What Happened When I Tried to Build Dwell’s DIY Walnut Table

I subscribe to Dwell’s daily email where they feature amazing prefabs at awesome locations that I’ll probably never get to own one day. They’ve recently started publishing DIY articles and videos, and they make it look so darn easy! So easy in fact, that I decided to give it a try! They make it look simple and easy, but here’s what happened when I tried.

First off, you should read Dwell’s article and watch their video to gain an appreciation of the adventure I set out to do, with practically zero woodworking experience. I got my wood from the The Lumber Shack, who was running (and still is!) a special for additional 20% off and free shipping with no minimum purchase.

Step 1: Cut the Slab

These are the raw slabs of dark walnut wood I purchased. The Dwell DIY used 1″ thick slabs, whereas mine were 1.75″ thick. Did I do that on purpose? No. It was just cheaper and the wood looked cool. My expert woodworker friend analyzed the wood I bought and was able to point out all kinds of problems with it, such as the color grain, knots and holes, and splits in the wood. But all I could see was the wood destined to be my brand new laptop table.

Step 2: Rip the Slabs

Comparing my setup to Dwell’s, mine looks way more complicated and absurd! Maybe it’s because I’m dealing with smaller pieces, unlike Dwell’s DIY full dining table. After staring at the setup for a good while and questioning what the heck I was doing, I found a way to clamp down the guide piece. My friend scoffed at me using a circular saw to cut a straight line, stating, “that is hopeless Johnny, much like your career and relationships. Hopeless.” As you can see, my cut turned out good but ended up uneven with burn marks. Hopeless indeed.

Step 3: Domino Join the Slabs

So, I cheated. Instead of using a biscuit joiner as instructed in the article, my friend loaned me his Festool that creates a domino dowel jointer, which according to him is better than a biscuit joint as it adds more strength to the joint without sacrificing any alignment adjustments. He went on for hours talking about it but that’s all I remember before zoning out of the conversation.

Step 4: Glue the Table Top Together

I applied Titebond III generously between the boards and used 3 clamps to lock them in place. Even without zooming in, you can see the gaps with white glue. I guess my friend was right — that even I can’t cut perfectly straight lines with my brand new Diablo finishing blade (in a 14 year old circular saw).

Step 5: Trim and Sand

Not exactly the same setup as Dwell had in their article, with their nice tree line rooftop background. I played around with the edges quite a bit to really make sure I don’t have any splinters around the edges that could stick me in the wrist while using my laptop and then blood getting everywhere. Below you can see a before and after of the live edge.

Step 6: Add Legs

For the legs, instead of using hairpin legs as suggested in the DIY article, I went with regular legs. I wanted a feature to be to easily take on and off the table legs, for easy storage and movement around the house. Hairpins would’ve been too difficult and time consuming to repeatedly take on and off, plus it would’ve stripped the wood over time. Got my legs and mounting brackets on eBay from acafarmsupply. Total cost for these parts were $65.

Step 7: Fill In the Cracks and Knot Holes

My tabletop had some significant gaps and holes, from the wood itself and from the uneven joining I did. I taped off everything using painters tape, and poured in the epoxy resin. I was surprised how much of the resin got absorbed and I had to repeatedly level off the surface for an hour. The wood would absorb and then I’d just pour more in, over and over. Eventually I looked under the table and realized there was a tiny hole where the epoxy was dripping out. Oops.

Step 8: Sand the Resin

Unlike what Dwell recommended, I wasn’t making any headway using a 220 grit sandpaper. I would’ve likely been there all day trying to sand down the hard resin while my hand turned to jello. Instead I opted for the 60 grit and worked my way to the 120 and then 220 grit.

Step 9: Seal the Table Top

Using the Minwax Wipe-On Poly, I rubbed on 3 coats of the stuff, waiting between 3 to 12 hours in between coats. I applied the first coat indoors and since I don’t have a good sense of smell, it was fine for me. But then my girlfriend smelt it and scolded at me. So, I took my table outside to apply more coats. Neighbors must’ve looked at me funny when they saw me on my driveway for hours rubbing slowly the piece of wood while talking to myself. They don’t understand.

The Result!

Despite the gaps, the resin makes it looks pretty cohesive. Not the table legs fault, but the table is a bit shaky and wobbly. But overall, the table is definitely functional and I’ve been jamming out here in my patio writing this article on it! Thanks Dwell for the inspiration and my friend for the advice and tool.

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