Valve Table

August 2017

I salvaged this 4" gate valve from a building I was given access to that was being torn down. I didn't have a clear reason for it at the time but I quickly settled on a desire to make a table with it. The accompaning flanges etc.. aren't cheap so I set it in the "round tuit" pile while I scrounged parts.

Well, I finally collected the flanges that I needed and decided to build the table finally. I was at firsdt intending to use pre-made butcher block countertops but everyone seems to be getting thinner and thinner on those and I didn't see what I wanted for anything aproaching a decent price.

Even though it will probably cost more in the long run I decided therefore to make the table top myself out of rough sawn lumber.

A local small lumber yard has a sawmill source that stocks hardwoods so I ordered 72 linear feet of +8in wide by 2in thick hard maple.

All of that wood isn't for this table, I will eventually make tops for a series of saw table clones when I get a pattern made for casting smaller versions of those legs in aluminum.

That is likely far in the future though so back to the table at hand. I had 8ft long board and wanted the top to overhang the base by about 6in on either side so I selected three boards and cut them so the best end was 4ft 6in and the worst end was 3ft 6in.

Because it is exciting I whipped up a quick mockup of how the table would look.

Mocking it up is fun and all but doesn't accomplish much. I need to turn the boards into a solid top. At first I thought I would cross drill for all-thread and just bolt the boards together but after I held the hardware up to the lumber I decided that wasn't the way to go and I would take the path of a doweled glue up.

Doweled joints means holes and I don't have a jig for that so I made one specific to this project. First step was drilling a straight hole in some hardwood from another messed up project.

Then I attached that drill block to another peice of scrap and the jig was finished. Nice perpindicular holes in the center of the boards (I hope).

I decided to put a dowel in roughly every 6 inches, marked out from the saw cut end.

The drill guide worked just as anticipated and I made quick work of drilling the holes. To make them all equal I drilled until the top of the bit just sank below the top of the jig, nice and easy since the depth isn't really critical, just helpful to have them the same.

Before I glued the boards together I planed the surfaces down square and straight checking them against each other. I didn't shoot for perfect since this table doesn't need invisible seams (I want a semi-rough hand planed look) just within a 1/16th or so.

When I was ready for gluing I put the boards together with dowels to test that there wouldn't be any suprises after I broke out the glue.

It was a good thing I did a dry fit up because there was a problem. My dowels were a little too long and more difficult to get into hte holes right than I wanted so I broke out the belt sander and took the length down while adding a chamfrer to each dowel.

All ready for glue now I filled the holes before inserting dowels and also spread PVA glue (wood glue/elmers school glue) on both sides.

Things went together well and I got everything together with an adequate amount of glue. I knocked things together with a soft hammer then taped the seams to help hold the glue in while everythig dried.

I used ratchet straps to cinch everything down and keep it clamped for a couple of days since that is what I have. I used a few bits of 2x4 to hold everything straight and keep the ratchet off of the work.

While that was drying I took the chance to fill some cracks with glue. A syringe works great for this. It is hard to fill the syringe with the glue (suck it up without the needle) but the needle lets you squirt glue down and inch or two into the crack.

Now, I like using a hand plane but after I spent an hour or two going at it I decided that I would try out a power plane and picked up a new porter cable unit.

Let me tell you, no regrets on picking up that tool (I rarely do). It made quick work bringing down all the high spots on the base and was easy to use. Once Igot all thework knocked out of the way I went over everything again with the hand plane to remove all marks from the power unit and fine tune the flatness.

With both sides pretty much done except for maybe a final planing I trimmed the edges down to size. The full 2in depth cut in that hard maple demands a sharp blade and the one that I had in the saw burned up on the last cut. Luckily I purchase the thin kerf dewalt framing blades by the package and always have more on hand to finish the job.

I planed the sides to remove all of the saw marks then used the plane to knock the sharp edges off.

There are a couple of cracks and voids at the joints that I wanted to fill so I mixed up some rock hard putty and worked it into the cracks. This will contrast with the wood but that is the look I want. This is not a high finish table with stain and a bazillion coats of finish. I want the imperfections to pop out and be recognised instead of trying to hide them. I don't like fancy high finish stuff, it quickly gets a ding or two in and then the whole look is ruined. Better to make something that looks good in the state it will live life in.

After the putty dried I knocked off the high spots with the hand plane and touched up some spots that the plane didn't clean up well with some 220grit sandpaper. Now I didn't want to go over the whole thing with sandpaper, I want an as planed finish instead of a nice polished perfect surface. I did go over the chamfered edges just a little though to knock off the sharpest parts of the corners since those will get dinged anyways over the life of the table.

Then I applied a thin coat of satin polyurethane with a brush. As I mentioned I'm not going for a high gloss perfect finish but since drinks and such get set on coffee tables I wanted to do something that would be wipeable. So, I will do two coats of satin polyurethane, one to raise the grain and let me knock off the rough spots, then a top coat.

Because I was doing a lot of urethane that weekend and would be getting things out again and again I cheated and didn't clean my brush after use. Instead I put it in a bag with some mineral spirits then propped it up in the freezer. This does pretty good at keeping it ready to use without drying out for a day or two. I left the brush in a week once on accident and ruined it.

I still haven't really addressed the hardware that will go on this table yet. The top and bottom need to be bolted to my valve/flange stack and for the top I wanted this to be visible from above. I originally thought about using plow bolts (think flat head screw with a blank top) but decided that I wasn't going to get the depths perfect in the wood for all eight fasteners so the result would end up being annoying with either some of the bolts sticking proud or some a little too low. I decided to make a ring instead that would be inset and flush with the table top. Since it may get the finish knocked off I didn't want it to rust and found a 1/4" thick stainless steel round drop from a laser cutting guy.

Since I was going stainless and didn't want to spend on stainless bolts I decided that I would weld normal steel threaded rod on the bottom of the plate and completely hide the fasteners from above.

I purchased studs and started setting up to weld them on the bottom of the plate. My plan was to use the flanges I had to position the studs during welding and get everything lined up nice so assembly later would work. I didn't have any nuts with tapered ends to center the studs in the holes of the existing flanges so I settled on wrapping some aluminum sheet stock around the rods to center them in the flange bolt holes. After I got one right I cut out a bunch of strips.

And how I wrapped it around the studs to centralize them.

Putting in the last stud.

I added a second flange for good measure then positioned the stud assembly on the stainless disc I was going to weld to. I carefully tacked them in then checked the alignment with the plate.

Everything was good so I welded them out. They didn't tweak too bad and even though my welds look like poop I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Welding wasn't the end though. This is a cool centerpiece of the tabletop and I wanted it to be as perfect as possible and look like a machined part, not something that got prettied up with an angle grinder and flap disc. So I bolted it up to one of the flanges and mounted it on the lathe to turn. I indicated the face in and got it running as true as I could (the disc was a little wavy from weld distortion).

Then with a live center on it for extra security I got to cleaning up the face.

To really make the fact that this was a machined part stand out and give the illusion of a flange fitting I made a final pass with an extremely coarse feed rate and a large radius insert. Not concentric rings like a real fluid connection but good enough for the eye and rather attractive I must say.

Then I cut a groove on the face to drop out a central slug and prettied up the new bore with chamfer.

Now one of the flanges I had was actually the wrong size and drilled for the wrong bolt pattern. I don't care that it is a little to large in diameter since it will be the one that mounts to the underside of the tabletop but the wrong bolt pattern is a killer. Something I like about non-critical mild steel though is how easy a few extra holes are to fix. I just went at it with the welder and plugged them all up, then ground down the weld bead back flush.

With the wrong holes filled in I marked out the correct hole pattern. I used another flange to mark them out with sharpie then did the math and scratched the exact hole centers with my "working" calipers.

I center-punched the holes then pilot drilled with a handy drill, I think about 1/4 to 3/8" dia before I hit them with the 3/4" drill. Quick note to anyone who might not know, a large part of the force required to push a drill through material comes from the point and the web thickness of the drill. If you have the muscle or the machine it will be kinder on your tooling and take less time to drill in as few steps as possible. I have seen people step up by 1/8" at a time and man is that troublesome and time consuming! That said, 3/4" drill by hand with a small pilot is still a physical exercise. It especially was for the poor dewalt. I didn't roast her but I had to stop and just run the drill fast with no load (so the fan can cool it) for a few minutes after each hole.

To pretty up the holes and keep me from cutting myself on them later I gave them a quick hit with the single lip chamfer bit. By the way, much easier and chatter free than the multi cutting edge style if you are doing this by hand.

That concludes almost all the machine work to be done with the valve and flanges. That is except my lack of thin hex nuts and desire not to order a full package when I only need eight of them. So I took some standard height ones and cut them down.

To pretty things up I slapped them in the lathe and gave each one a facing cut as well as a chamfer to keep the flats from digging in. I'll get back to why I wanted these thin nuts later.

Now here is some interesting trivia. I've never actually done rust removal electrolysis before though I know what it can do and know some people who have. The trivia part is washing soda vs baking soda. I have read that both work to make the water conductive and allow electrolysis but that washing soda is preferred (I think because it makes the scale on the sacrificial part easier to handle). I didn't have any washing soda on hand and apparently it is a little harder to find but you can turn baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) into washing soda (Sodium Carbonate) just by baking it in the oven for an hour at 350deg F! It smelled like CO2 when I cooked it and when I dumped it in the tub with water it made it feel soapy which baking soda doesn't do so it seems to have worked.

Like I said I haven't done much electrolysis before so my setup is kind of crude. I just dumped washing soda into a tub with water then applied the negative lead of a battery charger to the valve and the positive lead to some sacrificial rebar I had lying around. Seems to be going well, you'll find out with me what the final result will be.

While this metal work was going on I kept working on the wood aspects as well. I wet sanded the base to remove all the rough grain that stuck up (though much less with a planed surface than a sanded surface).

And I made the table top in the same way I made the bottom. Dowel, glue, power plane the majority of the stock off then finish up with the hand plane for the final surface.

So things are coming along pretty good at this point but the project will have to take a break while the day job takes me to Alaska.

Before I left for Alaska I took the valve out of the electrolysis tub and wire brushed it before putting it away for a month. Man does it look pretty to me. Makes me want to finish this project and see the final result.

Even though I want to finish this table it is going to be sidetracked by more than just a trip to Alaska. I really need to make a new dinner table for the kids, the original triple table is too small for them now and it really is becoming a necessity to have something else. So a momentary break on this table for a week or two to build the new kid table.