How to turn a felled tree into furniture


Some fallen trees in Washington, D.C. in 2010. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

Question: We lost a big oak tree during a storm about 1½ years ago. I had some of the wood cut into four planks, each four inches thick, eight feet long and 20 to 21 inches wide. I have been drying the wood in my garage. I would like to make the wood into tables. How can I find a carpenter or cabinetmaker who specializes in building furniture?

— Reston

Answer: Wayne Wiegand, a salesman at the Woodcraft tool store in Leesburg (703-737-6166; leesburg@woodcraft.com), went through the store’s card file for referrals and came up with a couple of suggestions: MW Furniture Design in Flint Hill (540-336-1922; www.michaelwolniewicz.com) and Hudson Woodworking & Restoration in Chantilly (703-489-2429; www.hudson woodworking.com).

Representatives of both companies said the first issue you need to address is whether the wood is dry enough. The rule of thumb for air-drying is to allow one year per inch of the wood’s thickness, with half of the moisture leaving on each side of the plank. Given the date of the storm, your wood probably still has a few years to go before it will be ready to be made into furniture.

There is a work-around: kiln drying. Michael Wolniewicz, owner of MW Furniture Design, knows people with kilns who do small jobs like yours and can arrange to have the wood dried before he works with it. But there could still be a timing issue. When wood is partially dry on the outside but still wet and swollen on the inside, drying the wood too fast in a kiln could cause a condition known as case-hardening. Severe, hidden cracks could form in the interior, making it very difficult for a furniture maker to deal with the wood. Wolniewicz said he can help sort out the issues. He estimated that kiln drying would cost under $1,000. Design and construction of a table could range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the details.

Another way to find woodworkers who tackle projects like yours is to search on Google Images using such terms as “custom woodworking” with “Reston VA” or “custom oak table” and “Northern Virginia.” Scroll through and find images you like, then click to see the Web site where Google picked them up.

Question: We bought our home new eight years ago. The Corian countertops have stains of unknown origin and a dull finish. I’ve tried over-the-counter cleaner and gotten a temporary shine, but it does not remove the stains. Do you have any suggestions?

— Ashburn

DuPont, which makes Corian, recommends using a cleaner that contains ammonia. “Often things that look like a stain are just a surface mark that can be removed,” said Matt Murphy, a customer service representative for DuPont’s Corian division.

If that doesn’t work, you might try polishing a small area with the very fine sandpaper included in a kit designed for spot repairs on solid-surface countertops. The Solid Surface Countertop Repair Kit made by Micro-Surface Finishing Products (www.micro-surface.com) sells for $14.30. The sanding pads have extremely fine grit, though, so they don’t remove deep stains. And it would take a lot of time and muscle to polish a whole countertop. Unless you want it as your fitness routine, a whole-surface treatment is a job for a pro with power sanders and a system for capturing the dust.

DuPont’s Corian warranty division recommends calling Surface Link (800-482-1774), a company based in Chantilly that trains and works with repair people throughout the country. Refinishing countertops in a typical kitchen with about 25 linear feet of countertop costs $395. The minimum price is $195, for a condo-size kitchen with 15 linear feet of countertop. Refinishing doesn’t remove burns, cracks or other deep damage. For that, you would need a repair — a patch made of matching Corian. This costs $395, or a little more if you don’t have a leftover piece to use for the patch. Each additional repair costs $220.

DuPont offers a 10-year limited warranty on Corian. Because you still have two years left on that, you might want to call the warranty department (800-426-7426). To get any relief at DuPont’s expense, though, the material itself would need to be defective. That seems unlikely, but it could be worth checking out.

More:

How to repair an heirloom radio

How to fix an old typewriter or flashlight

How to copy an old photo in a convex frame

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