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Can you attach a small table top panel with glue?

1135 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  rsandler
I'm currently building a small coffee table, where the plan is to have the top be in three panels, where the middle panel is going to be cut as a tongue drum (kinda like this one, but with a different structural design). I feel like I'd get a better tone from the drum aspect if the top were glued down, rather than simple attached with buttons or figure-8 connectors like I would normally do to allow for wood movement. I might be wrong, but I feel like the mechanical connectors would allow for the edges to vibrate where they contact the apron, leading to unwanted buzzing. It's a fairly small panel, so I'm wondering if maybe I can get away with glue?

Here's a screenshot of my Sketchup plans, to give a sense of how the panel will fit onto the table frame and apron. The panel will be 12" long by 22" wide. The wood is going to be walnut and canarywood, if that matters.

Rectangle Wood Table Flooring Tints and shades

What do folks think?


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Not a good idea, IMO. 22 inches wide is to too wide to hope that it will not move enough to cause problems. The connectors should still pull the top down tight against the aprons so it should still be nice and solid. The idea with different connectors that allow for expansion is to hold everything nice and tight but allow lateral movement across the grain. Glue will not let it move. You can apply glue on the middle 6 to 9 inches but you have to allow the wood on the edges (across the the grain) move or it could either buckle or pull itself apart.
Nathan is correct wood will either shrink or expand how much we don't really know too many factors need to be considered. Do you live in the desert south west or near the Gulf of Mexico.
Since you are interested to find out if it's going to be a problem why not try and find first hand.
Never know until you try. What the worst that can happen you'll hear a pop.
Too many guys are not testing rules never have any discovery Anyways test test test
Good Luck
It is assumed that the middle panel needs to have certain acoustic qualities. Gluing it to the structure changes those qualities by altering the resonance. It may need to be rigidly attached on one edge. Unless you have precise directions, you'll have to experiment until you find the desired resonance and attachment.
+1 gluing the middle panel will cause issues due size.

+1 Phil's comment: Drum needs certain tonal quality.
What is the required size of the drum box?

Could you build a small box under the drum head, and then use normal table top attachment technique?
The project post you reference describes using a resonance box, so maybe ask Steve how he did it.

I could imagine making the drum head/box a separate assembly, attached with screws underneath table top, making it removable and giving wood room to move.

Regardless of how you make it, need to use the shrinkulator to estimate the wood movement during normal 4-8% ambient moisture changes, and carefully pick your grain direction .vs. width of panels.

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Thanks for the responses everyone. I had a feeling that this was probably too wide to ignore wood movement, but kept second-guessing. I guess if I attach it with mechanical connectors, I could always go back and glue it down later if I'm not happy with the acoustics.

To answer a couple questions in the thread: I'm located in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region, so the humidity does swing about quite a bit-humid (if not gulf coast humid) in the summer, quite dry in the winter. I have been making a point of storing my lumber in the house when I'm not actively working on it out in my garage shop, but seasonal variation could still get me.

I don't have room to add a separate resonator box as in the example I linked to-my apron is only 2.5" thick, and since the table is going to have a shelf underneath, I don't really want to have an extra box hanging down below the apron. As it is, the total internal volume of the resonator compartment will be about 430 cubic inches, which I would describe as medium for a tongue drum; I've made a couple discrete drums with internal volume 540 in^3 or more.

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I'm a strong believer in building furniture pieces to allow for seasonal movement. I agree with the above that it i a good idea to use online guides to calculate how much movement you can expect given your wood species and the expected climatic conditions. Having said that, here are a few other things to consider:
- As you said, you can start out with the top screwed down and see what happens. You can always glue it later.
- If you have an issue with vibrations, you could try to add a cushioning material like felt, foam rubber, etc. along with the screws.
- If it comes down to using glue, Try to first glue just the center 4" or so along the cross grain runs and use screws allowing for movement elsewhere.
- If none of that works and it needs to be totally glued, first try using silicone such as used to assemble fish tanks or some other elastomeric material.

That should be a very interesting piece. When you have it completed, I hope you will share it with us and tell us what fastening method you ended up with.

One last point: allowing for seasonal movement is important, but in today's fully climate controlled homes, it is less so. As long as the table stays under climate controlled conditions, you may not have any issues. You can choose to take that chance. However, well made furniture often becomes a family heirloom and, in the transition, you never know where it will end up. How far into the future do you want to plan?
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To follow up on this, I'm not quite done with the table (in the process of applying finish to the top segments), but I did a test fit last week using figure-8 connectors. Turns out, they work just fine-no notable rattling once the connectors were all screwed in. I'll be sure to post the project once the finish is cured and the table is fully assembled!
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