Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dining Table Design and Top

Well, I got the top glued up, finally.  I sliced the base of my thumb up pretty good while disassembling a handplane, so there was a week of nothing accomplished while that healed.  This is by far the biggest panel glue-up I've ever attempted.  Ten pieces were jointed by hand and glued up one at a time into a 7' x 3' panel.  I used four Rockler 3/4" pipe clamps (with cauls) and a biscuit every 12" to help with alignment.  The biscuits probably could have been further apart but I was cautious.  One mistake I made was gluing the two halves together separately (into 7' x 18" sections) and then trying to glue that joint down the middle last of all.  Hoisting one of the 50 lb halves up to test the joint while I planed it to match was no fun.

Top all glued up. This is the underside - the top has slightly fewer defects.
My wife thinks it looks good, but I think it looks like a bunch of 2x4's made into some kind of fancy picnic table.  I'm planning on inlaying some dutchmen to hide a couple of knots and other ugly bits, and it will have breadboard ends, so I might be happier with it in that context.

There's around 3/16" of cup across one end, and 1/8" at the other.  Cumulative errors of all the jointed surfaces show that I made a systematic error while jointing, since the whole top curves the same way.  Or maybe it was the way I clamped it during glue up.  I can flex it flat pretty easily with a couple of clamps and a piece of lumber, and I know a top this size will move some on it's own even if I planed it perfectly flat now in it's unrestrained state.  I'm not entirely sure how to proceed though.  How flat does it need to be before I put the breadboard ends on and screw stringers underneath to get it the rest of the way?

Here's the plan.  I'm going to plane the bottom side with my #4 smoother and jack.  That won't straighten it fully, just level the joints and smooth the surface.  Then I'll install the breadboard ends and attach the stringers with figure-eight connectors, as it will be when the table is assembled.  Thus, all the physical flattening devices will be on, and I can use my long planes to get the top properly flat so it looks good.  As long as I don't feel like things are super stressed out when I assemble it, I think this will be ok.  And like I keep telling myself - worst case, I blew $40 worth of framing lumber.

The rest of the table plan is still a little fluid, but will look something like the Sketchup rendering below.  I picked up a 5/4 cherry board to make the breadboard ends and butterfly patches for a couple of spots on top, and I'm going to use walnut for a few small bits like the breadboard pins and the wedge that will hold the trestle together.

A fairly standard trestle table design