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Thread: To breadboard or not breadboard?

  1. #1
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    To breadboard or not breadboard?

    I'm building a dining table for our family. It will be a trestle table about 42" wide and 72" long. My plan was to run the boards the long direction. The top will be of SYP and finished thickness of at least an inch but probably closer to 1 1/4. My plan is to have a spreaders on top of the trestle base that I can screw into the top pieces and allow for expansion and contraction.

    Do I need breadboard ends? I'm thinking I can fasten to the spreaders and keep the top flat but maybe it won't stay that way?

    My original plan was to use hard maple but my wife requested this pine version that will be whitewashed. The SYP is stamped KD so I think it is "dry" but I'm not sure it is as stable as hard maple would be.

    My other thought is the SYP is cheap so I might just wing it and see what happens.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Berrevoets View Post
    Do I need breadboard ends?
    No but, I would . An alternative is a sliding dovetail on the underside if you really like the open ends of the long boards to show. Another choice, as you mention, is to wing it and see how it goes.

    sliding-dovetail-5.jpg
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 02-11-2017 at 9:37 AM.
    “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” -- George Orwell


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  3. #3
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    No you don't need to breadboard. It is a traditional style, not an engineering imperative so go with the style you like. If you have a frame as you suggest, it will be fine. I've never had a complaint about table top cupping in 40 years and never a breadboard in sight. Cheers

  4. #4
    With box store SYP, there is somewhat of an assurance that they will most certainly cup. They're kiln dried....but likely still quite damp. If you are gluing up alternate the growth rings on sequential boards.

    Id use bread board ends.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  5. #5
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    Kiln dried Southern Yellow Pine has a moisture content of up to 19%. This is fine for house framing but it's going to shrink significantly as it dries to an indoor moisture level of 6 to 9%. This will cause it to shrink across the width. Breadboard ends (done properly to allow for movement) will end up overhanging the long sides of the table.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for all the replies. Breadboard ends seem like less risk of this thing cupping so I realize I'd be taking a chance by not using them. I floated some pictures of breadboard ends by my wife and she wasn't excited about the look.

    So, I think I'm going to wing it. Part of my decision to wing it is that the lumber really isn't that expensive at all and if I had to do it again then it's not too big of a deal, just some time. I'll allow for movement when I fasten to the base and we'll see what happens.

    If this turns out to be a really bad decision then I'll dig up the thread and post an update do the pro-breadboarders can gloat.
    Last edited by Mike Berrevoets; 02-12-2017 at 8:18 AM. Reason: Spelling

  7. #7
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    I would use breadboard ends but everyone has lately been telling me I am old fashioned and that there are modern engineering approaches that work just as well. I have also used the solution Glenn describes and it works great. Can even be part of a knock-down scheme. The beauty is that it provides both the flattening and the method of attachment.
    "the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” Confucius

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by glenn bradley View Post
    No but, I would . An alternative is a sliding dovetail on the underside if you really like the open ends of the long boards to show. Another choice, as you mention, is to wing it and see how it goes.

    sliding-dovetail-5.jpg
    Oooh....I like this idea!
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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
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    Breadboard ends are a more sophisticated look. For whitewashed pine it may not go with the 'simple' look. For that 1" thickness & 42" width I would add breadboard ends given your proposed attachment method. If you dry the wood for a few months inside the house before you make the table your problems may be solved. If you make it 'wet' you will have problems. Standing the boards on edge for a week inside the house will probably convince you to dry them; as they twist, bend and cup. With that in mind pick the boards carefully!

    Milk paint is a great finish for pine, two coats of paint then two coats of Tung oil is a fabulous low lustre rustic look.

  10. #10
    "Sophisticated " in the sense of complicated but I don't think in the sense of urbane,informed,or discerning. I would describe the breadboard ends as feature that can prove practical...but was probably not used by Chipendale.

  11. #11
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    I'm with Wayne: I don't particularly care for the look of breadboard ends and never used them, and I never had an issue with warping table tops. But I would recommend getting your material into the shop for a month or more to acclimate them to an indoor environment; for a family table that you might use for years, what's another few weeks waiting if it might prevent unhappiness down the road?

    And I agree with Mel that breadboard ends showcase woodworking but sophisticated isn't exactly the term I'd use for them; I consider them more "country", if anything.

  12. #12
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    I agree with Frank. I usually keep a stock of better grade SYP 2X4s to make shop fixtures and projects out of. I typically let them dry for 2 - 3 months or so in the summer in a hot second story of my woodshop. It works about as well as a kiln. When I go to use them, I will joint and plane them to a smaller dimension - say 1-3/8" by 3-3/8" - just as though they were rough sawn. Doing it this way, I never have problems with warping, twisting or cupping.

    I have always considered breadboard ends on a table as purely decorative.

  13. #13
    I would use breadboard ends if you like the way that looks. I wouldn't use it as a substitute for properly picking, assessing, and stabilizing your stock.

    If improperly dried, even a breadboard won't completely stop the warping. Instead of a big cup you may get local dips and rises that - while not fatal- still remind you that the table wasn't made properly. Don't ask me how I know that

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Mann View Post
    I have always considered breadboard ends on a table as purely decorative.
    I don't view them as decorative as they have function. They help keep a table top flat. They 'refine' the end of a table by hiding the end grain. They do go with a square edge and a 'floating' table top. They can indeed be country, depends on the wood.

  15. #15
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    There are better ways to keep a table top flat.

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