Updated: Jun 7
I have been following Tombalek for a number of years, since I came across a wooden chair workshop they had. Now that I have my own place, and they came up with a table workshop, I thought it was a perfect time for me to sign up for the workshop.
When I went for my first session, and saw the pieces of wood I was going to start with, it looked like quite a big gap from what the final table was supposed to look like:
Nevertheless, I trusted that after 30 days, things will somehow change – and I was right (almost). Took me a bit more than 30 days, but over the course of the series of workhops, I could see some pretty drastic transformations, even though he differences looked pretty incremental at the start / end of each session :p
In my first session, it was one of the “easiest” sessions as I had the help of machines (bandsaw, router) to cut the big pieces into the rough shape of the table parts, including the joints:
Subsequently, the sessions got a bit more involved, as I had to use a myriad of hand tools to shape the wood:
1: Travisher (that wooden slightly curved shape tool above the #1 circle); 2: Plane (that brown rectangular thing on the top edge of table on the right of the #2 circle); 3: Rasp (the tool with the wooden handle at the end of the table)
E.g.: the rectangular pieces of the legs were shaped to become curved using the above 3 tools, by hand – started building biceps then 😀
Spent some time making sure the joints fit just right: the first cuts where done with routers, and subsequent adjustments with a chisel:
Also spent quite a bit of time using a travisher to remove some material on the under-side of the table to give it a curved surface – I was struggling a bit with this one, because of the tricky wood grains that were going in multiple directions. Thank goodness for one of the instructors, Ben, who helped me with quite a bit of it!
At some point, we finally fit in and glued the legs into the table top, and the table starts to look somewhat like a table, except that the joints weren’t so smooth, and we needed to use a rasp to smoothen it down:
After lots of arm workout, and some feelings of self-doubt about whether I will ever get there, it does get pretty smooth!
The final stage, after making sure the curves are nicely rounded, the final stage is sanding. Thank goodness for a sander (with the help of some power for most surfaces, except the curved joints), but even then, there are 5 different coarseness of sandpaper to get through (I think it was 40, 80, 120, 240, 400)…
Yellow tool is the sander! Table is usually full of saw dust after sanding, and the wood feels super smooth ❤
Usual situation after sanding
We also learnt how to patch little holes / nicks in the wood with sawdust and glue, and also fill little gaps in the joints with thin wood pieces and glue:
Stuffed a thin slice of wood into the gap and applied glue, then sanded to smoothen surface
After some more sanding, the table is finally done (!!!):
The final step is to oil the table, to give it a protective coat, and a beautiful finish – was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process 😀
And then it’s done! Isn’t it the most gorgeous table ever? (I might be slightly biased)
Wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it without the help of all the instructors!
Only managed to catch John and CK for a photo, because I finished it on a weekday night, but there were others who helped me along the way!
This was a really challenging project for me, but I am so glad, and so proud that I managed to finish it, and really do love having a piece of my own hand-made furniture in my home ❤
Plus, the mahogany wood was from trees in Singapore (that have been cut down / cleared), which makes the table extra special to me!
I also had quite a bit of personal reflections during the entire process, but will share that in a separate post 🙂
Details of the workshop
Duration: 4 official lessons of 3 hours each across 30 days, and we schedule additional sessions to work on our piece as required. The website says to expect to spend at least 24 hours, and first-timers should expect to take a longer time – I took 48 hours across 11 days spent at Tombalek (!!!)
Price: $880 for the entire workshop, including all materials and unlimited access to workshop to work on the table within 30 days, additional days required (beyond the 30 days) are charged at $3 each (I spent an extra $27 on this). The workshop is SkillsFuture claimable, so I used the $500 credit I had to offset the fees!
Level of “fun”: 4/5
This is a dream workshop for those who want to experience using tools – I got to try using a bandsaw, a plane, a router, a travisher, a rasp, a hammer and chisel, and a sander.
Depending on the type of grain your wood has, using some of these hand tools are actually pretty therapeutic!
Level of difficulty: 5/5
This is by far the most difficult project I have ever worked on – woodworking requires technique/skill, strength, and patience. I was somewhat lacking in all three dimensions, which made it a little more challenging for me. This was of course, the largest (literally) project I’ve ever done, and the duration required added to the challenge!
Thankfully, the instructors were always available to provide guidance, and to demonstrate how certain steps should be done + do one side as an example for us to work towards. They were such an important part of the journey!
I would recommend checking in with instructors on your progress, and front-load as much of the work as possible. For me, I didn’t realize I required so much more time, and ended up overloading on classes right at the end to get the table out!