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Thread: table top glue-up board sizes

  1. #1
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    table top glue-up board sizes

    I want to make a large kitchen table and want to know the widest boards that can be glued up without a problem. I am concerned about movement and cupping. Can 12-inch or 16-inch boards be used with a good vertical grain pattern or do I need to rip down to 6 or 8-inch boards and alternate the grain direction?

  2. #2
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    It's not that simple. It depends on:

    The wood species
    How the tree grew (as in natural tension)
    How the wood was cut from the log
    How the wood was dried
    How the wood was stored
    Where the wood will be placed
    How the wood will be fixed

    To answer your question - can wide wood with straight grain be joined and be expected to not cup? Yes, depending on the answers to the above questions.

    All wood moves. Period. Some more than others.

    I've seen 4" wide boards cup, so ripping to 6 or 8 inches is no guarantee.

  3. #3
    "Typically" I try to use the fewest number of boards (as wide as possible) for table tops. I orient the grain all "the same way" so that any cupping causes the top to bow more or less "uniformly" with the convex side up. That always seems to be the easiest to pull flat with whatever method you use to attach the top to the base or aprons.
    David DeCristoforo

  4. #4

    The Secret is in Your Attachment

    I always make the table/desk/furniture top as a separate unit first and let it sit after it is completed. I go ahead and finish the top using multiple coats of thinned (50%) urathane with sanding or steel wool between coats. And while this is going on, I build up the table supports with a large structral piece of lumber down the middle of the long dimention.
    Glue and screw the table top to the structure down the middle. This is your main attachment point. Use bread boards on the ends so the wood can move. Buy some automotive screws with large built in "washer" type heads to attach the top to the edges. Elongate the screw holes so the screws can float under the table top edges. This method does a wonderful job, and you will be surprised how much the wood moves in the bread boards after you move the piece of furniture inside the house. The top contracts and the automotive screws allow the movement without splitting the top boards.

  5. #5
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    I forgot one more:

    How the wood is finished. If you only finish the top and leave the bottom open, the rate of moisture absorption will be different and will cause cupping.

  6. #6
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    If you are going to use hand planes to smooth and flatten the top, you need to have the grain all run the same way.

  7. #7
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    If you have 12"-16" wide boards and they are each individually stable, there is no reason to believe that they won't be stable when glued together.
    Sometimes, and I have made this mistake more than once, when you rip a wide board it releases tension and now you have two unstable boards of lesser width. Just because the board is less wide doesn't necessarily translate to enhanced stability.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  8. #8
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    As you can see there are various responses. I have used wide boards and narrow, depending on the look I was going for. Todd covered most of them. I would not glue any boards to the underneath. This IMHO restricts movement at that point. I would and do simply use screws. Seal the top on both sides which is still no guarantee, and fasten it to the apron using one of several types of table top fasteners. Get a moisture meter and check the content. Even if it is kiln dried. I got burnt that way on a drop leaf table using wide boards once. Make sure the boards are dead flat to begin with. Just a final note. I recently received a 100 year old chest from my mother and father-n-laws with the request I build three identical items for their children. I am waiting for a bolt of lightning to tell me what. The box,5'x3'x2', roughly, was made of solid walnut. No glue, just screws and a few nails. It was still dead flat basically. The inside was not finished either. They obviously knew something in those days.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  9. #9
    All the posts give good advice, and if you put them together you have the big picture.

    Moisture will work against you if you donít manage it. Let your stickered rough lumber acclimate to the same RH conditions found in the home. How long? I try for about 2 weeks, more if the moisture meter shows double digits, and more for thicker stock.

    After acclimation, face joint and plane about 1/8Ē oversize. This will change the stress equilibrium of the boards, so resticker and give them a few days to move. Finish by face jointing again, and plane to final thickness. Keep your parts stickered until assembled, otherwise it is likely to cup as moisture changes only on one face.

    I also love the wide boards, and find with careful preparation they will stay as flat as any other random width glue-up.

  10. #10
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    "I want to make a large kitchen table and want to know the widest boards that can be glued up without a problem. I am concerned about movement and cupping. Can 12-inch or 16-inch boards be used with a good vertical grain pattern or do I need to rip down to 6 or 8-inch boards and alternate the grain direction?"
    As you've surmised from the above answers, the width of your boards is irrelevant. Once you glue them together to make a single large panel, several boards glued edge-to-edge will act like one big board as far as expansion, warping and movement are concerned.

    For that reason, it makes absolutely no difference whether you alternate the heart/bark side in the boards you choose for the glue-up, nor does it matter whether you use 2" wide strips or a 26" wide plank.

    What matters far more is whether the board's got a lot of wild grain, whether it's face grain or quarter sawn, how you attach it to the table top, and the design elements - does it have a breadboard end, for example?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by David DeCristoforo View Post
    "Typically" I try to use the fewest number of boards (as wide as possible) for table tops. I orient the grain all "the same way" so that any cupping causes the top to bow more or less "uniformly" with the convex side up. That always seems to be the easiest to pull flat with whatever method you use to attach the top to the base or aprons.
    Years ago, I took a class with Frank Klausz and he said the same thing. Design for a predictable cup and attach appropriately.
    JR

  12. #12
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    As David and others have said, fewer and wider boards usually make a better looking table top, and why make custom furniture if you don't try to make it look as good as possible? Once your woodworking has reached a certain level, wood selection becomes the next determinant of quality.

    Careful, and extended, drying, IMO, is the best preventive medicine for unwanted wood movement. In my experience, wood eventually relaxes some and is less likely to move all over the place once it's worked up into a piece of furniture.

  13. #13
    I have two 10-foot long by 12" wide 1" thick boards that were rift sawn some 100 years ago. They are pine. The grain is deadly straight and even

    They were snagged from my shop by the Catering team that served at my daughter's engagement party which was held outside under tents and it rained. So they grabbed whatever wood they could find ( without asking me) to put on the ground to prevent the guests feet from getting covered in mud. There was plywood, baltic birch, mdf and my ancient pine boards.

    Needless to say the boards took a lot of water and mud.

    They remain flat as they ever were Not a scosh of warp or cupping.


    So yah you can get wide boards but it all depends and you might not get two from the same tree with the same characteristics

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