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Furniture Building - Table Tops

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I'm just moving out of doing general carpentry to trying something requiring a littlle more accuracy - like furniture building. Am currently considering a large table (which I will use as a desk in my office).

 

I'm thinking of cherry, maybe a 4' by 8' top made from 1 by 6 milled stock.

 

My question is if you can make a top like that without a breadboard on the ends? I'd like to keep it simple (Shaker style) with just an expanse of wood.

 

Can you make something that big that will stay stable. I do not have a lot of experience with furniture and am not sure if it would stay relaiably flat.

 

Thanks for any insights.

Bob

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When making a table top that large (or any table top for that matter), I would make sure to alternate the grain on each board when gluing up. Look at the end grain, and alternate the rings (up, down, up,etc). You need to also balance that with how the grain matches on the top for appearance. I would glue up (2) 2ft sections (because my planer will do up to 24") with rough 4/4 cherry, plane them to 13/16", then glue the 2 sections together using a biscuit joiner.

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Also, when attaching the top to the skirt, it must be able to "float" or it can eventually split with expansion/contaction, so I would attach it with table top clips that go into a groove cut in the skirt.

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Everything Stripersurfster said,

Also make sure the wood is dry and all the boards have the same Moisture Content.

Don't just buy the boards at a yard, bring them home and glue them up.

Even if they seem good and dry,stick them up in a nice dry place in your shop for a couple weeks to let them normalize together.

Then it best to check them with a moisture meter before you machine them and glue em up.

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Before gluing up your boards try various board layouts. You'll want to get the most pleasing pattern when you do glue it up.

 

You will need to flatten the glued up boards using scrapers/cabinet scrapers, and various hand planes.

 

You could also use a beltsander carefully, followed by other means of sanding, eg, random orbit sander and hand sanding-but it will not bring out the grain as nicely using hand tools. I'm assuming if you want to use a wood like cherry you are going to want the grain to show its self in the best way.

 

You must seal both the top and the bottom.

 

I started out thew same way as you about 16 years ago. I'm now several thousand dollars into it.

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I remember make a table top with my grandfather. it is a kitchen table top 8/4 red oak strait from the mill

not sure how he build it but the best i can tell is that he bisected it and then clamped it redface.gif

then coated with stain and apply wax every year

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4' x 8' table out of 1 x 6 lumber would be VERY unstable. either breadboard it or figure on putting quite a few cleats across the bottom side to hold the shape.

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View Post4' x 8' table out of 1 x 6 lumber would be VERY unstable. either breadboard it or figure on putting quite a few cleats across the bottom side to hold the shape.

 

 

 

Agreed. Not the best design.

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View Post4' x 8' table out of 1 x 6 lumber would be VERY unstable. either breadboard it or figure on putting quite a few cleats across the bottom side to hold the shape.

 

Wood is unstable by nature wink.gif . That being said, if the wood is dry and allowed to acclimate to the environment it's going in, and the growth rings are alternated during glue up, you should have a fairly stable panel. I haven't done any tops that are 48" wide, but have done a number up to about 42", and never had a problem over 25-30 years. I have never felt the need to add cleats for stability. I would like to rethink my 1st post. I would make up (3) 16" panels instead of (2) 24". Mostly for ease of handling. I'd make the panels up of random widths from 4" to 8". I would avoid anything over 8" wide boards, as wider boards have a higher tendancy to cup. It's a pretty ambitious project, at least scale-wise , for a first time out, but I see no reason it shouldn't work out.

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Thanks to all for the various ideas.

 

I may rethink the size as suggested. This is for me for a desk at work and I like lots of room to spread out on, but could rethink that in some ways.

 

I do have some handplane skills and was planning to flatten it that way. Fine Woodworking has had several articles on tuning and sharpening handplanes and I've read those pretty closely. At this point too, I've built two workbenches, both of which I flattened with handplanes. So, I've had some practice in that area. Tear out is always a problem, but I think if I get stock with the clearest and straightest grain, I can handle it. It's figured and contorted grain that usually gives me tear out.

 

I was worried about the jointing so it was interesting to see that was brought up too. I buy my wood from a millwork shop (they have great high quality stock) so I was thinking about just paying them to joint it all when I buy it. Wasn't sure about this, but now that it has been brought up I will probably spring for the expense.

 

The acclimating is an interesting idea. This will be built in my damp basement. I had planned to let it acclimate there a bit and then build it, but after reading this I think I'm going to have to let it sit a bit in the office environment and then take it down to the basement jus to work it.

 

Great ideas. Thanks.

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View PostEverything Stripersurfster said,

Also make sure the wood is dry and all the boards have the same Moisture Content.

Don't just buy the boards at a yard, bring them home and glue them up.

Even if they seem good and dry,stick them up in a nice dry place in your shop for a couple weeks to let them normalize together.

Then it best to check them with a moisture meter before you machine them and glue em up.

 

 

 

i have seen (but never done it myself) racks made for drying lumber that allow you to drive wedges in to hold the board while it dries- this prevents twisting, and maybe cupping

 

as mentioned- you need to allow the wood to expand and contract without tearing the finished piece apart- my brother was into it for a while and made a bed for somebody that cracked all to hell because he glued and screwed where things should have been allowed to float

 

i inherited a book titled "how to make furniture"

 

maybe a trip to your local library would be helpful

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Solid table tops made form thin stock are a big challenge, especially, one that size made form 1" stock. That is probably the reason that you rarely see them. These former craftsman new the challenges of that task and the future risks of warping, cuping, checking, spliting - cleats or no cleats. For much effort and cost it is very likely you will be unhappy with the results

 

You would be better off using cabinent grade cherry plywood and build up the edges with solid stock to make it appear more substantial.

 

Another alternative would be to locate or have someone fabricate a butcher block slab 4'0" x 8'0" x 1-1/2" -2'0" and finish the slab with a cherry stain. This thing will be bullet proof.

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I've made butcherblock, workworking benches, they are a lot of work to plane flat.

Furniture grade, veneer core plywood, is an alternative. It depends how much effort and how nice you want the piece to be.

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