Which method will work the best?

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Blog entry by nobuckle posted 01-16-2011 01:34 AM 1249 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Last summer a friend of mine gave me a small red oak drop leaf table that he had stored in his shed. For him it was a “when I get around to it” project. Well, he never got around to it. When he gave it to me it was in pretty rough shape. The top was starting to separate due to the effects of the environment it was in. The table was partially disassembled so when I got it home I finished the process by removing all the hardware and parts that hold the top to the legs. The legs seemed to be in pretty good shape so all I’ll have to to them is sand off the existing finish and then apply the finish of my choice.

To correct the separation in the top I gently pulled on both side of the top which allowed the failing glue joint to come apart completely. Once separarted I ran each half through the table to clean up the joint that failed. After having re-glued the two halves I scraped off the glue and then rough sanded with 80 grit. I also sanded the leaves of the table with 80 grit.

The issue I’m facing right now is that the main table and both leaves need to be flattened. The following pictures will help explain.

The first picture shows the main portion of the table. As you can see there are sections that are not flat. The same goes for the leaves, which are shown in the other two pictures. Both of the table leaves are somewhat cupped. The same friend that gave me the table has a wide drum sander and I thought about running each section through until they were flat. The other idea was to plane them flat but I do not know which plane I should use or how to even use it if I had one. I have a Stanley block plane and a Miller Falls #8. I would actually like to learn how to use a plane in order to make something flat but like I said I wouldn’t know what kind of plane to use. Yet another idea is to use a card scraper, although I think this would be the most time consuming. In your opinion which of these methods. or any other methos for that matter, will yield the best results?

If you are taking the time to read this and you have faced a situation like this I would greatly appreciate your insight. Thank you for your time.

-- Doug - Make an effort to live by the slogan "We try harder"

6 comments so far

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 3120 days

#1 posted 01-16-2011 01:52 AM

Any chance you could steam them back into shape?

Bags of hot sand? It’s what they use on arched instrument tops to move them back into shape.

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3338 days

#2 posted 01-16-2011 01:55 AM

Personally, to this point I think you have done a great job. Leave it alone and put a good finish on it. It has great character right now, like a well aged antique.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 4027 days

#3 posted 01-16-2011 02:57 AM

The #8 plane is a tool that can do the job, but this is a project that may be destroyed in your process to learn how to use it. When you say you don’t know how to use it, that tells me you also don’t know how to sharpen the iron, set the depth of cut and mouth opening, and read the grain. A poorly sharpened and mal-set plane can really destroy a surface quickly, as can failure to read the grain correctly.

The wide drum sander will do the job best. However, from the looks of the pictures, you may end up losing about 1/4” thickness if you start with what you have now.

If you have enough width left to work with, I would consider cutting each piece again in the center of the bow. Then run the new cut edges of each section back through the TS to true up the edge so the section will glue much closer to flat. Then use the drum sander to finish the job. Use a thin kerf blade to minimize material loss and do not over-tighten the clamps during glue up, or you may put another bow in it.

Were both top and bottom of the table finished? If not, I would definitely seal both surfaces after you get them flat.

I am a strong proponent for hand planes, but also a proponent of practice and getting some pointers on use first. Many people think that because they are hand tools, they are simple to use. (“So simple a caveman could do it”: one of the reasons hand tool users are called Neanderthals). The reality is that power tools are the tools of choice for many because they do not have the time or maybe the patience to learn how to use them. After you finish this project it would be a good time to pull out that #8 jointer and start learning how to use it. Might want to pick up a #5 Jack plane also.

Good luck with the restoration.


-- Go

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3338 days

#4 posted 01-16-2011 03:08 AM

As I stated, leave it alone. It looks great as it is.
Gofor is right, anyway you do it will cost you at least !/4”.
It will look terrible.

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3963 days

#5 posted 01-16-2011 03:27 AM

I think that if this is a table that really doesn’t matter to you, give is a try with the plane, but if this is a treasured heirloom (which by reading your post it isn’t) leave it alone and sand it smooth.

Woodworking is about learning new things and experience is the best teacher. If you screw it up you learned what not to do in the future.

I would suggest that before going to this table top with your plane, practice on a scrap piece and learn what the correct setting is for the plane.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View stefang's profile


16219 posts in 3574 days

#6 posted 01-16-2011 04:56 PM

There are two proven ways I know about to take the warp out of your table top. They are as follows:

Method 1
Demount the top from the base. Disassemble the individual glued boards, and replane the edges (glue joints) to 90 degrees, then reglue in the usual way.

Method 2 Demount the top from the base and clamp it flat on a flat work surface. Saw or Rout grooves 2/3 the thickness of the table top deep and spaced 3/32” between the grooves. Glue long wood strips into the grooves that are slightly proud of the surface. Plane the strips to the surface after the glue is dry.

You only have to do this on the warped portions of the top with method 2. Good luck in your quest!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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