My wife and I just got back from a two week trip to visit our son and his Sofie in Sweden. I had brought them a marquetry work gift and some materials to frame it with plus a selection of tools including some chisels, hand planes, back saw, etc. to do the work. I never did get a chance to make that frame and I had to bring the marquetry and materials back home with me.
I was showing my son the assembly bench I was making for my shop and he said that he would love to have a similar table in his studio where he does all of his drawing and photoshop work, and he wondered if I could build it during our visit.
He wanted a long table with a wide top for his computer screen and plenty of drawing space. Since the studio is on the main floor I suggested that I could do a similar design as the base for my bench, but with lighter materials and maybe frame and panels to make it look more like furniture. He said the lighter material was ok, but he didn’t need panels. I was a little worried if I could finish it in time, as a week had already passed, so I had pretty limited time, but I agreed to give it a go. So we bought the materials and I got started. Luckily I had brought a couple of long clamps, and those together with some of my son’s clamps I managed to clamp up the base as shown below. The clunky looking clamping pads were necessary because we didn’t have long enough clamps. I will probably have to remove them during our next visit. You might notice that the front top rail is narrower than the back rail. This is to give more leg room height for my son who is 6’4” tall.
Solving the big problem
Next up was the top. We bought what we call hobby platters. That is pine boards factory glued panels slightly under 3/4” thick and we cut the panel length to about 70”. We needed two to get the the desired width of about 30”. The problem was that we didn’t have have any long clamps for gluing them together and it we didn’t want to spend a huge amount of money buying any. I remembered a shop made clamp design from one of my old woodworking books that were made out of wood, so I bought a very cheap piece of fir to make the clamps with.
Here is a picture of the panels being clamped together with the shop made clamps. These are extremely quick and easy to make (about 15 minutes for 6 of them including the time screwing them together)
As you can see from the photo below, they are tightened with wedges. I very stupidly made cross grain wedges because they were easier to cut and I forgot that they would have to be used twice. Once to glue the panels together and once again to glue up the edge moldings which were use to give the top a thicker appearance more in proportion to the heavy base. I had to cut some new long grain wedges for the last round.
Unfortunately the panels were chamfered all the way around, which meant that I had joint all 6 edges of the panels before glue-up. This could have been a bit difficult as I only had my #4 Stanley/Bailey hand plane to do it with and no way to clamp the panels in a vertical position. The solution was to clamp one panel on top of the other with the top panel edge overhanging the bottom panel edge a couple of inches and then using the bench top like a big shooting board with the plane running on it’s side. This surprisingly produced perfect edges as good as the factory glue lines. The edge moldings that are glued to the end grain on the ends of the top are technically a no no due to the possibility of expansion and contraction, but I took the chance anyway as the house maintains a very steady humidity level summer and winter. If a problem develops I can fix it during our next visit. Here’s a photo of the bottom of the finished top after smoothing the edge moldings.
And finally a photo of the finished top and the finished table.
The shop made clamps worked better than any other clamps I have ever used. The advantage is that the clamps apply pressure where you want it and without using any cauls to keep everything flat. The wood used for the clamps can be reused. In fact, I had to lengthen the clamps for the second glue-up to accommodate the thickness of the edge moldings. This was done by unscrewing the end stops, cutting them shorter and then re-screwing them on (5 minutes work). Please note that the stops on the wedge end of the clamp is cut on a 6 degree angle as is one side of the wedges. This eliminates the need for two wedges.
More useful info on adjusting the length of the clamps
When the clamps have to be shortened you can just add a temporary board of the appropriate length between your end stop and the edge of the piece being glued up. This will extend your end stop and it might work even without screwing it into place.
Thanks for reading this and I hope you will try out the shop made clamps sometime.
-- Mike, American in Norway The four steps towards competency: 1. unconscious incompetence, 2. conscious incompetence, 3. conscious competence, 4. unconscious competence