Tips or lessons learned about dining tables?

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Forum topic by hugepark posted 06-19-2017 04:44 AM 1343 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View hugepark's profile


13 posts in 2924 days

06-19-2017 04:44 AM

Been wanting to build a dining table for a while and I have the opportunity now to build a small kitchen table for breakfast area in our kitchen. It will be about 48” long and about 36” wide. Planning to use quarter sawn white oak in a stickley/mission type of style. I’ve done a number of smaller side tables and other pieces but nothing this large and nothing that will need to stand up to abuse from the family and kids on a daily basis. Would love to know if you guys have any tips or pointers on things I shouldn’t ignore for these larger type projects. Or if you have any mistakes or regrets on larger projects that you’d be willing to share so I can watch out for those, would really appreciate it.

Eventually I want to build a large formal dining table so this would be my practice piece, but I’m trying not to screw this one up either. :-)

6 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


6153 posts in 3585 days

#1 posted 06-19-2017 05:25 AM

Extension tables with leaves are tricky, but from your description I’m guessing this will be a single top. If you can build a coffee table, you can build a dining table.

One thing that helped me a great deal was to enlist the help of a professional woodworking shop to plane and sand the top. The place I use has a 50” wide combination helical planer and drum sander. It’s affordable, and saves a lot of work sanding.

I think breadboard ends are over rated.

Good luck with it.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Aj2's profile


3079 posts in 2570 days

#2 posted 06-19-2017 12:32 PM

There’s not much that and go wrong with a Quarter sawn white oak table unless you completely ignore traditional jointery.Arts and crafts should call for lots of Mortice and tenons that sounds great tons of fun.
Its nearly impossible to guess what problems you might have without us knowing what your design is and machinery you have.
Good Luck

-- Aj

View Robert's profile


3742 posts in 2253 days

#3 posted 06-19-2017 12:53 PM

Have to disagree a bit with the previous post re: “not much can go wrong”.

I assume you know this if you’ve done other projects please excuse but THE biggest issue with oak is surface fiber tear out. I can be a very unforgiving wood in this respect. Therefore orienting the grain directions is critical and saves much despair later on.

I mark the grain direction on both sides of every board before laying out/grain matching. With QS grain direction is not always obvious. In fact, the direction can be the opposite of what it appears on the edge. Also, the grain can reverse several times within a board. This makes planing a bit of a challenge.

If you go with hand planes be aware you MUST use a high tuned, excellently sharpened plane. Also, sharpen the iron BEFORE it needs sharpening. I usually keep one or two spare irons on hand so as to not have to stop to resharpen. Other techniques to minimize tear out include high bevel angle on plane iron & skewing the plane. Oh, and scrape, scrape, scrape.

Of course you could take the easy way out and pay a big shop to surface the top for you. :-D Good luck hope this helps.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1692 days

#4 posted 06-19-2017 02:33 PM


I believe that a well-thought out design is a major key to the success for a table used for dining. Table top width and length related to clearance around the table for people and chairs, table height, allocation of table surface space for dinner plates and elbows, space for chairs and diner’s legs, and structure that reduces table wobble (I find table wobble particularly annoying) are, I think, critical but yet easily overlooked design considerations.

I discovered this web site which offers very specific and reasoned specifications for dining table dimensioning. It may be worth a look as you proceed with your design.

Since the projects you have posted look very nice and well-executed, I suspect that your build of the kitchen table will be solid and well-done.

View hugepark's profile


13 posts in 2924 days

#5 posted 06-19-2017 03:48 PM

Thanks guys for the responses. Will definitely think about my planing strategy and appreciate the tips there.

JBrow, thanks for the article on dimensioning. Super useful as I’m about to draw up my design.

View Woodknack's profile


13386 posts in 3152 days

#6 posted 06-19-2017 05:33 PM

General tip, size the table to fit the space, then figure how many place settings; not the other way around. ;) What I mean is don’t build a table for eight if it will crowd the room.

Don’t make the table wider than people across one another can touch, so they can pass things and conversation is easier.

Tear out on white oak is no joke. Spend a lot of time selecting stock for the top. Buy thicker and resaw if necessary. Avoid stock with grain raising from different directions, often seen around knots. Every minute spent on stock selection will save 5 or 10 minutes down the road.

-- Rick M,

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