Arts & Crafts Dining Room Set #17: Table Top Post Mortem

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Blog entry by CaptainSkully posted 04-21-2010 05:25 PM 2031 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 16: My Final Answer... Part 17 of Arts & Crafts Dining Room Set series Part 18: A Little Progress... »

We’ve been using the new top on top of our old table until I can finish the base. Over the last few months, the top has warped a bit, and was obviously out of alignment with the breadboard ends. While watching an old New Yankee Workshop online, I realized one of the things I did to cause this. I selected the boards for their aesthetic value, trying to match the grain to make it look like one solid piece of wood 38” wide. I neglected to alternate the boards’ growth rings, a basic woodworking rule that Norm has pounded into my brain over twenty years.

Considerably disappointed in myself, especially since my woodworking father-in-law was just visiting, I was shamed into installing table top alignment pins for the leaves. I built a small jig to drill the holes straight into the edges, at the same height, depth, and distance from the edge. This allowed the pins to line up nicely when I slid the table together. It also forced the top back into alignment with the ends. It’s not as perfect as if I’d splined the pieced permanently together, like I accidentally started to do, but it’s only 1/32” off here and there. If I ever have to refinish the top, I’ll sand the whole thing flush.

I jokingly told Kim that I’m going to buy a ping pong kit for the new table. Not an overly interesting blog post, because I’ve had very little time in the shop recently, but I hope to make some progress soon. I’m trying to figure out how to cut apart my table legs and redo the lock miter joint without risking kickback. I may have to hand saw them apart. I’m also thinking about putting the blade at a 45 degree, with the fence right next to it and cutting the corners that way. I definitely don’t want to put the fence on the other side of the 45 and push the legs past. The safety gear won’t help much while cutting a 45. Thoughts?

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

5 comments so far

View Tom8021's profile


73 posts in 3568 days

#1 posted 04-21-2010 07:49 PM

Sometimes it is better to start over. I am just jumping in here without reading all of your blogs, so I might not know what I am talking about. I did look at #16 and cutting those legs wouldn’t be worth it. If I was doing it I would raise the blade to cut through two, then lower the blade to cut through another and then the last one.

What is going on with the top? I have done lots of glue ups with different grain configurations and they haven’t warped. I have used warp boards causing warp surfaces though, lol.

View doorslammer's profile


108 posts in 3900 days

#2 posted 04-21-2010 08:03 PM

I would argue that alternating the growth rings is a “woodworking rule”. Several well known woodworkers (Chris Schwarz, Bob VanDyke, Sam Maloof) advocate that the appearance of the top is the most important requirement and alternating the sap vs. heart wood is secondary. Granted, if all the growth rings are in the same direction then the top will tend to have a more pronounced cup or bow than if they were alternated, but I would much rather have a good looking top and gamble on having a couple of boards in the same direction.

-- Aaron in TN -

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3336 days

#3 posted 04-21-2010 08:22 PM

If you want to cut up those legs, screw a square block on the ends on a diagonal that is a large as the diagonal of the leg top and bottom. The joints in the leg corners would then be held perpendicular to the table saw and you could just set the fence and run it through once on all 4 sides.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View Jero's profile


79 posts in 3317 days

#4 posted 04-22-2010 01:21 PM

I’ve read the same philosphy as doorslammer has mentioned. That alternating the growth rings is not 100% necessary. I typically go for appearance first, lay them all out what looks good, and try to alternate the rings, if possible. If not, they’ll go in the same direction. Good securement underneath helps keep the top flat, as well as making sure the poly, or lacquer coats are applied the same on the bottom as they are on the top.

-- Jeremy - Marshfield, WI

View CaptainSkully's profile


1609 posts in 3889 days

#5 posted 04-22-2010 04:29 PM

Thanks for the feedback. The bottom was sealed. I guess when I attach the top to the base, that will help level things out.

Michael, thanks for the tip, that’s exactly what I’ll do. Wish I’d thought of it and saved myself some grief.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

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