Classic Tabletops

One of the most noticeable parts of a table is, of course, the top. An easy-way to give a table its own interesting look is with a top that's a bit unique. So for each table base, I tried a little different approach to the top.

For the maple sofa table I tried something "old" — a top made from individual boards fastened together with cleats and woodscrews. It's a great style and it's easy to build.

A kitchen table needs a large, functional (and easily cleaned) surface that will hold up to some heavy use. A top glued up from thick stock involves a little bit of work but will look great on this classic table and stand the test of time.

The breadboard-end top on the dining table has a more elegant look. You might think it would be a challenge. But don't worry, with a plywood center panel and simple joinery, it goes together easily.

You can keep the glue bottle on the shelf. All you have here are three wide planks fastened together with a couple of cleats and woodscrews.

The first task is to cut the three planks (A) to size. Why three planks and not two or four? Well, traditionally wide boards were used for this type of top. It only made sense — the wider the boards the fewer the number needed and the fewer the spaces between them. So I used wide stock and the two "joint lines" give the top just the right look.

sand and ease the edges. Once the planks are ready, you can pick up some sandpaper. Since the planks are pre-cut to size and won't be glued together you can do a lot of the sanding before assembly. I made sure to knock off all the sharp edges and corners of each plank. I wanted the look of three individual boards, not one smooth top.

attach the cleats. With the planks prepared, they can be connected to make a top. The two cleats (B) can be cut to size from stock and then the countersunk shank holes are predrilled (Figs. 9 and 9a). Now just carefully line up the planks (you might want to tighten a clamp across them) and position the cleats (Fig. 9a). Use the predrilled shank-holes to drill some pilot holes in the planks and add the woodscrews. Don't be tempted to glue the planks to the cleats, they need to be able to move with changes in the humidity.

fasten it to the base. That's the long and short of it. Finally I used a handful of metal tabletop fasteners to hold the top to the base (Fig. 9b).

Plank And Cleat Top

I would wager a guess that most of the earliest tabletops were made with plank and cleat construction. And that's one reason why I chose this technique for the maple sofa table. I wanted to give this table an old "tavern" look. And I should also mention that this type of top is really appealing from a building standpoint. It really doesn't require a lot of exacting work. So making this style of tabletop look A simple plank and good is an easy job. cleat top creates an three planks. A glance at Fig. 9

age-old look. shows how this top goes together.

Table Top Cleats

Three boards of f equal width

NOTE: Planks are not glued together

#8 x V/4" Fh woodscrew


Predrilled— countersunk shank holes


-Ease all edges of planks with sandpaper „

NOTE: Cleats should not be glued to planks



Tabletop fastener


Center top front to back and side to side

A Glued Slab Top

The base that I built for the pine kitchen table has a solid, old farmhouse feel to it. So it needed a top to match. The choice was pretty obvious. A solid top, glued up out of thick, pine stock (1"), would look right at home on this frame.

a wide glueup in three parts. The top that I built for this table was 44" square. Honestly, it's one of the widest glueups I've ever had to do. So to do a good job of it, I used a couple of simple tricks. Fig. 10 shows the first. I cut all the boards needed to rough length and then glued them into three narrower panels. Smaller glueups are a lot easier to handle and the process is a bit more relaxed. You only have one or two joints at a time to worry about fitting and lining up.

Once the individual sections are ready, you can complete the job by gluing them together. But keeping a large panel flat during this process takes a little doing. Fig. 11 shows a simple solution. A couple of long, wide cauls clamped across the ends of the glueup will keep it perfectly flat while the glue dries.

trim the top. I was pleased with how my rough top turned out. After a short spell with the belt sander, it was ready to be trimmed to size. But not many table saws will accommodate a panel this size, so I resorted to a circular saw with a shop-made guide for this job. You can find more on this on page 19.

the important details. Once the top is cut to size, the hard part is behind you. All you have left are a couple of simple but important tasks.


NOTE: For more information on trimming large panels, see page 19

Pickup Truck Bed Storage Systems

A kitchen table is certainly going to get a lot of use and abuse so any sharp edges and corners wouldn't hold up for long. You can easily solve this problem and add a couple of nice details at the same time.

First, I picked up a jigsaw and cut a 1" radius on all four corners of the top (Fig. 10a). And then after they were sanded smooth, I used a handheld router to add a profile to both the upper and lower edges of the top. The lower edge can simply be eased with W roundover. The upper edge gets a classic, ogee profile as shown in Fig. 12a.

Attaching the top is the last step. You should have an even overhang on all four sides of the base (Fig. 10b). And if you work with the table upside down, attaching the tabletop fasteners goes a lot smoother.

Pineis Perfect

► This top, glued up from thick pine, is the perfect match for the solid kitchen table base.

NOTE: Cauls keep top flat

NOTE: Rou ends of table first

NOTE: Wax bottom of cauls to avoid sticking


NOTE: Cauls keep top flat

NOTE: Wax bottom of cauls to avoid sticking

NOTE: Rou ends of table first

NOTE: To cut ogee edge, raise fillet of bit above top


Table Top OverhangTable Flattening Caul

Breadboard ends are a great way to add distinction to a table top.


NOTE: Center panel is 3A" plywood


Breadboard ends are a great way to add distinction to a table top.

NOTE: Breadboard ends are glued to center panel with spline

NOTE: Filler pieces are 3A" plywood

NOTE: Decorative edge is routed after top is assembled and grain pattern and attaching the breadboard ends "cross grain" won't cause a problem.

When you take a look at Fig. 13, you can see how the top is put together. You have a center panel thaf s trimmed on the long sides and "capped" on both ends. Some filler pieces beneath the center panel beef-up the thickness. It's simple.

the center panel. The first thing to do is to cut the 3A" plywood center panel (A) to size. You want crisp, square edges so the trim pieces and breadboard ends will fit well.

side trim. Now you can start hiding the edges of the plywood. Fig. 13a shows how I added a couple of rabbeted side trim (B) pieces. The rabbet wraps around the edge of the table and provides more glue surface. But then only a narrow band of wood will show from above.

add the fillers. Once the side trim is added, you can cut the plywood



lime, so it fits right in with the traditional look of the table base. A breadboard end refers to the stout piece fixed across the end of the top (it was commonly used on breadboards). The idea was that a breadboard end would help keep a wide tabletop flat over time. To me, it not only serves this practical purpose but it also gives an otherwise large, flat surface a more interesting look.


Hie top needed for the dining table is pretty large so I ruled out solid wood. Aglueup of this size would be too difficult. A top made from a nice piece of straight-grained 3A" oak plywood made a lot more sense. WTien you use plywood for the center panel of the top, you eliminate a lot of the hard work and add quality at the same time. You'll have a consistent color

'A" hardboard spline reinforces joint


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