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Thread: First big project and some questions on where to begin

  1. #1

    First big project and some questions on where to begin

    Hi, first post here. I am pretty new to woodworking, just started getting into it in the last couple years but not really doing any projects worth mentioning until recently when I built a king sized storage bed and simple headboard and a couple rustic night stands. They all came together pretty well and I am pleased with how they turned out considering my level of woodworking understanding.

    I decided to tackle a dining room table next, we have been wanting one for years and have been putting it off until our daughter is a bit older. I finally went out snooped around in the lumber yard and decided I was going to get hickory or spalted maple if they had any. We really like the look of a wood with a lot variations and my wife doesnt like the grain of oak for a big table top. Anyway, I went and picked up 6 boards today that were planed down to 1.75" and 6" wide and about 8' long. The top dimensions will be about 35" wide x 6' long. Now I have never received wood from a lumber yard always lowes. So a few things I noticed were some knots that had some voids in there. And these boards look like they have a spalted texture as well you can see the black lines and some smaller holes from what i can assume are the insects that create that. I am ok with this bc it goes with the rustic look I am going for. Now I was assuming I would get the wood and be able to basically lightly prep the wood and glue them up and be good to go. Now that I have them at my house I see the even though they look straight I will likely need to joint them with my table saw and a straight edge then run them through my porter cable planer. A couple boards also have a bit of a bow in them. I konw you can use the planer like a jointer but is it that necessary with just a bow? Is there any way to take that out without removing material? Also if i did need how do I find a straight board to lay it on top of? Just eye ball the best one at lowes?

    So My game plan so far this week is going to be to fix the voids first bc i read that should be done before you prep the boards, then I need to fix the joints so I can prep them for glueing and also fix the bowing. Just not sure how to go about some of it. If it makes any difference the guy there said to just bring it back after i get it glued up and if its 35 or less inches he will run the whole top through his planer for me. Any help would be appreciated I dont want to waste any wood60217368_10158481542028206_6391179728954327040_o.jpg

  2. #2
    For table glue ups, you don't need to joint the bows out so much. Arrange thes boards so that any bows cancle each other out.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Austin Texas
    It is easier to address or control misalignmnet of the individual table top boards when glueing up by only glueing up two boards at a time rather than all of them at the same time. Also, look up the use of cauls for panel glueup to help with vertical alignment during a glueup. If the final alignment (after glueup) leaves some misalignment along the individual glue lines, you can use a variety of tools to correct this - hand planes, scrapers, sanding, etc. Or you can take it to the guy with the 36" planer. A large table top does not really need to be dead-on, definitely flat-flat-flat. Of at least as great an issue is to ensure that the edge joints between the individual board joints are well adjusted before glueup. I tend to use cauls (fabbed up from big box 2x4's) for most panel glueups and that works well enough for me to then use a hand plane and/or a card scraper to clean the individual joint glueups up. I would think that I lose less thickness overall by cleaning up the individual glue lines by hand rather than pushing the entire top through a planer, but that could be a six-of-one-half dozen-of-the-other type situation too. The planer option would be preferable if you end up with serious offsets after glueup though.
    Last edited by David Eisenhauer; 05-14-2019 at 9:19 PM.

  4. #4
    thanks guys, you think regular cauls would be fine? I tried making some chambered cauls with a belt sander and eye balling it and they were a little wavy and didnt compress evenly when clamped. I could only find tutorials on how to do it with a jointer which i dont have

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Austin Texas
    In my opinion and/or experience, cauls need not be that exact. I make mine with a hand plane and do not agognize over it at all. They work surprisingly well for evening out panel joints. The best thing I did with mine was to add in bolts on the ends of the cauls rather than fight them with clamps.

  6. #6
    ok that make me feel better about mine i tried haha. I was going to go one board at at time and just try to be really patient about it. I have a kreg pocket screw jig but no biscuit cutter. Should I suck it up and get a biscuit cutter to help with alignment or not mess with it ya think

  7. #7
    personally, I wouldn't spend my $$ on a biscuits. the slots they cut are sloppy and the biscuits can move that money for a jointer savings account. Today's glue is strong.
    Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning, the devil says, "oh crap she's up!"

    Tolerance is giving every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

    "What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts are gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts will happen to man. All things are connected. " Chief Seattle Duwamish Tribe

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Iíve used dowels between boards on table tops to help with alignment during glue up and for added strength. Iíve also used kreg pocket screws before getting other equipment or options. I would go with whatever works but make sure you remove the kreg screws when glue is dried before you run it through the planer just to be safe. If you accidentally plane to deep itís gonna open the screw cavity but at least it wonít hit the screw.

    The only suggestion I have personally is that I would have my base built and ready to go before gluing up my top. Nothing worse than spending a ton of time cutting, jointing, planing and assembling a nice flat top only to find the whole assembly bowed or cupped while stored until I was ready for it.

    Iím sure someone is going to say if built properly with proper joinery it shouldnít be a problem but if you are assembling with kreg screws, glue and bowed wood itís bound to happen as it sits and settles. Affixing it to your base frame would help control where and how the top moves to a certain degree.

  9. Congrats on getting started. You'll be amazed at what you can do with a few simple tools. As you are probably aware, buying wood from a lumberyard is not the same as buying at a big-box store. The wood from HD or Lowe's is already dimensioned for you, meaning it is planed down all all sides to make it reasonably true, flat, and square. Doesn't mean that it will always be perfect by the time you buy it, but that is the intent I suppose. Lumberyards sell hardwood for furniture that has been rough-cut, meaning it has been roughly cut to size, but not necessarily planed down to final thickness - so there will be much more non-square edges, twisting, bowing, etc... The assumption is the woodworker will do these operations themselves. That way, you can do your own final milling right before you build your project, so the wood is as straight as possible during the building/assembly process. So...lots of ways to go about it. If you have more money than time, you can through lots of cash at the problem...get lots of big machines (jointer, planer, drum sander, sliding table saw, etc...) and no more crooked wood. If you have little money and lots of time, go the hand tool route. A decent hand plane, with a sharp blade, used carefully, will give a nice flat surface on each individual board and/or after glue-up. Plus, it really doesn't have to be perfect - a little twist or slight bow can be taken care of after glue up. I do find that non-square edges make a big difference across the span of wide pieces, like a table top. If you have neither lots of money or lots of time, I would consider taking the raw boards back to the lumberyard and pay them to mill up the lumber for you - if they are willing to sand or plane your finished table top I bet they can process each individual piece for you to make them flat, straight, and with square edges. This will make the glue-up process so much easier. I used to order all my wood "S4S" from my lumberyard - surfaced on 4 sides. But after a few years I acquired a jointer & planer, now it's easy to do myself.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    New Boston, Michigan
    I am not a fan of adding doweling or splines or biscuits or anything to edge join boards. I had some serious bowing on some 8/4 air dried cherry boards. They were straight at the mill but I had them up on the tailgate of the truck for 250 miles in the sun. I really torqued them down with beefy cauls and some shims here and there. Some were still proud of each other and I used a hand plane to flatten them. I had nightmares that the boards would someday spring back and break the glue joints. 5 years later and the customers still loves her massive industrial designed table and I learned to trust the power of the long grain to long grain glue joint.
    Cheers, Gordon
    Last edited by Gordon Stump; 05-15-2019 at 8:50 AM.
    Ask a woodworker to "make your bed" and he/she makes a bed.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    For table sized panels I personally do like to use biscuits/Dominos/dowels indexed to the top surface to reduce the subsequent efforts to get a uniform surface across that panel. I'd rather have any anomalies on the bottom for obvious reasons. I don't use these things to add strength to the joint since the glue should do a great job there if applied and clamped correctly, but those few alignment accommodations really do seem to make putting things together easier for me. I also agree with the "do partial assemblies" concept as it also helps with the overall process, despite having multiple glue-up cycles which add a little wait time to the project.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Central New Jersey
    Dan -

    Welcome to woodworking What Scott said is very true regarding wood from a lumber dealer vs big box stores. Your boards from what I can tell are fresh from the sawmill, bandsaw blade marks and all. There is a very high chance that your boards are not flat and don't have right angles between the edge and face. One of the first steps in getting your boards ready for use besides making sure they are dry (about 8% moisture) is getting them to S4S (surfaced on 4 sides) Use a jointer or the correct hand plane and ensure once surface of your board is flat, then make one edge flat and 90 degrees to the surfaced face. You can't do this on your table saw, you need a jointer or hand plane to do this. Using the table saw on a board that does not have one flat edge is dangerous and you will end up with a board that is less wide and still not flat. Once you get your board S2S (one face, one edge) , use your table saw to rip off the other edge of the board so the board is equal width. Once all of your boards have 1 flat surface and 2 squared up edges, use your planer to bring all the boards to a common thickness. If you don't have the coin to buy a jointer, have the lumber yard or a friend with a jointer take care of this first. Without getting your boards to s4s you are going to have a bad glue up and end up with a pile of fire wood.

    To deal with the imperfections in wood, unless you want the knots and other imperfections in the finished product, you typically need to buy more wood than you need so you can clean it up and have clear pieces of wood that match the dimensions of your project. The cut-offs can be used for smaller projects or end up as fire wood. One of the reasons people spend so much time sifting through the lumber piles with a cut sheet and a ruler and even mark up the boards as they find what they want.

    If want to keep the knots and imperfections in the wood, there are lots of options to fill the voids using epoxy or resin. Lot's of you-tube videos on how to do this. One I have seen used a lot but have not tried is an epoxy from 'West System' which is typically used in the marine / boat building industry.

    BTW - I am not sure you how accomplish using your planer like a jointer. When you feed the board in, if it is has a bow or twist when it goes in, it will just be a thinner board with the same bow or twist when it comes out the other side.

    For your glue-up after your boards are S4S, using cauls could work. Cauls are not specifically flat, but have a slight bow to them. When you clamp the ends, they 'roll out' to help keep your boards lined up. I know others don't like it, but i've used biscuits with very good success to help keep boards aligned during a glue up. If you don't want to drop a few hundred on a biscuit jointer, you can use a biscuit slot cutting bit in a router.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Hi Daniel
    Welcome to Jurassic Park!

    Well in spirit anyways. That is some interesting wood, it will be a rustic tabletop. Take plenty of time arranging them for best appearance.

    I also have no jointer and use a sled in my planer to get the first surface flat, then plane the other side without the sled. It's a little cumbersome but it works. Be sure to lift the ends a bit when the board enters and leaves the planer to eliminate snipe. Next, a hand plane can be used to joint the edges but it takes practice. Better to tack a straight edge to each board and run thru the tablesaw. You can make a straight edge by ripping a slice off a sheet of plywood. The big box store will rip this for you. Sand the edges of it and keep it around. Cheap, thin plywood will be fine.

    Follow Greg's advice and build the rest of the table first. This will also give these boards time to acclimate.

    This wood will not be easy to plane, there will be tearout. I would have the assembled top planed. It may not come out perfect but will be better than you are likely to manage in your shop.

    Regarding the base, be sure to accommodate expansion while keeping it sort of flat. Breadboard ends could be a good answer here and will mitigate much of the rusticity.

    Schedule; plan on using it for Christmas, it won't be ready for Thanksgiving.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Upland CA
    About those cauls.

    The simplest ones I have seen are simply straight boards clamped on with some kind of spacer placed in the middle, like playing cards or plastic sign cutoffs.
    Rick Potter

    DIY journeyman,
    FWW wannabe.
    AKA Village Idiot.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Michelle Rich View Post
    ...I wouldn't spend my $$ on a biscuits. the slots they cut are sloppy and the biscuits can move around...
    Not true if you buy quality biscuits and jointer (Lamello). Then you can rely on biscuits to keep boards aligned.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

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