There a various stages involved in making a beautiful top for a dining table; and within each stage, several processes.
Stage 1 is sourcing and roughing out the timber. The first process is picking the timber.
Most the tables we make are in British hardwoods and we use three sawmills, all based in the South of England. They all specialise in buying, milling, drying and selling timber grown in British woodlands. At Orpago we aim to handpick the timber for every table we make. We already know the aesthetic that we are looking for in the finished piece and we can spend the time needed carefully selecting the right boards for the job. This can take quite a bit of time - it took me two hours to pick 3 boards for a recent commission for a dining table that we made in British elm. Time consuming, but the end result was stunning. Sometimes we might find a particulary nice log, in which case we'll buy it. Typically a log might give us enough boards to make four large dining table tops.
Here's a log of British Prime oak that we recently picked. We were after some oak for a commissioned bespoke dining table to measure 2400x110mm with a 45mm thick top. The boards were 4.1m long and averaged around 60cm in width. The guys at the mill had to lop off around 50cm so that we could get them in the back of the van and back to the workshop.
We store all our boards vertically in the workshop as it makes it easier for 1 person to maneouvre and saves space.
The second process is roughing out the timber into planks for the table top. A board will always have end splits in it and more often than not there will be splits down the length of it that may need to be sawn out. We use a chalk line to mark the line of the 'rip' and then freehand it through the table saw. For particularly big boards this can be a 2 person job, like this 3.6m board of 54m thick rough sawn British oak.
Before running our boards over the surface planer or through the table saw we'll cut them slightly over length, making sure that no end splits will be in the finished top.
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Thanks to the photographer who gave up her Saturday morning to help out in the workshop, stole my phone and started snapping!