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Favorite method for attaching a table top

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Forum topic by tywalt posted 04-17-2019 07:35 PM 470 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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tywalt

36 posts in 526 days


04-17-2019 07:35 PM

I recently finished a personal project to make an entire coffee table without using power tools. It is mostly oak from an in-laws old farm house in WV. In keeping with a “all hand tools” theme, curious to know what you guys/gals like for attaching your table tops. I’m not opposed to putting screws in it or using metal fasteners/hardware but interested to know other’s thoughts. I’ve got some enough scraps of the same wood that I cut some buttons out of and chisel out some mortises in the apron but I’ve never actually tried that.


Any opinions welcome.

-- Tyler - Central TX


17 replies so far

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Carlos510

270 posts in 734 days


#1 posted 04-17-2019 08:55 PM

Very nice, I like that combination of styles, is that an oriental flavor I see in the base joinery and tapered legs, nice look. Tabs (you call them buttons I guess) are the most common method of attaching solid wood tops, they will give in two directions when the wood moves, without any damage, but judging from the dovetailing on the top end pieces you know all about wood movement. There is a picture of the tabs I mentioned in the other table top post today.

-- "If time is money, then I need a loan" , http://www.hobbyworkshopprojects.blogspot.com/

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tywalt

36 posts in 526 days


#2 posted 04-17-2019 09:13 PM

Thanks Carlos. Tabs (not sure if I’m the only one that calls them buttons) were what I was planning on but don’t have any practical experience with them. Just needed someone to confirm I was headed the right direction.

Regarding the design, it was a pure and unadulterated combination of all my favorite kinds of joinery to cut with very little regard for keeping with a specific style. I got a new-to-me set of marples chisels just before starting this table and wanted to put them through their paces with a boat load of mortises. Paul Sellers did a similar table years ago and I always liked his design so some of it was stolen from him.

-- Tyler - Central TX

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Peteybadboy

698 posts in 2311 days


#3 posted 04-17-2019 09:14 PM

For small table i use a “z” shaped fastener with one screw hole. the other end goes into a groove in the side rails. Rockler sells them. Prices can vary.

-- Petey

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pottz

5028 posts in 1346 days


#4 posted 04-17-2019 09:40 PM



For small table i use a “z” shaped fastener with one screw hole. the other end goes into a groove in the side rails. Rockler sells them. Prices can vary.

- Peteybadboy


+1 or figure 8 fasteners,i get them on amazon much cheaper than rockler.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View SMP's profile

SMP

860 posts in 267 days


#5 posted 04-18-2019 12:19 AM


For small table i use a “z” shaped fastener with one screw hole. the other end goes into a groove in the side rails. Rockler sells them. Prices can vary.

- Peteybadboy

I also use the z-clips(off amazon). If you want to stick to all hand tools, just use a regular screwdriver and 1/8” chisel to chop the slot. Predrill the hole with an eggbeater if needed.

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anthm27

818 posts in 1472 days


#6 posted 04-18-2019 12:33 AM

Sorry, I really dont have anything to offer on table attachment methods, I did however go to your profile to see if you’ve posted that table on Projects,
That really is a superb table, great workmanship in that.
Nice job
Regards
Anthony

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BFamous

315 posts in 482 days


#7 posted 04-18-2019 01:29 AM


For small table i use a “z” shaped fastener with one screw hole. the other end goes into a groove in the side rails. Rockler sells them. Prices can vary.

- Peteybadboy

+1 or figure 8 fasteners,i get them on amazon much cheaper than rockler.

- pottz

+1 more on figure 8 or z clips through amazon.

and beautiful table great job!

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC :: http://www.FamousArtisan.com

View JADobson's profile

JADobson

1422 posts in 2473 days


#8 posted 04-18-2019 01:38 AM

Another +1 for the z-clips. Ive used them on my dining table, a side table, and a coffee table with great success. Just remember to cut a groove on the inside of your apron. I’ve heard of folks using a biscuit jointer to cut a groove if they forgot to cut the groove. Though if you are just using hand tools that might not be a good option.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

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edapp

258 posts in 1791 days


#9 posted 04-18-2019 12:19 PM

Really like the figure 8 fasteners. No chance of slippage or misfitting them like the z clips (though the z clips are great too).

However, with the figure 8s, you need to make sure they are oriented in such a way to allow expansion (the holes in the fasteners need to be parallel to the long grain). If you install them perpendicular to the long grain they aren’t going to help your expansion problem.

View LittleShaver's profile

LittleShaver

527 posts in 981 days


#10 posted 04-18-2019 12:34 PM

While Z clips and figure 8s are great, I would choose the button approach in keeping with the design and hand tool approach.

-- Sawdust Maker

View tywalt's profile

tywalt

36 posts in 526 days


#11 posted 04-18-2019 01:03 PM

Thanks for the feedback all! I think i’m settled on wooden handcut tabs/buttons and mortises in the apron to keep some semblance of continuity to the design.

I am very familiar with figure 8’s but these z-clips are news to me. I’ll have to give those a shot on the next large panel top I make. Gotta love this forum and all the knowledge out there (even if it is something as simple as a little metal fastener).

-- Tyler - Central TX

View Blindhog's profile

Blindhog

120 posts in 1410 days


#12 posted 04-18-2019 03:48 PM

If you want to stay with the hand made theme, this works well…..................

-- Don't let perfection get in the way of plenty good enough

View mitch_56's profile

mitch_56

23 posts in 835 days


#13 posted 04-18-2019 11:05 PM

Sliding dovetails for me. A much more elegant solution, embraces expansion and contraction without resorting to screws or hardware, you can do it without glue and have an easy knockdown table if you want. Probably quite a bit stronger than buttons, but I don’t know of any science backing that opinion, and it’s not as though tables are often hauled around.
They also allow you to grow your skill a bit, and whenever a woodworker looks at the table from underneath, they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Probably too late to be incorporated into the beautiful table pictured in the OP, but perhaps next time, as a table that nice deserves them!

View tywalt's profile

tywalt

36 posts in 526 days


#14 posted 04-19-2019 06:06 PM

Mitch, I’m having trouble envisioning how to attach a top with sliding dovetails. Would you cut the tails into the apron and slot into the top? Wouldn’t the slot be visible from the side of the table or is there another way to do that and I am just not grasping it? Regardless, that is an intriguing idea.

-- Tyler - Central TX

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mitch_56

23 posts in 835 days


#15 posted 04-19-2019 08:07 PM


Mitch, I m having trouble envisioning how to attach a top with sliding dovetails. Would you cut the tails into the apron and slot into the top? Wouldn t the slot be visible from the side of the table or is there another way to do that and I am just not grasping it? Regardless, that is an intriguing idea.

- tywalt

That’s the most common option. The aprons are left 1/2” (or whatever) tall, and that extra 1/2” (or whatever) becomes the tail.
The pins are cut into the underside of the top, and, again, in the most common variant, are “through” on one side of the table. On that through side, it’s common to custom fit a small plug from an offcut with a good grain match to fill the gap so it doesn’t show.

In the less common variant, a sliding dovetail can be cut so it is not through on either side, as shown in this video from the skilled hands of Dorian Bracht, about blind housed dovetails:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlz9CX0BW4I

but I wouldn’t try to imitate Dorian on your first go, have some practice runs first. Also, there has to be enough room for the lead-in to the housing area (you’ll understand after you watch the video), and in a standard table design, that isn’t possible, so this variant generally isn’t an option for tables.

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