Cedar vs Douglas Fir for indoor dining table

I need to build indoor dining table using Cedar or Douglas Fir. That's the only wood I can get in 4x4 size for the legs. Ane recommendations as far as the wood type goes? I was told that Cedar is soft and I shouldn't use it for dining table. The table will be 4 x 8"x5/4"x8' and will have a lip around 2"x4" to create 4" table thickens effect.
I'll need to polish/send the wood. Any recommendations for the sender type and brand. I see few different types of senders: Belt Sander, Disc Sander and Sheet Sander. Which one should I use for my table project?
This is the table my wife liked and we're trying to get the same old style/country natural look of the table: http://www.crateandbarrel.com/family.aspx?c ˆ1&f071&q=table&fromLocation=Search&DIMID@0881&SearchPage=1
All tips and comments are appreciated. JP
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wrote:

Not very good wood choices for a dining table. Consider maple, oak, cherry, mahogany, walnut, or other hardwood that will stand up to a little abuse and look much better than cedar or fir. Search for your local hardwood dealers. It is common practice to glue up legs and if done properly the seams won't be very noticeable and the glued-up legs will be stronger than solid wood. A belt sander is too aggressive, consider an ROS, finishing palm sander, or hand sanding with a sanding block.
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The very little work that I have done with cedar gave me the experience that when you put a finish on cedar, the grains will raise and raise. Leaving you to continually sand your project. There is no reason you can't go to a hardwood supplier for a couple of 4/4 and match the grain to achieve your 4x4 goal. You may even want to measure another tables legs to see if you should be that thick. Lou
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I'll second all of that advice! The hardwood will be more expensive than construction-grade 4x4 type lumber, but it will be more durable, probably more stable, and it will sure look nice. If cost is an issue, you could get something like ash which is a good hardwood, but is cheaper than the others (at least in my neck of the woods).
I finished a bed about a year ago, in which each post is 3 boards of 1 1/4"-thick oak, glued up to make a 3 3/4" square post. You could also make the legs hollow - 4 pieces of 1" lumber (called 4/4 in hardwood- ese) around a hollow (or solid) core. If the seams were on the corners, and joined tightly, they would be very hard to see. Stickley used this technique (called quadralinear or something like that) in order to get quartersawn figure on all 4 sides of a square post. You could use a miter lock router bit, but I guess those can be finicky to set up. I'd probably just laminate thinner boards up to the thickness you want - if you're careful, the lamination lines and grain pattern differences won't be too obvious.
For the sander, I'd say a Random Orbit Sander (ROS) is probably the most versatile - Home Depot has a Ryobi model for $35 which is good for the price. Be sure to get good sandpaper (Norton 3X from Home Depot or Mirka Gold from Amazon are my picks); that will make a big difference. It will also improve sanding performance (and reduce cleanup time) if you hook the sander to a vacuum cleaner or shopvac while you're sanding. This keeps sawdust from building up on the paper, which will leave scratches on the wood. Get an assortment of grits and work up through all of them (100-150-180-220, maybe?) so you don't have any swirly scratches left.
Good luck and have fun, Andy
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Those 4 x 4's may not be the best solution. If they are construction grade lumber, it may warp and or twist whenit dries out. If you really want to use it, let it dry for some time before you start. Why not call a hardwood supplier and ask about other types of wood, such as the white oak in the one you want to copy?

For something that size, I'd send it FedEx Ground.
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I need to SAND it before I send it :)
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JackpipE wrote:

As others say, there is no reason you can't glue up several thinner pieces to reach the size you want. It is done all the time. Yes, the glue lines may show. How much they show depends totally on your skill in selecting the pieces for grain match and gluing them together...the line might vary from virtually invisible to wildly obvious.
And there is no reason you can't get 4x4 lumber both in DF and cedar. Not to mention hardwoods such as the oak table you linked to. However, you won't find them at Home Depot/Lowes type stores...check at a real lumber yard or on the web. __________________

Cedar
Pine is soft too and there are jillions of pine tables. Softness per se doesn't preclude using a wood as long as you can accept an occasional ding/dent/wear from use. Whack a hard wood table hard enough and it will ding too.
One potential problem with Douglas Fir is that different areas within the same board vary greatly as to hardness...the light colored, fast growth wood is much softer than the orangey, slow growth part. When sanding such, the operation will tend to take off too much of the soft making it difficult to get the board flat. Smooth, yes; flat, no. ___________________

That really depends upon the initial condition of the wood...very rough wood calls for more agressive sanding. That is a characteristic of belt sanders but I wouldn't suggest one for you as it takes considerable practice to avoid messing up your wood.
There are two kinds of disk sanders. One kind just rotates around the central point - it is not for you as it can be even more difficult to use and more aggresive than a belt sander. The second type rotates in the same manner but ALSO in a small circle at the same time. They are called "Random Orbit Sanders" (ROS). Personally, I don't much care for them but they work OK and it is relatively hard to mess up your work with them.
Sheet sanders come in two sizes...half sheet and quarter sheet. Each can be had in either orbital or straight line. The orbital is most common and they vibrate in small circles like the ROS. Straight line aren't all that common any more and work much more slowly but give the very best sanded surface possible. Sheet sanders don't cut as fast as the other types but are easy to use and do a first rate job.
For your project, I would suggest either the 1/2 sheet orbital sander or a ROS. Of the former (of all sanders, in fact), my absolute favorite is the Porter Cable 505. Not cheap at around $160 but a tool worth owning.
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JackpipE wrote:

Before you commit yourself to that width, try putting a sheet of 4x8 ply on a pair of sawhorses and put a chair on each side. I think you'll find that the 48" width is more than you need. A width of 42" - 44" is more usual.
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Good point. My dining table is 72 long but 40" wide. Even if I had the room to accommodate larger, that extra 8" would be too far for pleasant dinner conversation. As for length, that depends on the space you have and number of people seated. We can comfortably seat six with no leaves and have lots of room.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

Not mention that it would make grabbing goodies from the middle difficult :)
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Fri, Aug 17, 2007, 2:01am (EDT+4) snipped-for-privacy@snet.net (Edwin Pawlowski) doth sayeth; Good point. My dining table is 72 long but 40" wide. Even if I had the room to accommodate larger, that extra 8" would be too far for pleasant dinner conversation. <snip>
No prob Ed. You put the people you don't want to talk to on the other side of the table, put the people you want to on each side of you. But, it doesn't matter, even if they're on both ends, if people want to talk to each other they're going to talk - make the table wider, to hold more food.
JOAT I do things I don't know how to do, so that I might learn how to do them. - Picasso
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I'll put the design here this evening so you can all look at it. Speaking of my skills they are at 1st millwork project ever. That's also one of the reasons why I would like to use Pine or Fir wood as they are not that expensive. If everything goes well I would be willing to redo the table using Oak wood.
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Thu, Aug 16, 2007, 8:04pm (EDT+4) snipped-for-privacy@guesswhere.com (dadiOH) doth sayeth: Before you commit yourself to that width, try putting a sheet of 4x8 ply on a pair of sawhorses and put a chair on each side. I think you'll find that the 48" width is more than you need. A width of 42" - 44" is more usual.
Family gatherings as a kid, we'd have loved a table 48" wide. That's still narrow enough to pass food dishes from one side of the table to the other, and gives more room for food dishes - which we could definitely have used. I'd say go for as wide a top as you can pass dishes from side to side - even if it might mean one of you has to stand up to do it - we did that often enough, passing a plate across to a young kid, it won't kill you.
JOAT I do things I don't know how to do, so that I might learn how to do them. - Picasso
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It sounds like maybe this project is a little bit beyond your current skills if you aren't yet even sure what type of sander you might need. But all of us started there too and this is a good place to learn. I'd suggest you maybe find a basic book on table construction to ensure you have a good understanding of how to properly attach the aprons (lip) to the legs. and how to attach the top to the aprons, etc.
I would find someones design that seems close to what you need and just edit it to fit your needs. There are considerations such as wood movement (it expands and contracts and a bad design can allow it to tear itself apart over time), sag, racking, etc.
Besides thinking about how you attach the parts as mentioned above. Also think about how is the table top constructed. Maybe you can describe your plan for that and some here can help you develop a good strategy.
If you have the right tools (or access to them), you can glue up any sized legs from any wood. The hardwood species recomended by others cover the most common.

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Thu, Aug 16, 2007, 5:04am (EDT+4) snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com (JackpipE) doth sayeth: <snip> I'll need to polish/send the wood. <snip>
Nah, that's OK, I'll polish it myself, you just send it.
JOAT I do things I don't know how to do, so that I might learn how to do them. - Picasso
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My tip today is that I ran across a $9 book (magazine) by FWW at Lowes today "building furniture". The book includes a section about designing a table and how to properly build one. I recommend getting it if your serious about the project.
You can pick up the skills by taking woodworking classes. Take the classes before buying tools, it will save you money. :-)
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Here is the table design:
http://www.existonline.com/temp/table.gif
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A few questions just to get you thinking.
1. How do the apron pieces attach at the legs?
2. It seems the main table top slats are in the same plane as the top of the apron pieces. What happens when the slats expand\contract from moisture fluxuation. Assume they might change size across the width by 2% to 3% during the year. At 32" width that is 1/3 of an inch per percent of change. The aprons across the end won't stretch longer. I assume the aprons at the side can't move out and in. The table top will buckle or have gaps. If there are gaps between the slats already you will be OK but are there? It looks not.
3. How are the table top slats held in the same plane as the top of the aprons? The most traditional table designs have the top above the aprons and are attached with connections (of various types) that allow the table to expand and contract without breaking something.
You can surely make a table that looks just like your design, you just need to build in the proper ability for movement or address it in some manner.

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