Building A Log Changing Table – An Alaskan Woodworking Project
Like all new parents, our lives changed when we suddenly learned that we were going to be having a baby! Excited is an understatement because this day had been long awaited. In preparation for our new baby boy, we started slowly getting the necessities that come along with having a baby. A few of the larger items we kept looking at were a changing table and a crib. Everything I saw in the store looked nice but just not quite what I wanted, especially for the prices most places were asking. I googled ‘log changing table’ and came across a few images of log furniture for baby nursery’s. Right away I knew that this was what I wanted, but these were double if not triple the price of the furniture we had already looked at it in stores. However, this was the only furniture I knew I would be happy with. Being pretty handy, but mostly a penny pincher, I decided to try my hand at log work and told my wife that I would make her the changing table we had a picture of. If there is anyone that knows me and what I am capable of it would be her. I think some of our family, my wife included, might have been skeptical that I could accomplish building a log changing table and that the final product would look as pictured!
I talked with one of Kara’s uncles who is very good at log work and got some pointers from him on how to start and his draw knife for peeling the logs. With winter in full swing it made for the perfect time to hop on the snow machine and go track down some dead standing black spruce. One clear and cold Saturday morning my friend Blaine and I headed out, snowmachines in tow, in search of just the right spruce trees. We hit the “trail”, which after a couple weeks of hard snow, was nowhere to be seen.
We came to a small stand of trees and found a couple really good trees to cut down. I grabbed the chain saw and pulled, and pulled, and pulled. My guess is the sub zero temps took its toll and it was not going to start up. Out came the hatchet and the wood chips started flying and the trees started falling. We worked hard for hours chopping trees and then riding on down the trail finding more. I don’t think Blaine knew he was going to be working this hard because I sure didn’t! Oh the things we do for our kids!
As the sun was starting to get low in the sky we turned around and started loading the trees on my otter sled as we drove up to them. We got back to the truck, got loaded up, and hit the road stopping at Eureka Roadhouse for a quick burger.
So the work began on our new log changing table. Typically most people use specific tools that make the desired mortise and tenon joints which work effectively and quickly, but since I was on a budget I decided to do it without these special tools. I came up with my dimensions that I wanted which were based of averages of other changing tables I had seen online. I started peeling, cutting, and sanding almost every day after work and on the weekends. Slowly I started to stack up the logs at the right dimensions that I had listed.
The next step in the log changing table was to make the joints. To make the rounded ends I stenciled a circle 1/4″- 1” in diameter on the end of the log depending on its size. I then used a band saw to make 4 cuts on the perimeter of this circle taking the rounded ends of the logs down to a smaller square. Next I used a grinder and slowly turned the log until I had a perfect rounded tenon matching the circle I had drawn on the end. I repeated this step for all logs requiring tenons. Next I measured off all logs requiring mortises and drilled my holes corresponding to my tenon sizes.
Slowly the Alaskan spruce log changing table started to take shape. I finally got all of the main structure done. I started assembling sections filling the holes with wood glue, strapping them together with ratchet straps, and leaving them overnight to dry. I then assembled the sections filling the remaining holes with wood glue and strapped the entire structure together with ratchet straps to dry overnight.
Once dry I applied a non toxic water based acrylic wood sealer. This really added a lot of character darkening the wood slightly but really giving the cracks more dimension and depth. All that was left was the side, back and top panels, shelves, and drawers. For the panels I chose to use finished oak that I bought at Lowe’s. I cut out the back and side panels and attached those first. Next I tackled the drawers making those out of plywood. The hardest part was getting the sliders to be spaced properly for a smooth open and close. With a few shims and a lot of tweaking I finally got the drawer sliders installed and working.
Next I installed the shelves and top panel adding supports underneath for support. The hardest part getting these panels to fit is the shape of the logs. I wanted to leave the logs pretty close to their natural shape. This looks good now, but it created quite a bit of extra work getting the final product to come together and fit properly.
Finally I wanted the drawer faces to be log as well. For this I chose a few of the larger trees I had left, cut them to length, and cut them in half length-wise. I sanded them down and rounded the corners and tops until they all fit together on the drawers. 3 handles were attached and the Alaskan log changing table was complete!
To tie the room together and match the decor of the newly finished Alaskan spruce log changing table, I made a log mantle shelf and we both made some rustic pictures and picture frames.
Before starting this Alaskan log changing table project I don’t think I knew how much work it would involve. Our son is now born and the table is working great. I’m sure this will be a table we will always have and find a use for. Now on to the crib!