Episode #19: Porringer Tea Table – The Big Finish

Note: All of my old podcast videos have been moved to my YouTube channel.  You can now watch this video here:


10 thoughts on “Episode #19: Porringer Tea Table – The Big Finish

  1. Hi Bob,

    Congratulations on a great finish to this project. The puns just write themselves! Can’t wait for the work bench to start. Have you started? Getting impatient!!! Other stuff I’d love to see is any tool construction you do. Thanks for all your time putting this all together for us.

  2. Hi Bob,
    The Porringer tea table looks fantastic! Thanks for sharing the build process and all the great tips. One question on the finishing step. Why did you dilute the shellac and not use it full strength? The diluted shellac requires more coats to develop the final film thickness, hence more time required applying the shellac. What are the advantages of using the diluted shellac? (Actually, that’s two questions, isn’t it.)

    • I thinned the shellac so that it dried a little slower and levelled better. The shellac from the can is about a 3 lb. cut. Using it this strength would require fewer coats, but you are more likely to get runs as the finish doesn’t level as well. This would result in having to spend more time leveling the dried finish by sanding and rubbing it out. Thinning it with additional alcohol results in needing to apply more coats, because the coats go on thinner, but you are less likely to have runs and drips since you have to apply it so thin. This makes the process of leveling and rubbing out the finish go much faster and smoother, with less chance of sanding through the finish since less sanding is required to level the dried finish. It’s really a toss up. You can either apply fewer thicker coats and spend more time sanding and rubbing out the final coats, or apply more, thinner coats and spend less time rubbing out the final coats. Since shellac dries so fast, I like to apply it thin as I can easily apply 4 to 6 coats in just a few hours. This allows me to hit it with 320 and apply the remaining 3 to 4 coats the next evening. Then I can rub it out easily in one evening after letting the final coats dry for a few days.

  3. I just discovered your site and these podcasts. I am in the ‘just starting’ camp and watching through these podcasts has been nothing short of inspiring. Your generosity of time and spirit is much appreciated. I await the workbench podcasts like a hollywood blockbuster!

  4. I must second Ian’s sentiment. I too await the workbench series of podcasts like a hypoglycemic at a candy industry trade show.

  5. Greetings Bob,

    Congrats on finishing up that table. An amazing amount of work went into it; hopefully you will inspire more woodworkers with the capability of hand tools.

    I would offer two modest suggestions for finishing projects, and I offer them with the humility of a woodworker who has messed up a lot of pieces during the finishing stages.

    Idea number one borrows fairly heavily on your suggestion to sand/scrape/plane all of the components in the same manner. Expanding on this, I have found it to be most beneficial to prepare an extra board or two to be used as a finishing sample. Prepare them identically to the project – scraped, planed or sanded – and then test the finishing schedule on the samples before you go anywhere near the project piece with your finish. Stain, dye, topcoat, rub out the finish in the steps you plan to use on the project. You’ll be able to see if you’re getting the results you expect, and make adjustments to the finishing schedule as needed.

    Suggestion the second: get to know and love shellac. Not only is it a very respectable top coat for nearly any finish (other than an alcohol dye stain) but in dilute coats – around a 1-pound cut – it makes a very good wash coat. Applied to bare wood (say, before dying) it will help to control and even out the absorption of dye into the wood. A light scuff sanding (no more than 320 grit) and you’re ready for whatever colorant you’ll use for the project.

    My experience (learned the oh-so-hard way) is that testing all of this out on the sample boards has saved what little hair I have left on my head.

    • Thanks for the tips Jeff! I’ll be the first to admit that my finishing skills definitely need a lot of work. It’s not something I do enough of to really have a firm grasp of it. The funny thing is, I actually did make about 5 or 6 different test boards of different finishing combinations/steps, all taken through the final rub out. The problem was that they were all flat boards. This was great for the top. The flat top of the table came out fantastic (I think) and exactly like my chosen test board. The problem was, I didn’t finish any test legs. The huge amounts of exposed end grain on the legs is what caused me the most probelms because I didn’t anticipate the end grain issues on the legs. Had I finished some test legs the problems I had could have been avoided, but that would have meant making several more legs. A lesson learned for the future. At least I learned it on a piece for myself and not something done for someone else.

      As for the shellac, I can’t agree with you more. The more I work with shellac, the more I grow to like it. I do want to try dying a test cabriole leg, first using a wash coat of shellac like you suggest, just to see how mine may have turned out differently. I don’t plan to do a whole set (too much work just for a test) but I might do just one, maybe a carved leg for the podcast, then wash coat it with shellac and dye it just to see the difference for future reference, as an experiment. In my free time ;).

      • The beauty of those “test” pieces (including a leg, if you decide to go that far) is they become samples for future work. And if you ever get involved in making furniture for someone else, you’ve already got samples of finished items to show to family, friends or customers.

        As far as the wash coats go, if you’re using a dilute shellac like a 1-pound cut, you can apply one coat to the long grain and one or more to the end grain to even things out. It’s pretty effective.

        I know this might be heresy to the period furniture purists, but Seal-Coat (pre-mixed shellac, a Zinsser product available at home improvement and paint stores) works very well for this purpose. I cut it 1:1 with alcohol for a wash coat. I would not use it for a final finish, though – shop-made shellac is best for that purpose.

        Best of luck – and thank you for all the work you put into these podcasts.

Comments are closed.