Sarah Murray

At the beginning we crowded around small tables eating and drinking together and planning the Hub. Cosy as this was, the idea of a bigger multipurpose table that we could make together got us excited not only because we would actually make something when our group was still coming together but also because making something could bring us together. This is how the table become the social heart of the hub.

I designed and built a large table for an art studio on an island in Northern Norway in the mid 90s. My friend for whom I built the table put up a photo of it recently, and it was great to see it looking so good 20 years on.

At this time I was sitting around packed tables with a group of people keen to create a creative space at the bowling club at Gribblehirst. It struck me as Hub was being born that a large table could serve as a heart for the space. And also could be a good project to co create.

So we visited the waste recycling station as an excited group one Saturday morning. And, among other treasures, we bought a large pile of denailed native timbers, mostly rimu. Together these were to become the tabletop.

The table became a creative focus for those involved with the Hub with various random people involved. And, Sunday by Sunday, it began to take shape. At first a group of people sorted the timber to form a table top of 3.6 by 1.5 meters. Some of the same people then cut the slots for biscuits to help join the boards up edge to edge.

The highlight for me was the gluing day when about 10 people got really stuck in. Applying the glue inserting the biscuits and sliding the boards together. It was a race against time so the whole table could be clamped before the first glue dried.  We made it! Then everyone contributed to the impromptu wedge clamping. Unexpectedly, the boards bowed up so we pushed the top down with a prop from the ceiling.

The table top was glued face down on a flat surface so that the different board thickness would be on the underside. We flipped it over... A big deal with that weight. Then various people leveled the unevenness of the top with handheld belt sanders. It was a mission and we filled the hub with dust which was ok because the space was in a constructive mode.

The dust was mess but it was useful too - we used glue mixed with some of the dust to fill the gaps between boards. That meant a lot of sanding. In retrospect, a floor sander would have been affordable to hire and would have made a flatter surface and faster, but what we achieved with scraping and belt sanders looks pretty good

Then for the legs. I bought untreated 4x2 pine boxing grade. This is cheap and low grade and full of knots. But the structure relied on short lengths and doubling up the longer lengths where necessary meant that we made a structure that easily would support the top.

'Random Sunday' people cut out the timber for the halving joints which meant using chisels. I think some people enjoyed it - several came back for more and there was lots of conversation and laughter.  We screwed the joints together then constructed the frame. WE primed it and it was painted a carefully selected beautiful green colour as one of the activities at the first open day. Then that afternoon we lifted and fixed the top onto the legs and it was ready for use. Woohoo!

Later, we smoothed the sharp corners and oiled it with Tung oil as the final stage. Now it is the centerpiece and heart of the Hub.  It hosts dinners and meetings, sewing, robotics and all sorts of crafts and is wheeled around to suit activities going on in the space.

Almost everyone in the founding group of members contributed to building the table and it is both practical and symbolic of the togetherness we are already creating at the Hub.

Some people say we need another one because there are more than 20 of us at many of our meetings. But I can't see that happening soon : )