wood stacked vertically in my garage, with air in between each board to allow for proper acclimatization. And by the way, all of this wood has been Kiln dried, like in an oven, to reduce the moisture content. Ideally you want it less than 10% moisture before you start working with it. I have a moisture meter that reads the level, so I know ahead of time.

Ok that’s all for this week! Stay tuned for more. Next steps are refining the design in Illustrator, deciding on how to construct the legs, then building a scale model at 1/3 size!