A short introduction to this section. Ita quundignam quodigniatas ea qui ullias perfero eaque doluptasi seque corionsequi sam renesciendae nia corum erciisti officiur. Qui que eroria volores sitatectias alibero dolesedit as et porias venistrunt. Lest iumenis estiumq uiaest et, sin pra doluptatur recus, odistet, quia conet plabo. Rum accaborum ne sim ut a et maio estiur. Uptam natus nempor re, velendi pisque que idit modicil licabore sim simagnissi berciae. Nequian daectiam fugitem. Please visit our blog for more photographs and a more comprehensive account of how this top was built.
SELECTING THE 4 MAIN BOARDS FOR THE TABLE TOP
Selecting the 4 planks for the top from the 10 Jubilee Oak planks available is arguably the most important part of the making process.
All of the planks were sequential which gave us the option to book match – and most of them were quarter sawn. A quarter sawn plank has medullary figure, is more stable when dried and is far easier to dry successfully. When we placed the first two planks that came off the saw mill side by side it was immediately clear not only how beautiful the planks themselves were when book matched – but also how graceful and ‘river-like’ the spaces were between them. We decided, there and then, that we must develop techniques for joining these 4 planks together while at the same time retaining their natural shapes. This method of jointing we call ‘the river joint’ and was to be the dominant factor when considering our individual plank selection.
CLEARING A SPACE TO WORK AT THE BCC
Removing the 34 work benches to clear a space large enough to make the Jubilee Oak table top.
The joinery workshop at the BCC is a perfect size to fabricate the Jubilee Oak top as it is long enough to set up a 29 metre long planer bed and also long enough for us to work on two planks simultaneously. The workshop is normally full of rows of work benches so we had to first remove them out of the way.
THE PLANER SET UP
We were very generously offered the use of a brand new planing machine from SCM UK – this was pivotal when deciding on the best way to approach planing up these planks.
Mauro Dell’Orco designed and built, in kit form, an in-feed and out-feed bed either side of the machine – which itself had two scissor bed extensions. This was effectively a platform which had to be flat and true over 29 metres and be able to travel up and down in unison with the scissor beds. It also had to be rigid and stable enough for us to push through a combined weight of 250 kilos.
ALL 10 OF THE JUBILEE OAK PLANKS ARIVE
Fortunately somebody had measured to make sure we could get the planks into the workshop when this huge planer was set up.
We were then ready for the planks. It was important to bring them in in their correct orientation to one another as we could turn them over but it was impossible to turn them end for end without taking them outside and closing the road. Not something you want to do often.
STABILISE THE PLANKS
We were determined to embrace what would normally be considered defects by turning them into well resolved features to be celebrated if discovered.
There was one large limb evident on the two central planks which – as a result of the extreme forces put on it when the tree fell – had led to two very straight splits running down the centre of each plank. We had to stabilise this split before we could plane the plank and we decided to embrace what would usually be considered a defect and make a very well resolved feature of it by inlaying wave shaped laminated components from the underside. These splits once stabilised could be patched from the top if necessary.
FLATTEN THE UNDERSIDE OF EACH PLANK
We had waited 7 years to find out exactly what thickness the Jubilee Oak planks would finish when planed flat.
These planks were originally sawn at 69mm and at the end of the drying cycle were 35mm at their thinnest point. This is an extraordinary degree of shrinkage but fortunately they dried very flat. However, we had to be very careful to retain as much of the thickness as possible. More by luck than judgement this method of planing up the planks proved to be the right one because we were able to alter the shape of each board by manipulating it under its own weight without removing material from the thinest area. This was complicated and took a day just to establish a flat face on each plank. We turned the perfectly flat in feed bed into a chalk bed to help us do this.
PLANE UP THE PLANKS
The last great unknown challenge of the project was about to be revealed. What thickness could we achieve for this top?
Having established a hit and miss datum we set up each plank on a sled and by supporting the plank with wedges. This whole assembly was then passed through the machine. We had never imagined the machine would have the power and accuracy to pull through a total of 250 kilos of sled and Black Oak plank, but it did, effortlessly.
If a natural feature is to dominant it would detract from the visual impact of this spectacular top when viewed in its entirety.
Now that all the planks were planed smooth we were able to set them up together and see if there were any natural features that were too dominant, and that we needed to patch. We didn’t want to draw attention to the patches, so very often, they were book matched knots and wherever possible selected from a sequential plank so the grain direction was very sympathetic.
THE RIVER JOINTS
Having worked on each plank individually we now needed to join them all together to make one gigantic slab.
There were unique challenges associated with the size of these planks so we had to design a unique way of joining them. We called this the ‘river joint’. This joint resolves some construction logistics but, more importantly, is very sympathetic to the unique shape and scale of the Jubilee Oak. It is unexpected, elegant and illustrates at a glance the sheer scale of the ancient high forrest’s growing 5000 years ago.
It is very difficult to articulate what this table top means to those of us that made it. In the same way as it’s always been difficult to articulate why we have all engaged with this project in the first place. All I can say, is that this tree has always promised us a great deal. And although there are worthy reasons for this endeavour to do with the preservation of something finite and in decline, I think it is the potential for visual impact that this tree and the planks it yielded have given us that has motivated us for the last 7 years.
The simple truth is that his top has a sculptural visual impact unlike anything I have ever seen. It is absolutely magnificent.