Table Top (getting started)

Today my Dad came over and we spent a few hours working Mom’s table. We decided to begin the process of assembling the top.  The top is going to be made out of quarter sawn fir with a walnut frame.  The outside planks are walnut, as well as the breadboard ends.  The fir planks are made from resawn and bookmatched 4×4 fence posts carefully chosen from the local Box Store.  They’ve been sitting and drying in my shop all summer.

I resawed the 4×4’s about a month ago.  I’ve been letting the new sawn surfaces equalize to see how the wood moves before finishing the milling process.  Today we finished the milling of the top face and edges.  Once we got it all flat and square it was time for a test fit and to arrange the boards into a pleasing layout.   Here is what we came up with:

01 test allignment of top

There are two boards that have a slightly different color and grain pattern than the rest.  It is a little pinker, and the grain is just a bit less “tight”. We debated splitting them apart and putting them on the edge next to the walnut.  In the end we settled on placing them bookmatched (like the rest) as the center pair. Below is a top down view.  The photo didn’t turn out as I was hoping, though.

02 top down view of top

Once we got them all arrange, it was time to draw a reference triangle and some reference marks for the biscuits.  The triangle ensures that when it comes time to reassemble you can’t get the boards mixed up.  Dad handled the biscuit cutter while I kept the assembly line moving.

03 Dad cutting buscuit slots

Time to glue it up.  This is where things didn’t go quite as planned.  The plan was to glue this up in 3-plank sections.  Then each section could be fed through the planer to get a nearly finished surface.  Finally each section would be glued together.  This way there is less opportunity for movement during the glue-up, and there are only 4 glue joints that have to be cleaned up by hand on the finished top.  A 42” wide x 96” long top is a lot to manhandle and work across for glue up.  In addition, the fir is soft and has a tendency to grouge when trying to hand-plane, so the less hand-work on a wood like fir…the better.  So, here is the first section all glued and clamped.

04 the first quarter

The problem….I’m an idiot, and didn’t buy enough glue!  I bought one bottle, thinking that I would have quite a bit left over.  Normally, I would probably have bought a gallon.  But, I don’t have any other wood working projects liked up (being busy with the race-car).  So, I didn’t want a gallon of titebond III to go to waste.  Bad move….

So, we had this grand plan for the glue up procedure:

  1. We were going to clamp the whole thing into one set of clamps.
  2. Since we only wanted to glue sections of 3, we marked the surfaces to NOT get any glue.  (one side of the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th boards).
  3. Finally we turned all the boards on edge, and ran a bead of glue down each edge.
  4. Once we had a bead on each board, I used a roller to spread the glue out.
  5. then we were going to flip the boards and repeat.
  6. Finally, insert the biscuits.
  7. Drop them into place, and clamp it all together.

Step 5 is where things went south.  I had 3/4th of a bottle of glue when we started.  I thought that would be PLENTY.  Turns out…I was wrong. It was just barely enough to put glue on the first set of edges.  Dang it, dang it, dang it!  So, to salvage something, we scraped glue off the other boards, and put it onto the back edge of the center piece in the first set of three…and glued that plank together.

Finally, after the glue up was done…it was time to cleanup the other boards.  We used a putty knife and a small carving chisel to scrape all the glue off the unglued boards.  I’ll run these back through the jointer for a 1/64” pass to just expose some fresh wood.  We both got quite a bit of glue on our hands all from cleaning the glue OFF the wood.

06 scraping off the unused glue05 ran out of glue

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll try again.

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