• Graham Sands ten-seater dining table.
    Graham Sands ten-seater dining table.
  • Legs and aprons domino jointed.
    Legs and aprons domino jointed.
  • End viewdetail of the apron.
    End viewdetail of the apron.
  • Drilling holes in the table buttons.
    Drilling holes in the table buttons.
  • Fitting a table button.
    Fitting a table button.
  • Another view of Graham Sands dining table showing the macrocarpa top.
    Another view of Graham Sands dining table showing the macrocarpa top.

Words and photos by Graham Sands

For this table I wanted to showcase a beautiful, honey coloured piece of macrocarpa on a contrasting black minimalist base. I was hoping to create a ‘floating in space’ look. I like tables that have just a leg at each corner, without a low under-structure that can get in the way of people’s feet and legs when they’re seated. For this reason the base is of a conventional design.

I relocated to Auckland, New Zealand from Perth around three years ago. I had and now have another small workshop and I’ve had to give consideration how to make the most of the space I had. I’ve written in AWR previously about the ‘space-saving’ workbench and machine stands I designed and built. I don’t have room or the need for large machines, but it is possible to still make larger items by outsourcing some processes.

Frame joints

Mortise and tenon is the traditional choice for rail to leg constructions. Without a hollow chisel mortiser or the desire to handcut these joints I opted to use a domino tool and make the frame with loose tenon joints. There are other ways to effect loose tenons, however the domino tool proved highly effective as it took me only an hour to cut the 64 mortises required.

Most table rails are around 90 x 25mm in size. To achieve adequate strength using domino joints I increased the rail thickness to 50mm so four dominos could be used for each joint. This also increased the gluing surface to further strengthen a frame that now supports a 2250mm long top. The tenons need to be spaced at least 20mm and 10mm apart. The legs are 90 x 90mm with 3mm corner radii and the aprons are 4mm offset from the outer face of the legs.

Top treatment

The macrocarpa slab needed to have the bark removed and the edge cleaned up. Local Titirangi carver Kim Carati crafted a smooth and sculptural edge.

I’m no expert with winding sticks and a smoothing plane and I definitely didn’t want the platter rocking as the Christams turkey was carved, so it was off to a nearby cabinetmaker who put the slab through his Powermax thicknesser two or three times.

Fortunately the rough sawn slab was not warped or twisted which made this easy. This machine has a spiral cutterhead followed by two oscillating sanding drums that finished the slab to 180 grit. Back in the workshop I ran over the surface with my random orbital sander at 240 grit.

A dining table needs a durable finish and I also wanted a glossy look which I was not confident of producing. And so I was off again, this time to the local furniture spray finishing service that has controlled environments for spraying and drying finishes to ensure an even, mirror finish.

Sixteen custom made buttons secured the top to slots cut into the base aprons, positioned to allow movement.

Cutting List
Top: 2250 x  900 x 50
Legs 4@ 712 x 90 x 90
Rails 2@ 1800 x 105 x 50,  2@ 520 x 105 x 90


Graham Sands lives in Auckland, New Zealand. As well as designing and making furniture Graham does technical illustrations for Australian Wood Review magazine. This story was first published in AWR issue 74, 2012.

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