There are two ways, that I've heard of, to level a table.
The first, is to shim the three pieces of slate to one flat surface(explained below), then to level the table with shims placed under the legs.
The second method, is to level the table first, as close as possible. Then level the slate while
making the three pieces flat.
I chose method number two, for one reason - Luckily, my table was level as it stood.
Making the Slate Flat
Since the table itself was level, I simply needed to shim the three pieces of slate to act as one flat
surface, and make
them level, all in one swoop. To do this, I found the highest of the three pieces of slate. It took me
two shots to do this...I thought I had the highest one, but after I was half way finished, I realized I didn't.
No big deal. By finding the highest piece, you can then level it, then bring the others
up to it, then to level.
I took a small drill bit, and made a pilot hole into the poplar through the pre drilled slate screw holes.
Then I started
the screws, so that they were in place, but not tight. I then took two decks of playing cards, and ripped
them in half (yes, all at the same time.) Use these cards to insert between the poplar slate supports
and slate backing. It's amazing
how one card can make a difference. Get that first piece level (or flat, if you chose method 1.) Then we will
move on to the others.
To check for level, I used several methods; one, a level. Two, I took one of the balls and spun it, then slightly
tapped it so that it should spin in place. If it's off level, it will spin down hill. Three, I slowly rolled
the ball each way across the table to see if it varied. Because of the micro grooves that are in the slate,
sometimes the ball will tend to follow the grooves, so don't be confused if it rolls one way the first time,
then the other the second. If it's off level, you will know. If it's on, you will wonder why the ball goes
different ways each time. Just take your time, and you will get the hang of it. Once it was level, I inserted
cards wherever a screw was, and where there was plenty of gap (to support the slate from sagging eventually.)
Next, take two strings and tightly fasten each of them to each end of your cabinet. So the strings will be running
lengthwise on each side of the cabinet. You then take four quarters
to prop up each string at the string ends. This will give you your line of flatness. Use a fifth quarter
as a gauge. Starting at the seam where it meets the already leveled piece, bring the seams to the same height.
Then shim the rest of that piece to the proper height of the string. Slide the quarter under the string. It
should barely touch the little pieces of fur poking out from the string. Do this for each piece along the entire length of the string and check
for level. This process will take four or five hours, but it's actually quite enjoyable. You get to roll your
Before waxing, check it again. Feel the seems with your fingers, the ridge should be almost non-existent. If you roll
a ball each way over the seem, it shouldn't make a noise, and it should not stop, or drop off the ledge. Add a card here,
tighten a screw there, it will get there. The center screws should not be tightened unless there is a bow in
your slate. Just snug them down gently to prevent a future bow.
Sealing the Seems
I took a propane torch, and a stick of very hard wax purchased from bestbilliards.com. I then slightly heated the
slate itself, because wax likes warmth, then dripped the wax onto the seems. I dripped it about one or two
inches wide. I did this in about 10" increments, then quickly ran the flame over the seem again to kind of
spread out the wax, just a touch. After waiting about 10 seconds, I then took a paint scraper and scraped the
excess wax off. After redoing a few areas several times, I discovered that laying a razor blade down
almost flat, then scraping the wax off, worked much better than my plastic scraper.
Repeat this process for the screw holes also (in the middle seems only - the outer rim screw holes are buried under
the rails and don't need to be filled.) The holes are a little more difficult to get perfect. But you can
always remelt the wax and try it again.
NOTE: Some use alternatives to wax, such as Rock Hard. You probably shouldn't use wax if the temperature in the room will get above
90-degrees. The reason for this, is the wax can bleed into the cloth if it gets to warm.