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Three questions on edge joining a table top

1205 Views 9 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  leftcoaster
First time making a table top…

Q1) I do not have a jointer. Two of my three boards have edges in full contact. The third has a gap of about 1/32" Will that close under clamping and will the joint be strong enough? I got a #9 hand plane but my practice attempts have been miserable (like: really awful) so I resolved to develop those skills at another time.

Q2) I left the boards longer than the finished top under the assumption that I would clean up the edges after the panel is dry, reducing the need to get the alignment exactly right at glue up time. I am planning to use biscuits to help with the alignment, however. Is this a reasonable plan?

Q3) If the answer to (Q2) is "yes," what's the best strategy to cleaning up that edge on the table saw, given that neither end will be flat enough to ride on the fence? clamp it on a plywood straightedge sled?

Thank you
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1) 1/32" will close up just fine. Do a dry fitting with clamps to prove it to yourself. Check not only for a gap, but for panel flatness once the clamping pressure is applied.

2) Leave the boards long as planned. No need for biscuits on long grain glue joints. There are plenty of applications for biscuit joinery and I use many of them, however I don't bother with biscuits on tabletop or panel glueups.

3) Use a circular saw and edge guide to trim the ends to final length. Some folks use a router for final trimming, but with a $10 Diablo 40 tooth blade I haven't found that necessary.

Sounds like you are on the right track, good luck with it.
Here's my take…

Q1 : How wide/long are these boards, and where along the length is the gap located? If its an 8' board, and the 1/32 gap is in the middle, depending on the width of your boards, it might now be an issue. If it's a 4' board, or the gap is on an end, it might be an issue.

Q2 : I'd skip the biscuits. I've done larger (around 6-7') panel glue ups with and without them, and I prefer without. Instead, I'd recommend using some cauls (I made mine from scrap 2-by douglas fir). I find I get better results, as the biscuits still have some play to them. Also, the cauls raise the workpiece off the bench and make it easier to alternate clamps above/below. Just be sure to either wax your cauls, or put some cling-wrap on them so they don't end up glued to your table top.
Also, if you have a lot of boards in this glue up, it may be easier to glue them up in pairs, and then glue those together. Sure beats trying to spread glue on a dozen boards and then get them all aligned and clamped. And, if you have a planer, you can plane the sub-assemblies flush prior to the final glue-up, making the final flattening a bit easier.
Yes to leaving it long. You want to clean the ends up after.

Q3 : Last top I built, I left it about 6-8" longer than finished length, and then cut to length with a circular saw and an edge guide. Worked out real well. I had a simple guide that, when clamped to the work piece, had zero clearance on the guide-side, so tearout was a non-issue. I also put a slight chamfer on the edges.
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Great responses, thank you.

The boards are 22" long, final size is 18". I have an edge guide and am pretty good with the circular saw, so that's a welcome approach. I was a little concerned about wrestling with a large panel (this is not one, but as a general rule) anyway, so I'm glad there's a "bring the tool to the work" approach.

I did make some cauls. In fact, I was trying to put a slight convexity to the edge with the hand plane, but failed at that. I do have them covered with duct tape for glue avoidance.

The boards are about 7" wide, so a subassembly will be too large for my 13" planer. They are pretty flat all the same so I think my ROS will get them flat when the time comes.

Thanks for the "no biscuits" consensus and also for the guidance about working in subassemblies. I only have three boards per top (2 tops and 2 shelves here), but going slow on the glue up is a good idea especially for a first-timer.
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Be sure your boards are square to the faces.The three that look good.Filp them over in your assembly table and see if the joint looks the same.Without clamping pressure.
I like tables and have made quite a few.Good luck
Trying to clamp out 1/32 gap between 7" wide boards, 22" long might be iffy. You'll want to do a dry fit to see how much clamping pressure you need to apply to close the joint. You shouldn't be bearing down on the clamps. At those lengths/widths, you don't want to be clamping out too much, especially if you're going to be cutting them shorter. I'd take a few seconds and put those boards in a vise, and shoot the edges together with a hand plane.

I've never gone to the trouble of putting a curve on my cauls. I understand the logic, but I've never really put that much pressure on the cauls, either.
@BinghamtonEd-what does "shoot the edges together with a hand plane meaning exactly? Line the edges up together and plane them as one?

Are there any resources to recommend on planing technique? I've had such lousy results in my brief attempts that I'm sure I'm making mistakes that could be corrected.
What mistakes are you seeing in your hand planing? It took me a while to be able to get somewhat decent results, but there are plenty of good videos out there.

You understood correctly, you take two adjacent boards, and fold them shut like a book. Then, you put them in the vise and plane the edges together. When you the edges are flush, and you can take a full pass shaving, take them out and unfold them. They should match up perfectly. For me, this usually takes 2 or 3 tries, but I get it. The nice thing about this, is if you aren't planning at exactly 90 degrees to the side, as long as those edges end up flush with each other, and small amount off on the angle should cancel out when you unfold them. I've seen this done on Rough Cut, so you could try looking up Tommy Macs video. I'm sure countless other people have posted videos, that's just the one that comes to mind. It's made my panel glue-ups much less of a headache.
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first off….. a jointer will make your life a lot easier.

Depending on how big the panel is I have used a sled OR made one end flush and then cut the other end first.

I use these panel clamps and they make it a lot easier I have thought that with a couple 2×2s I could just use a bolt on either side to do the compression and a bar clamp to pull together.

I have never used the circular saw approach but it seems like it would work well.
A jointer would be nice but my shop is tiny and I have to pull tools outside to work. What storage is left I plan to use for a drill press and a cart for my planer.

I found this exceptionally good tutorial on the hand planer and practiced last night with it to good ends. On closer inspection I don't need to plane the joint further after all. I can just barely slide a little bit of fingernail into the gap without clamps and not at all with clamps tightened by my non-dominant hand.

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