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Thread: When do breadboard ends look out of proportion?

  1. #1
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    When do breadboard ends look out of proportion?

    What I have is 52" cut to length stock for a desktop, seasoning in my home office greater than one year. It is QSWO and I paid through the nose for some beautiful stuff. The new software my employer bought requires me to start using an iPad- and keep using my Windows machine for some functions.

    I already have a camera adapter and a kb/mouse for the iPad and don't want to go there again. For what I need to do, kb and mouse on the iPad are staying. The kb/mouse tray for each device is 28" wide, so 56" for both input pairs if I build one enormous kb/mouse tray.

    I feel pretty good about putting a 2" bread board at each end of a 56" long top; but I expect to lose a little length on that 52" stock after the glue up, and I need to cut tenons on the "52 inch panel" and cut a groove and mortises in the breadboards. I want to go wide and just slide my chair left and right switching between platforms.

    Have you ever seen a breadboard end that just looked too wide or ridiculous or pathetic? Twelve inches each side is probably too much... With the five pieces pictured I should be able to get to 59x24 inches finished top, allowing for one inch overlap at each end for joinery. I am thinking a 1 inch rabbet on the glue up panel with say 1/4 inch for spline and an additonal 3/4 for some tenons sticking out past the spline, so the show face of the glue up will be two inches less than the cut square length of the glue up panel. As pictured the breadboards are 5.5" wide, pictured width is up around 27" with some gaps and some sap wood to be ripped off. Right now everything is 15/16 thick before planing.

    Thanks. I'll go look at some internet pictures to see what looks grossly wide, but this thing will pretty wipe out my stash of seasoned white oak.

    20210414_231228[1].jpg20210414_231250[1].jpg

  2. #2
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    On an actual breadboard they are typically pretty skinny, on a Greene & Greene style tabletop they can be quite large and protruding. Both look good in context. Sketch it out, full size if possible, and play with the dimensions. I expect you will find a ratio that is most pleasing to you.

    Mistakes usually come when you try to make a board you already have fit despite it being too narrow, or because you don't want to "waste" an inch off one edge of a nice board.

  3. #3
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    Here's a better way out of your dilemma IMHO: lose the keyboard tray. The argument for a tray is that it puts the keyboard at an ergonomically-correct height which is lower than the old standard height for desks. You're building your own desk, so you're not constrained to use that old standard height. Instead, make the whole desk top to be the correct height for a keyboard. There's a bunch of benefits for this approach:
    * You get to put each keyboard and device anywhere on the desk. You can switch from iPad to PC just by shoving one out of the way, and sliding the other into position.
    * You can put your pointing device anywhere you want it -- right near the keyboard where it's easy to use without moving your hands very far.
    * You don't have the tray pushing you back away from the desk, which is where you have the other stuff you may be wanting -- papers, books, coffee cup, reading glasses, etc.
    * You get more design freedom with the other parts of the desk. For instance, you get to make the breadboard ends any width you want. Or you can make the kneehole narrower than a wide keyboard tray would force you to use. Or you can include a shallow pencil drawer where the keyboard tray would be.

    My own desk surface is 27" above the floor. I find that very comfortable. I've built desks for other people who preferred 28". It is easy to mock up and measure what's good for you.

  4. #4
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    I agree on going with modern ergonomics and losing the keyboard tray. Breadboard ends are a design feature as much as anything with modern material preparation and adhesives. Scale them as you see fit. Your desired aesthetic is what matters in the end.
    I always forget . . . Is it the letter "S" or the letter "C" that is silent in the word scent?
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  5. #5
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    I've only made breadboard ends a couple of times, but on a table/desktop that size, I would certainly think you could go to 4- or 5-inch wide ends without things looking out of proportion. However, the suggestion I've heard is that you make the long tenons around 2/3 the width of the ends - the stub tenon serves to keep the panel flat, and the long tenons provide strength so that the end won't snap off if the table is lifted from the end (or someone sits on it). So, in making the ends wider, you don't gain all of that in the overall length of the table (e.g., if you go from a 3" end with 2" tenons to a 6" end with 4" tenons, you only gain 1" at each end, in terms of overall length of the table). I suppose you could get around that by using loose tenons.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Ragatz View Post
    I suppose you could get around that by using loose tenons.
    +1

    That allows you to make the most of your material.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Ragatz View Post
    the suggestion I've heard is that you make the long tenons around 2/3 the width of the ends - the stub tenon serves to keep the panel flat, and the long tenons provide strength so that the end won't snap off if the table is lifted from the end (or someone sits on it).
    This exactly. I went surfing around last night looking at how other folks on the internet have built these. My goal is to build stuff my grandkids can hand down to their children in good working order. Anybody can buy flimsy cheap junk, grandpa's old stuff is going to hold up. So through tenons. The length of the table will be the same as the length of the glued up panel.

    For height, the kb tray is a different structure. With the QSWO I am going to build a table, probably right near 30" tall. I am going to use it as a desk top. If someone else wants to use it as a hall table or a sofa table or a dining table, won't matter. It is just a table.

    The kb and mouse are going to be on their own tabletop, basically an overgrown saw bench with the items at ergonomic height. And then a basic stool with cut to length legs to hold the monitor at ergonomic height. When I croak the kid most similarly sized to me can have the overgrown saw bench kb/mouse tray, someone else gets the low stool my monitor used to sit on, and then there will be this lovely QSWO table, 30" tall, top 24x52 inches...no screw holes from kb tray hardware in the underside of the top.

    If I need a bigger desk I need bigger sticks, not weak sauce joinery tricks to pretend I own a board stretcher. Dunno what I was thinking. I need a vacation. Thanks for playing along nicely.

  8. #8
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    MDF for the win.

    Make one full size and tweak the dimensions until you see what you like.

    I like the BB end design and when I do one I do just this. Now I have built enough I already either have one in my personal home or have pics from a prior project that I can look at but I just did a huge table (43x84") and I went back to basics. Ended up doing 6" wide on that particular one. The top was 1.75" thick and it was a good proportion. A thinner piece would probably not have looked as proportional.

    Loose tenons, AKA dominoes are used all the time for BB ends. You can certainly do the same or a combination. Use a stub tenon if you want to, (it is "better" but I really don't think it is necessary) and add loose tenons to add strength. I have a domino XL and I do this a lot. Generally with wider than stock loose tenons which I make.

    Joe
    JC Custom WoodWorks

    For best results, try not to do anything stupid.

    "So this is how liberty dies...with thunderous applause." - Padmé Amidala "Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith"

  9. #9
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    Everyone here has more tabletop construction experience than I do so a few thoughts on ergonomics and esthetics. Typical breadboard ends bother me because of the minor break in the smooth line of the edge of the table, especially with any difference in dimension. Carried to an extreme, it's like a piece of edge molding that's not quite the right length on a plywood tabletop.

    I like the width of yours because they're more in proportion. I like it so much I might finally build the table that I've needed but not built for several years.

    Monitors should be at eye level which means they sit above the desk if the desk is at a usual height. Mine are on a stand I built with space below so the monitors aren't using much desk space.

    I'd do the keyboard tray. If you don't want it to be a permanent part of the table, it doesn't have to be. I'd do it not only for the ergonomics but because of the clutter of 2 mice plus 2 keyboards on the desktop. Also because I know how easy it is to find yourself using the wrong one. I'd build a shelf 30 inches or more wide and fairly deep. Then build a light tray for each keyboard plus mouse. Pull the one you want forward and turn the other sideways far enough to shove it back.

    Good luck with your project.

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