Nathan Gilbert and Tom Silva get to work turning it into the ideal bar top. First, they take a wire wheel to the live edge to remove any punk and loose wood. Then, they set to work with a belt sander to smooth it over. After that, Tom uses one of his homemade jigs to route the slab flat while Nathan builds the legs. Finally, the two assemble the table, give it an oil treatment, and polish it.
Don’t let those trees rot and waste away in the yard. Give them new life by milling them into usable lumber and slabs, just as carpenter Nathan Gilbert did when a red oak tree fell on his Christmas trees. Here, general contractor Tom Silva and Nathan work together to create a new bar top from that old oak tree.
How To Build a Bar Top from a Slab of Oak
- Start by choosing the best section of the slab to work from. This could be either end, the middle, or anywhere in between. Mark the section to the desired length of the bar top and cut it with the circular saw.
- If there is edge damage or punky wood on the edge, it’s a good idea to remove it now. Use a wire wheel chocked into a drill and clean up the edge of the slab. With most of the loose wood removed, sand the edges with a belt sand and coarse sandpaper (around 80-grit).
- Lay the slab flat on a work table. Place a straight edge across the top of the slab to determine its high and low points. Use the power planer to knock down any high spots. Once done, sand it with the belt sander (in the direction of the grain) to clean up any milling marks.
- If there are any holes or cracks that need filling, fill them with a compound of epoxy and red oak sawdust. Mix the epoxy with the sawdust until it forms a consistent color and press the epoxy into the gaps. Allow the epoxy to dry completely and sand it flat.
- Flip the slab over. To ensure that the top and bottom are completely parallel and the board is a consistent thickness, use a router and a home-built planing jig or router sled and some guides on either side. Set the depth of the router bit to remove a bit of wood at a time, adjusting the depth after each complete pass.
- Remove the iron oxide from the black pipe by mixing dish soap and warm water and scrubbing the pipes lightly. This will remove the oil and prevent people sitting at the table from staining their clothing.
- Assemble the leg kit using a pair of water pump pliers to tighten all the fittings. With the top of the bar facing down, against the work table, place the table legs underneath the bar top. Position the legs properly, mark, drill, and attach the legs to the bar top with screws.
- Rub an oil-wax combination finish on the bar top to seal it and give it a finished look. For a bit of shine, install a polishing wheel in the rotary polisher and polish the surface.
Nathan and Tom work together to build bar top from the lumber Nathan milled from his property.
For the top, Nathan uses an electric hand planer to get the underside of the table roughly flat. Tom takes a few passes with the belt sander to finish it up.
To fill any remaining cracks in the wood, Tom uses a 5 minute epoxy and mixes in some saw dust leftover from the belt sander to create a matching wood filler.
Nathan assembles the base by threading the pipes together with a wrench. Then Tom and Nathan secure the table legs to the holes in the bottom of the bar top with a drill.
Nathan received expert assistance from Mike at Peregrine White Sawmill.