Pocket Holes Bent Table Top

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Forum topic by newCOlumber posted 03-26-2018 02:45 PM 1232 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View newCOlumber's profile


22 posts in 1420 days

03-26-2018 02:45 PM

Hey all,

So I started my first build, a coffee table for our basement. The base went together pretty well, a few lessons learned, as it now is a bit wobbly. That doesn’t concern me, it will be sitting on a rug or carpet so it won’t wobble then. I know not the best construction, but like I said, I have learned what I did wrong.

My question is on the table top. I bought quality alder wood, milled it, and laid it out, all looked good. I used pocket holes and glue to join them, and now the top is pretty warped. I cannot fix it with a belt sander and no where around me seems to rent their equipment out to flatten it (which I understand).

So did the pocket holes really pull it up? The boards were S3S milled at the yard then I did the final side.

I did learn to not do that again (pocket holes), so that is good, but an expensive lesson. So here is my 2nd question. I need a coffee table soon, as we are selling our current house and moving. Should I try to remill the top and do the edge joining properly (cauls, and way more clamps) or should I buy some plywood, edge band it, and call it good? I really like the thickness and solidness of the top, just not the curve. I like the alder because it will end up being more rustic, and I am not sure plywood will give me the same effect.

25 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


6520 posts in 4154 days

#1 posted 03-26-2018 03:04 PM

When I make large tabletops and coffee table tops, I just use glue and clamps. No need for pocket screws, dowels, or biscuits really.

Edgebanded plywood is never going to look as nice or wear as well as a solid wood top.
Do you have a jointer that can handle the boards?

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

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2827 days

#2 posted 03-26-2018 03:22 PM

Alder is the best.

Pics help. Press the img button a ive where you are typing. Self explanatory from there. Take pics in landscape unless you want them sideways.

Again. Alder is the champion of woods.

The apron should’ve helped with the issue.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View newCOlumber's profile


22 posts in 1420 days

#3 posted 03-26-2018 03:27 PM

Let me clarify, there was no apron. The legs were framed up, and then the table top sitting on that frame (not attached yet).

Sounds like I should re-do the table with solid wood, plus that is what the wife wants! And this time, no pocket holes. I don’t have a jointer, but the yard I buy from can make the boards S3S, which is about as good as I can do. I do have a table saw, so could use that. That is how I milled the original top, and it came out really nicely. This time I would do the same, but with glue, clamps, and cauls (I have some spare plywood I can use to make cauls).

I’ll try to get some pictures in a little bit.

View Tennessee's profile


2936 posts in 3855 days

#4 posted 03-26-2018 03:32 PM

The pocket screws may have pulled things a bit, maybe not. If it was all flat when you put them in, probably not. It probably is warped either from a bad glueup, or the wood just adjusted to wherever you have it, and now it is warped.

I never in my life have used pocket screws or any other hardware to make an indoor table top.

The only hardware I ever used on a table top of any type was galvanized carriage bolts to hold down 2X6’s that I bolted to a seat frame as a top on a picnic table that was to sit outside. Had that thing outside for years, left it at the house when I sold the house.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View newCOlumber's profile


22 posts in 1420 days

#5 posted 03-26-2018 03:35 PM

Tennessee, could have been a bad glue up. I noticed when I tightened the screws that it was immediately warped, which is why I suspect that. Of course, the error is probably between the drill and the floor!

I think the consensus is that I should not use pocket holes again (they were great to join the frame parts up, I think that is more of the intent) for the table top.

View ScottM's profile


756 posts in 3488 days

#6 posted 03-26-2018 03:39 PM

Can you just remove the screws and see what happens? They are in the bottom and it is glued, right?

View bondogaposis's profile


6105 posts in 3692 days

#7 posted 03-26-2018 03:41 PM

Level the top with a hand plane. Easy to do.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View newCOlumber's profile


22 posts in 1420 days

#8 posted 03-26-2018 03:43 PM

ScottM, I did that immediately, no luck. I think the glue set up too fast (used Titebond), and no change.

I have never used a hand plane, would that fix it without much effort, maybe a couple hours?

I added a photo showing the table top sitting on the frame (just to show the bowing). The top exhibits the same shape, hopefully that helps.

View johnstoneb's profile


3190 posts in 3514 days

#9 posted 03-26-2018 04:03 PM

Pocket screws didn’t cause that. I have never used pocket screw to glue up a top. I have used biscuits to help align the boards for the top even those aren’t really necessary.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View newCOlumber's profile


22 posts in 1420 days

#10 posted 03-26-2018 04:14 PM

Thanks Bruce. That seems to be the consensus, but you think it was a bad glue up?

View d38's profile


142 posts in 1603 days

#11 posted 03-26-2018 04:18 PM

With the screws out, see if a local cabinet shop has a drum sander wide enough for it.
Depending on their fee, it might be worth it.

View newCOlumber's profile


22 posts in 1420 days

#12 posted 03-26-2018 05:24 PM

Scott, I don’t think I replied to you properly. I tried to pull the screws, no such luck, I think because they are glued in too.

Looking more at it, I think I could hand plane it down, if you all think that would be do-able. Certainly easier and cheaper to buy a hand plane than to rebuild this thing!

I still suspect something about how the screws were driven, but I also did not use cauls, and not nearly enough clamps. Next time I will do that, but I am hopeful that hand planing will fix this thing.

View Loren's profile


11375 posts in 4989 days

#13 posted 03-26-2018 05:25 PM

Hand plane. Alder is easy to plane.

Planes sold at hardware store are typically
an inferior grade of tool that may be frustrating
to use in making furniture. If you’d rather buy
a good one do some research.

View Jon Hobbs's profile

Jon Hobbs

147 posts in 2046 days

#14 posted 03-26-2018 05:39 PM

It could be that the edge(s) of your boards are not perfectly perpendicular to the face.

...but the yard I buy from can make the boards S3S, which is about as good as I can do. I do have a table saw, so could use that.

- newCOlumber

Boards have 4 S’s, so how are you squaring up the 4th side? Table saw? If your yard’s S3S job is slightly off, or your squaring of the 4th side isn’t accurate (is your blade perfectly perpendicular to the table?), things will get wonky. Even a very tiny variation on each board will add-up when you start edge-gluing them together. All of those slight imperfections start adding up. Coopers purposely do this to the extreme to make round barrels out of “square” boards.

Remedies listed by other jocks above will help you correct this project. For your next project, double-check that your supplier’s S3S job is accurate and make sure your technique for squaring the 4th side is also accurate.

-- Jon -- Just a Minnesota kid hanging out in Kansas

View newCOlumber's profile


22 posts in 1420 days

#15 posted 03-26-2018 05:59 PM

Jon I used my table saw. I will check the squaring next time, it is possible it isn’t perfect. I think I have learned quite a bit from this discussion, and will hand-plane the top (or try to!)

This begs another question. I can get S4S boards but only 3/4” thick. Obviously I don’t have to worry about milling those myself, but how would you get a 1.5” thick top? Just stack boards and glue the faces? Would you use different sized boards for each layer? There is some appeal there versus working with more raw wood but this has bothered me.

EDIT: It appears this is something pretty common. I think I would get, say, 1×6 boards, cut in half (2 4’ sections) and laminate the faces, then edge glue the larger pieces. I think the joints would disappear well with sanding (it appeared to on that top I made), but now I am concerned about my ability to mill the wood and buying S4S could be a better option in the future.

I do want to thank everyone for the tips, I really enjoy learning!

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