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A.J.'s recent post reminded me of a very amusing experience I had early in my woodworking career. At least it is amusing in retrospect. It was not at all amusing at the time.

I had some friends who had bought an antique library table. It had been cut down to coffee table height at some point in its life but the job had been well done and it looked pretty nice. But it was pretty abused from hard use and they wanted me to refinish it. It appeared to be made of quartersawn white oak.

I should have been tipped off by the fact that this table was very light in weight for an oak table. But being kind of new at this whole thing, I didn't catch the hint. The table had a lot of deep scratches and gouges in the top and they wanted those removed. Since the table had already been altered from its original state, they were not too worried about preserving the finish. They just wanted a nice looking coffee table.

So the first thing I grabbed was my belt sander with a 100-grit belt. As I began to sand the top, it seemed like the quartersawn figure was disappearing. I stopped sanding and brushed off the dust and was shocked to realize that the quartersawn figure was indeed disappearing! And what was left was the unmistakable greenish tint of poplar. The table was made of poplar and finished with a most excellent quartersawn oak paint job!

I had no choice at this point but to go back to the people and tell them that I had just ruined their table. Fortunately, they had spent very little for the table and were not too upset. I ended up stripping the whole thing down to raw wood and then staining and lacquering it. It ended up looking very nice but quartersawn oak it wasn't. I also ended up not charging them anything so my lesson was not only embarrassing, it ended up costing me a day’s pay.


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