My $11 coffee table

A previous post reminded me on one of my earliest furniture projects. A coffee table.
I was fresh out of grad school, gainfully employed with an honest-to-gawd salary and about to furnish my first apartment. Dcor was very much of the brick-and-board school . It occurred to me that I could make a very simple (but striking) coffee table out of two untreated railroad ties. If memory serves, the dimension of a tie was 6-in x 9-in x 9 feet. All it would take would be 6 cuts: 4 to lop of a set of 6-inch pieces for the feet, 2 for the crossbars and the remainder would be the body of the table. Simple. No fasteners. Gravity would hold it together.
I found a supplier of ties in the yellow pages. They quoted me a price of $5.50 per tie (this was 1970). Hey - - I could afford $11. for a coffee table.
I rented a pick-up ($20 per day) and during my lunch hour headed for the railroad tie boutique to collect (what was now ) a $31 coffee table. At the tie place, I discovered a couple of things: 1) I couldn't load my own ties. It had to be done by a union worker; 2) the union didn't work during the lunch hour, and 3) all the really good ties were contracted to the Union Pacific. The ones they were selling me were slightly warped. I headed back, turned in the pickup at the rental place and learned that there was also a 25 cent per mile charge. Now my table had become a $36 dollar item.
Several days later, I slipped out of the office early, phoned ahead to be sure the Union was ready for me, rented a truck and picked up my $60 dollar coffee table.
Over the weekend, I lugged the ties to the home of a friend who owned a table saw. It took a few hours, but eventually it sunk in that the average table saw, owned by the average compliant friend is NOT engineered to make precision cuts (or any other sort of cuts for that matter) on a 100 lb tie horsed onto the table and hand fed into the blade. The new blade cost $12. It took most of Sunday, but eventually all six cuts were performed with a hand bucksaw purchased ($8) at the local hardware store. The cuts wandered all over the place and the ends weren't square, but what was I supposed to expect for an $80 coffee table.
Since the ties were slightly warped, all components now had small, but noticeable skew. No problem. I rented a belt sander ($9/dy). The guy at the rental place asked me now many belts I wanted. I didn't have any idea. He recommended that I take a box and return the un-used ones. It's a heckuva lot faster to sand with a new belt, so I changed belts frequently. Ten belts. Four bucks a belt. At $129 it still looked like a pile of unpainted railroad ties. Another friend clued me in to Watco Danish Rubbing Oil. I bought a can. It cost slightly more (per unit volume) than the brand of bourbon that I was drinking (in my formative years). Ten dollars for a can of the stuff. I spread out a drop cloth, laid out one of the longer pieces and drizzled a little of the oil onto the surface of the tie. SLURP (Ross Perot's enormous sucking sound). The stuff disappeared into the wood like piss into a snow bank. It took two more cans to make any noticeable difference in the appearance. So, at $159, the end was in sight. Now all it needed was a glass top (1/4 inch, smoked glass, rounded edges) $27.
My male friends all agreed that my $186 coffee table was an item of superb design and construction. My female acquaintances seemed to feel otherwise. "Butt-ugly" is the term that they seemed to favor. Women, as a group, don't appreciate fine craftsmanship.
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Boy that sounds familiar....I don't know anybody *that's* happened to....
Submit that to a magazine, man!!
david
--
I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have
of it.
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Would everyone please list the things women appreciate. Oops, I mean the things men are capable of doing in their shops. WL

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According to a lot of the email I've been getting, they like something called "size" or "bigger"...
djb
--
"Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a
well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy
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On Mon, 14 Jul 2003 21:54:33 -0400, "Wilson Lamb"

Having a stash of chocolate, and occasionally dishing out a square of it often seems to do it! ;O)
I know, it's dirty, low, underhand and decidedly sneaky as an approach, but it DOES work 95% of the time! I know of nothing else with such a track record! ;O)
Oh, keep the stash hid though and don't break the square off in front of one, you'll lose the rest of the stash - keep it somewhere they'll never find it, normally by the brooms, vac, or other clean up implement is a pretty safe bet, since they tend to avoid those areas!
Take Care, Gnube I don't want to win the lottery I just want to win a barn full of seasoned timber! ;O)
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Gee...
<snip>

...makes me feel not so bad about my ~$30 picture frame...mind you, it was made of exactly 4 pieces of wood (cedar 2X4's...DON'T ASK...), but it took me about...oh, I dunno, 6-8 pieces...just to get 4 pieces of 1 X 3/4 by however long they needed to be. I also had to hand-cut mortises, and I just kept blowing 'em out ("Great...there's ANOTHER one for the firewood heap."). Ah, memories...
Jim
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On Mon, 14 Jul 2003 21:05:10 GMT, "Bubba"

<snip of good story>

Your post reminded me of this previous post:
http://www.google.ca/groups?selm e50f36.0204091459.54777ad%40posting.google.com&oe=UTF-8&output=gplain
Luigi Replace "no" with "yk" twice in reply address for real email address
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yes sounds like my $1200 toy train cars.
Bubba wrote:

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: A previous post reminded me on one of my earliest furniture projects. A : coffee table. :: <SNIP>
: My male friends all agreed that my $186 coffee table was an item of superb : design and construction. My female acquaintances seemed to feel otherwise. : "Butt-ugly" is the term that they seemed to favor. Women, as a group, : don't appreciate fine craftsmanship.
Ahh... A Feast of the Greatest Sandwich Ever: Tongue-in-Cheek on Wry -- with just enough "horse radish" for zest :-)
--
Steve
www.ApacheTrail.com/ww/
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Good story, Bubba. Kinda like the $400 writing desk (what wound up being about 1/4 sheet of oak ply with hinges and a piece of molding) I built for the Sergeant Major. Sunova!
-Phil Crow
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