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2x10 Tabletop with no breadboard? Cupping?

14283 Views 30 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  JBrow
So my wife has decided she would like a farmhouse table for our dining room to replace the Canadel that we currently have. I know it is going to be a big step down in quality since this will be my first project, but in moving to a 1904 house recently the farmhouse style will be much more appropriate and our current table is much too small for the dining room. I am hoping to build a table that will last a while and not worry about it going all workers because of bad joinery. I am doing a lot of research before I even start to get things done the right way.

The table top will be 37" x 114" roughly. I will be using some of Ana White's plan with 4×4 table legs, though making changes to allow for expansion - gluing the tabletop together instead of using pocket screws and using table top fasteners to allow for expansion of the wood.

My main question is on breadboards - at 9 or 10 feet long using 2×10s do I need to worry about cupping? I understand that breadboards are functional on the end to help prevent it. I would not like to see a table I make start to have the ends curl up because I did not do something I should have. I am hoping to get away with not using breadboards for two reasons:

1 - We both like the look of tables without the breadboards.
2 - I understand the right way to do the breadboard and am not sure how well I could do it. I could borrow a router and table saw, but I'd be afraid that the tongue and groove with dowels would be beyond my capability at this point.

Any thoughts and opinions on this would be great. Thanks!
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First, the lumber: If you are using syp lumber or any other "construction" grade lumber, it has to be allowed to dry quite a while. You can either measure with a moisture meter aiming for less than 10% or weigh the boards every week and when they are stabilized the weight will be the same. This could take up to a couple months or more depending on the wood, your cllimate and storage conditions.

The breadboard: IMO absolutely necessary for a table like this. These things are prone to some pretty wild cupping. My first, second, third…... ;-) joinery attempt is always in practice pieces. Don't freak out about it just take some time to practice. As far as technique, you will need some tools depending on how you do it. A dado blade easily plows a groove. Multiple passes.

You can make the tenon using a router. The tenon should be 2" then cut sections back to 3/4" leaving 3 sections 2". This is where you will put the pins. Keep the tenon about 1" short on both ends and elongate the holes to allow for movement. Do not elongate the middle hole. You can also draw bore to keep it nice and tight.

The tabletop: I would not recommend using boards that wide. I recommend getting 2×12's and ripping out the pith center which results in mostly 1/4 sawn (much stabler) wood, and it is better looking. After the top is glued up (usually step 1 in a project like this) I would keep it clamped in cauls and wrapped in plastic.

Tools: I usually leave the tenons a little heavy. Do not try to get it perfect right off the saw. A rabbet block plane or large shoulder plane will do the job.

Finally (finally!) I would check out some videos on breadboard ends.

You can do it!!
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I say breadboards are a near necessity if you don't want the top to warp.
Just my opinion but breadboards are not a necessity but only if you….
Use dry lumber, acclimated to a controlled environment
Use square lumber
Use no board wider than 6".
Alternate end grain, up and then down
Fasten top correctly to whatever your underpinning
Finish both sides, top and bottom, the same.
Don't use pine construction lumber

In my mind, the first and foremost consideration when wanting wood to behave over time is to use only good lumber. This would be lumber milled for furniture making. My observation of construction grade lumber is that it is very unstable over time and when it decides to move (it usually does), very little can be done to stop it. Unfortunately, given the dimensions of the top, furniture grade, kiln dried to 12% moisture content lumber is likely to be expensive. But it will behave much better over time than construction lumber.

While I cannot argue with the benefits of a bread board end treatment, a second alternative is battens attached to the underside of the top. A shallow center stop groove down the length of the batten would be a recess that would conceal the heads of pan head screws. A through slot cut down the center of the stopped groove would create slots for the screws and thus allow the top to move without cracking. The screws would secure the batten to the planks making up to top. Making the screws as long as possible without piercing the upper surface of the top would maximize their holding power.

Since the battens rely of the holding power of the screws from below and the top is not restrained on its upper surface, the batten approach is less functionally less attractive to the bread board end. But if good quality low moisture content lumber equalized to its environment is used, the battens approach may work.

I also agree with Tabletop (and all of his ifs), especially with a top that is a finished thickness of 1-1/2".
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Great idea with the battens, Jbrow. Depending on how you finish , with or without a skirt, could be a great look with a contrasting color as well as reinforce.
+1 to JBROW & Tabletop, for me i'd go with at least 2" to 4" QS quality lumber and have very little worry of movement.
I wouldn't go heavier than 5/4 lumber for the top, and keep the boards narrower. If you want a thicker look you can build up the edges. I'd stay away from framing lumber, but that's just me.
+2 to jbrow and tabletop. I've built two tables of the type you're talking about (see the project posts here on LJs), and cupping has not been an issue.
Here's my 2 cents. I built a round table out of 2×12 construction lumber, no way to do breadboard ends. I simply ripped the lumber in half and was super, super diligent on my jointing after I flipped one board to have alternating end grain patterns. I didn't do much for acclimation of the lumber, but it was purchased in the winter so that might have helped, being that it came from the home depot and stored inside with all the dry heat. Anyway that was a year and half ago and it hasn't cupped or moved at all in 6 northeast Ohio seasons. Below is a picture.

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Breadboard ends will not stop flat or plainsawn lumber from cupping. They (breadboards) are primarily a way to hide end grain and give a nice finished edge to a flat surface.
Follow Tabletop and TraylorPark's advice and it will come out right. I would do breadboards just for appearrance but that is personal taste.
Lots of good information here thanks!

Ana White strikes again!

- Aj2
I appreciate all of the input knowing that there are quite a few of you that cringe at the mention on Ana White - that is why I am here learning and trying to figure out how to best make this table. While her post was the idea/inspiration behind doing a new table I figure it is better to research and plan before hand instead of coming back in a year wondering what the heck happened with my pocket holed tabletop.

It seems that consensus is that 2×12s are too big to use for the top. After my original post I read a bit more and was thinking that it would be better to start with 2×10s and rip them down to 8 inches using a table saw to provide nice straight edges to glue together. We really like the look of the 1 1/2" thick wood and I would like the heft of it. Someone mentioned 5/4 lumber - is 1/4" that big of a difference in the size of a tabletop?

Also it looks like another big thing is to not use construction grade lumber. Budget wise this may be my only choice to begin with; however, I am going to try to find non-box store lumbar yard and take a look at the stock that they carry for kiln dried furniture wood.

Few more questions surfaced after reading all of your responses:

1 - Are 4 legs enough with a tabletop length of 9 1/2" feet? I am wondering if I should add two more in the middle or a center 5 leg? I thought I had read somewhere that a 2x has enough gap strength for like 15 feet or something, but I can't find it. Staying with only 4 legs would be ideal.

2 - Should I use a 1x or 2x for the apron, and how much setback can I use on the apron? I would like to make sure I set it up correctly for the best support.

3 - I had to look up what battens are - but they look interesting as a way to avoid doing breadboard ends. I was already planning on doing some cross brace supports between the aprons to allow the tabletop to 'rest' on. If I understand battens they would be in addition to that to help hold the boards flat? I assume that using something like a 2×2 or 1×2 would be ok and I would just use elongated holes in the batten to allow for expansion width wise while they help to keep the boards last length wise. And I am thinking that these could be inside of the apron so they are hidden from view?

Thanks again for all the answers and info here! I know I could just find a good set of plans and follow them, but it is great learning some things in order to create a one-of-a-kind with dimensions that fit for my needs.
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Battens also help make the top look thicker without actually being thicker. You could come sidereal doing them along all four edges. If you use hardwood lumber and get it flat and 3/4" thick, adding a 3/4" strip under the four edges gives you that 1.5" look you are after, and saves you some wood and money. With enough supports along its length it will still be plenty strong for a table top.

Breadboard ends will not stop flat or plainsawn lumber from cupping. They (breadboards) are primarily a way to hide end grain and give a nice finished edge to a flat surface.
A breadboard not only hides endgrain, but does, in fact help keep a panel edge flat and stable.

I recommend consulting a few resources for those wondering about this. Here is just one of a myriad on the subject.
There is nothing wrong with using construction grade lumber for your table top. Just use it correctly. 8" wide will still cup if plainsawn as most construction grade lumber is. Bring it inside, stack it and sticker it for a few weeks or month. trim the edges straight and square and rip down the middle so you are 4" to 6" wide then alternate grain pattern when gluing up. Alternating grain causes the forces to cancel each other out to some degree. Ripping down the center relieves the stress causing cupping more than any thing else. Use breadboards if you want. If you use full width 2' plainsawn kiln dried lumber direct from the lumber yard it will cup and you can't stop it.
Here's another suggestion: Build the base using the best joinery possible, assuming it's a keeper. Then, splurge on the 'finest' straight-grained construction grade lumber you can find. Let it acclimate in the shop for a month or so, then build your table top as you wish. If it's affixed to the base using screws, in elongated holes, or via clips, or figure eights, or whatever, it can always be removed and replaced with a 'proper' hardwood top later if the thing moves like crazy.

If you see the project blog I did on this very table build, you see tops of the table and sideboard moved like crazy when first glued up. I was able to plane them flat and keep them flat with some patience.

If construction grade is what you want, go for it and learn stuff along the way.

1 - Are 4 legs enough with a tabletop length of 9 1/2" feet?
I would personally make an effort to provide support at the center (lengthwise) of the top. This could be diagonal bracing from a center stretcher where the center stretcher is in turn supported by the legs. A single centered support would probably be sufficient, although I would think about supporting the top in a couple of places between the legs.

2 - Should I use a 1x or 2x for the apron, and how much setback can I use on the apron?
I tend toward ¾" thick lumber, but see no reason that would prevent a 1-1/2" thick apron from working. The table is large and can get pretty heavy. A ¾" thick apron would reduce its weight. I would think an apron set-back of ¾" to 2" would generally be about right. For me this is mostly an aesthetic design decision, although too deep a set-back could reduce support of the top along its edges.

3 -If I understand battens they would be in addition to that to help hold the boards flat? I assume that using something like a 2×2 or 1×2 would be ok and I would just use elongated holes in the batten to allow for expansion width wise while they help to keep the boards last length wise. And I am thinking that these could be inside of the apron so they are hidden from view?

Since you plan to glue-up the top, the battens are probably not necessary (with quality and dry lumber), although there is a range of opinions regarding the functionality of breadboard and batten ends. If the battens are used as added insurance intended to help the top behave, the closer to the ends the better the support. So, in my view, yes the battens could be concealed by the apron. If the ends of the top begin to curl, having installed thicker batten would be better but ¾" thick battens are, I think, strong enough. If end curling is severe, the screws will probably pull out of the top.

Elongating the holes rather than employing a continuous slot also would work so long as the holes are sufficiently sized to handle movement in the top and the screws securing the top are centered in the elongated holes.
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A lot of great information and the only thing I would add would be make a few phone calls or visits. Find local cabinet makers or sawmills. I think it will surprise you at the price you will pay for 6/4 or 8/4 boards. It's a fraction of what the bd ft rate is at a big box store.
I have been lurking on this thread since it started, some great answers, I have made many a table top, Hard Woods, Cherry, White Oak and Walnut, finished to 7/8" thick, non as long as yours but wider, with batons/cauls on the under side tight and tightly mounted to the skirts, and that is where the "wood movement" is suppose to be the concern, width. Mine all have the end grain sealed with Poly, that is where the moisture can get in, all with Kiln dried lumber, all mounted without movement after being mounted tight.
Wood movement specs, 1/16-1/8" per foot of width, thats for raw unfinished wood. Do you have heat and AC?
Even with windows open in the fall and spring, it will not happen. In the 1800s when they came up with these #s, they had no AC, in the summer, dry wood/coal heat and a BLO and or wax finish.
I would be more concerned about the wood twisting if using construction grade at your length. As a General Contractor building houses from sticks, buying bunks of 2×6 banded, all look good, cut the banding and within 2 days some are twisted, bowed but not much cupping.
You said this is an old farm house, well let the table look like it came with the house from day one. Distress it, finish accordingly, antique it.
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