Friday, October 19, 2012

Dining Table: Battens and Breadboard Ends

The two parts of this table that keep the top flat are breadboard ends and the two battens that also form the top of the trestles.  First I flattened the underside of the top, using a Veritas Bevel-up Jack (blade at 40˚) and my Stanley No. 4 smoother.  Fir is a pain in the ass to plane, in my experience.  High quality tight grained old-growth stuff isn't so bad, but this construction grade crap just loves to tear out, and it tears really deeply.  It's not possible to simply fix it with a scraper because you'd have to dig a crater.  With my No. 4 tuned to the limit of my abilities, I wound up with a couple of really ugly patches.
Evil Tearout
I guess I didn't resort to back-beveling the blade, so my cutting angle was no more than 45˚, but anyway the point I'm getting to is that I decided I needed a new bevel-up smoother.  Going on my old rule of buying as I need (and I need to flatten this big table top), I got the full-size Veritas BU Smoother that shares blades with the other two of their BU planes I've acquired over the past few years.  It's heavy, and it's a real workout to push it with a 50˚ blade in it, but so far it does seem to handle the tough grain reversals better, and it's much quicker to set up than my #4.  The end grain of a couple of knots does some funky things that were handled better by a lower pitch blade, but I'm going to patch those on the top, so I don't care.  I could plane around them anyway.

Rough old framing...
With the underside flat, I started making the battens.  When I remodeled our upstairs bedroom, there was quite a bit of 2 x 4 framing that came out, and I kept nearly all of it, despite the nail holes and mortar and other crap I have to deal with.  Here's why.  Look at that grain.  They were using these trees for construction lumber 100 years ago!  These are rough-cut timbers, measuring pretty close to a full 2" x 4", so I can get real lumber out of them.  I think I've got enough to make all the framing for the trestle if I'm careful and don't screw up.
...Is tight-grained Douglas Fir

I drew out a nice cyma and made a hardboard pattern.  I then traced that out on the pieces and shaped them to the line with bandsaw, spindle sander, and some hand tools to clean up the details.  I attached them to the underside of the table top with metal figure 8 connectors to allow for movement.
Final shaping of the battens
The breadboard ends are cherry, cut from 5/4 stock, which was barely thick enough.  I flattened the ends of the top with a jointer plane run across the grain, so it would join nicely with the flat breadboard pieces.

5/4 Cherry breadboard stock
To make the cherry end pieces I trued up the faces and one long edge of a piece of 5/4 x 39" x 4" stock, then I used a dado stack blade on the tablesaw to cut a 1/2" x 3/8" wide groove in the edge.

I used a router with a 3/4" straight bit and clamped the cherry end board as a straightedge to cut a long rabbet 1-1/2" wide x ~5/16" deep down the entire length of the end on each side, leaving a single huge tenon 3/8" thick.

With dividers, I marked out six 2" wide sections to leave full length and cut the material between to leave a 1/2" tongue, using a coping saw and sharp chisel.  Then I marked out the location of the 1-1/2" mortises from the tenons on the top and made those with a 3/8" auger bit followed by some chisel work.  The depth gauge in the lower left of the photo is very handy when checking mortises.  That one is a General 444 that I found at a garage sale for a couple bucks.  I usually set it to my tenon length plus 1/32" or so and slide it along as a go/no-go gauge.  A small high spot somewhere in the bottom of a mortise can be a real hassle.

Test fitting and tuning the tenons with a rabbet block plane got the ends in place.  I tend to make my mortises, cut my tenons a hair fat, and tune the joint by adjusting them if necessary.  I'm going to radius the ends, but not until final assembly.

A couple of suggestions:  take a small piece of scrap and put the same dado as in the end piece.  You can see the one I made from a chunk of 2x6 in one of the photos.  Then you can go along and test that dado against all the individual parts of the top until you get the same fit everywhere.  Trying to test fit the whole thing at once doesn't really work because you can't tell where it's tight for sure.  Leaving the stock over length is very very handy when it comes time to knock the end off during final fitting - otherwise there's no place to apply the mallet to remove it and you're kind of stuck.