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Thread: Expanding dining table

  1. #1
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    Expanding dining table

    I have been asked to build a dining table with a 12” removable leaf in the center. I will probably use a commercial slide. I would appreciate any tips anyone who has built one can give me. The table is 84” long (with leaf) by 40” wide. It will have 3” breadboards. The client wants the grain running lengthwise and the leaf across. Seems a little odd as the tables I have seen with center leaves have the top cross grain. He thinks it will look good with the breadboard’s. I have built several tables but never an expandable.
    Charlie Jones

  2. #2
    Expanding tables like what you describe are not all that difficult. The commercial slides are easy to deal with, just make sure the screws you use don't come through your table top

    You will use dowels with rounded tips for alignment of the leaf with the table. Use a regular dowel jig and measure accurately so the dowels and the holes line up. You will have "male" dowels on one side of the leaf and two mortises on the other side. Remember that when you put the table together without the leaf, the dowels and mortises on the main part of the table have to line up so the table will close.

    Everything else about the table is pretty standard.

    Oh, if you're going to put an apron on the table, it's a nice feature if you put an apron on the leaf and have the grain continuous along the apron when you put the leaf in. Looks better than odd grain pattern in the leaf apron, or no apron on the leaf. But I guess with breadboard ends, there's no apron.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 04-20-2021 at 11:24 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  3. #3
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    By having the leaf grain direction running opposite of the table body, you won't be able to use standard alignment pins. The main top is going to expand and contract with seasonal wood movement, the leaf is not going to move the same direction. So certain times of the year the leaf may not work, or may be stuck. On our personal dining table, I used biscuits instead of pins. It was just easier for me, and it should allow for the seasonal movement for you.
    Last edited by Richard Coers; 04-20-2021 at 11:29 PM.

  4. #4
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    If you leave off the aprons the leaf is much smaller to store.
    Most people probably cover the expanded table with a table cloth for one or two meals a year so the apron, or lack thereof, does not show.

  5. #5
    I worked with an excellent Lithuanian cabinetmaker and saw him make several expansion tables. At least one had more than one leaf.
    He planed the tops with hand planes and with leaves in or out you couldn’t feel where they met. Quite different from the new tables sold in
    expensive furniture stores. He told me he had once made a table that with all the leaves in ,was 14 feet long.

  6. #6
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    Wouldn't running the grain lengthwise reduce how much weight the table can hold? With a solid table the ends are supported by the skirt. With an expandable table and the grain going the short way the wood is supported by the slides. But with the wood going lengthwise how would you support the leaf?

  7. #7
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    Inkerman, Ontario, Canada
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    Can you do a sketch of the top with the leaf showing the grain direction for clarification please.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Jones View Post
    I have been asked to build a dining table with a 12” removable leaf in the center. I will probably use a commercial slide. I would appreciate any tips anyone who has built one can give me. The table is 84” long (with leaf) by 40” wide. It will have 3” breadboards. The client wants the grain running lengthwise and the leaf across. Seems a little odd as the tables I have seen with center leaves have the top cross grain. He thinks it will look good with the breadboard’s. I have built several tables but never an expandable.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Cashiers NC
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    Here is a rough sketch. Richard and Alex have some valid points. I could overcome the seasonal expansion problem. I am not sure what can be done about supporting the middle with the leaf out. Here is a rough sketch.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Charlie Jones

  9. #9
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    Seems like I've seen tables that have breadboard ends on both ends of the two "main" table tops, yielding a look that is similar to the drawing, even without the leaf in place. I don't know what the leaf would look like on that type of table, but if the grain ran as shown in the drawing, it would alleviate the problem Richard raised earlier about the inside edges of the "main" table tops expanding in a different direction than the leaf.

  10. #10
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    A good point. The inside “ breadboards” would support the tabletop where it doesn’t have an apron. That might work.
    Charlie Jones

  11. #11
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    Talk your customers out of the loose leaf, expansion table. it's not worth the extra trouble to make and the problems it will cause, for an extra 12" in length. Do the table as a one piece top.

  12. #12
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    I agree with Mark, especially given the grain orientation. That doesn't work well for a leaf situation...there is increased risk ot stability issues...and for only one foot, it's not worth the time, effort and expense. IMHO, of course.
    --

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

  13. #13
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    Thanks to all of you. I tend to agree with Mark and Jim. If I can’t come up with a way to support the middle I will just not do it.
    Charlie Jones

  14. #14
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    Aug 2018
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    Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't understand the concern about supporting the leaf. It will rest on the slides, which are attached to the underside of the main part of the table - at least that's the way every expandable table I've ever owned works. The dowels or biscuits that mate with the edges of the main part of the tabletop maintain alignment with the rest of the top, both horizontally and vertically.

    If there's an apron on the rest of the table, I would include it on the leaf as well, for sake of appearance. The aprons on the leaf aren't attached to anything else, so they aren't going to provide "support," per se, but they would help prevent the leaf from cupping, if that's a concern.

    12" seems a little narrow for a leaf - seems like 18" is pretty common. Maybe the client would consider a 66" table with an 18" leaf - without the leaf, it should seat six comfortably, and with the leaf, eight.

  15. #15
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    The concern(s) is having is having enough support on the center part of the top. Since the grain is running along the length. Because they want the leaf grain to run the other way there has to be a way to align the leaf and provide for seasonal expansion of the top. I can use loose tenons only glued on one side and the mortise a little loose to take care of that. I am still up in the air on the the other. I am thinking about making my own slides and using aprons on both sides of the middle with the slides running through them. The only concern I have with that is keeping the center from sagging. I might solve that by using steel bars for the slides.
    Charlie Jones

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