Woodworker's Journal 2007-Winter, страница 78

Guidelines for Making a Tabletop

Avoid the pitfalls that can happen with large panel glue-ups by following these tried-and-true tips.

A center board looks better than a center glue joint.

Avoid using boards narrower than 5 inches. Blend grain where possible.

Putting together a tabletop is a lot like taking a family picture at a reunion. In both cases you start with chaos and end up with an heirloom. If you think of the boards in your tabletop as individuals in a family portrait, it might help put the task in perspective. Like family members, each board has a unique personality. Your job is to organize them to look their best. Then, just like clicking the camera shutter, you freeze the boards for eternity in a glue-up — you don't want to live with a hasty arrangement.

A successful tabletop has two qualities: it must be pleasing to look at and it must remain stable. Accomplishing this requires an artistic eye and good craftsmanship. Here are some guidelines for selecting and arranging boards in a tabletop. These rules aren't written in stone, but at the very least you'll become familiar with all the aspects of the challenge.

It's also important to mention that not all boards belong in a tabletop. In a stack of lumber, each board has characteristics that make it suitable for different uses in a project. Woodworkers must learn to be harsh board critics for successful tabletop work.

Distribute interesting grain with balance in mind.

Select Good Lumber

This is the one rule you shouldn't bend. Choose boards that are likely to remain flat and straight. Look at the ring pattern at the end of a board. The more the grain lines curve, the greater the likelihood the board will cup. Wide boards are often tempting to use, but be careful: rip them in half or thirds if they come from too near the center of the tree, and separate them in the panel arrangement. Predicting wood movement is fundamental to making a successful tabletop.

Use Boards with Interesting Grain

Perfectly symmetrical or straight grain can be monotonous. Small knots, color streaks, squirrely grain and other defects can be pleasing to look at if distributed evenly throughout a top. The top should not look like bookmatched plywood. Avoid using widely spreading grain patterns at the end of a board. Don't cut or join boards too near a knot or crotch.

Balance boards of similar width on either side of center board.

Plan Ahead

Unless you're working on a pretty small table, don't use boards narrower than 5". These tend to make a top look like it's been chopped into little pieces.

Plane Carefully

Plane each surface of a board the same amount. Stop planing when your boards are 1/8" too thick, then stack the boards with stickers so all sides are equally exposed to the air. After three days, see if they remain true.

Rip for Effect

Choose boards with similar widths, keeping the differences under two inches. A top is less interesting when all the boards are exactly the same size, but widely varying board sizes are distracting. Balance similarly wide boards on either side of the center board to build up a symmetrical pattern.


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