Help! Ghosts of Christmas past haunting me with Ana White triple pedestal farmhouse design!

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Forum topic by DeanWho posted 06-24-2015 04:56 PM 2034 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1183 days

06-24-2015 04:56 PM

Topic tags/keywords: triple pedestal farmhouse table ana white expansion expand wood movement contraction splitting

Hi All,

I’ve been lurking here for a bit, then hit a heck of a roadblock last week on a project…

Let me preface this with full disclosure: I’ve committed nearly every embarrassing woodworking sin imaginable in this situation, so feel free to let me have it, but also know I’m trying to make this right.

I picked up woodworking around 2 years ago after stumbling across this design: I built one, it turned out OK, so I did what seemed (il)logical at the time: I posted an add on Craigslist selling these tables. Thankfully, I only fulfilled one order. I bought the lumber (SPF) from Home Depot, immediately started the build and in the winter of ‘13, delivered a 7ft version of this table to an excited couple.

You can easily predict the email I got 3 months later – “our table is cracking and splitting everywhere.” I promised to take care of the situation, but after an exceedingly tumultuous year, aided (luckily) by a couple with Maharishi caliber patience, I was not able to get to the replacement until 1 week ago.

OK, now that we have the history out of the way, a couple quick points:

  • I owned a Kreg jig, 12” miter saw, scroll saw, corded drill and finish sander when I built this originally – that’s it.
  • I’ve since added a PC biscuit joiner, 13.5 bench top planer, Stanley #4 bench plane, 10” table saw, dado blade set, a cordless drill finally (added that for humor), compressor, finish & brad nailer, and a bunch of the fun must have shop accessories.

I’ve completed the 2 tabletop panels (made of 1×6’s) using biscuits and now I’m ready to attach them to the 2×4 “frame”. Now I’m still very much a novice with only 5 projects under my belt, but I did finally learn you can’t build something like this without joinery accounting for wood movement with grain in opposite directions.

The make matters worse the first time around, I “kregged” everywhere AND I screwed the legs into the table top, in addition to building with wet lumber that hadn’t had a chance to acclimatize. For the rebuild, I have boards that have been sitting since that same winter and I’m guesstimating an MC of no more than 4-7%, so my main concern is that eventual expansion, not so much the contraction.

So long story already long – what is the best case scenario for attaching the panels to the frame? This was my initial idea:

I’m also considering a half-rabbet in the frame to drop the panels into, then securing with a brace on the underside for stability (brace joinery allowing for movement).

Thanks in advance for any wisdom and go easy on the lashes, even though I deserve it :)


6 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


4680 posts in 2314 days

#1 posted 06-24-2015 05:41 PM

Ana White does not understand wood movement, her designs are terrible that way. Forget the frame, that is the problem, it is known among wood workers as the “panel of doom”. Almost every beginning wood worker thinks a frame around a panel is a good idea until about sixth months after it is constructed. If you must, construct a proper breadboard end that allows for wood movement. The other point of concern is how the top is attached to the base. Once again consideration for wood movement is crucial. You can use bolts or screws in slots or buttons or z clips, there are lots of good ways to do it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Chris208's profile


239 posts in 2233 days

#2 posted 06-24-2015 05:46 PM

Ana White is the problem. I’ve seen this identical post about a hundred times.


View DeanWho's profile


3 posts in 1183 days

#3 posted 06-24-2015 06:00 PM

Thanks for the quick responses! I’m attaching the legs with the afforementioned slots/screws, so that’ll be one build error corrected. The most difficult part of fixing this flawed design is the board running across the center; I can’t modify that without changing the aesthetic of the table, otherwise proper breadboards would be an easy fix.

I had another epiphany this morning: I know this is sacrilege, but what about utilizing hardwood ply for the panels? That would solve most of the problems with the main drawback being it’s no longer a “solid wood” table. I don’t see pine really being an heirloom piece, so is that really a drawback? I don’t think so.

View jdh122's profile


995 posts in 2780 days

#4 posted 06-24-2015 06:33 PM

This is an impossible table, can’t possibly work. Crazy that anyone would encourage people to build this way. You might have done a bit better with drier wood, but it still would have eventually split and cracked like crazy.
To build a new top you essentially have three choices:
1. Make a plain top with no breadboards, all solid wood planks joined together.
2. A plain top with breadboards.
3. Make the panels out of plywood.

My advice would be to explain to the client why the board along the middle was a bad idea (ie impossible, given the laws of physics) from the start and see if they’re OK with a table without it. You’re right that a bit of plywood is not the end of the world, but they may prefer solid wood over the piece in the middle of the table.

Seriously, though. I don’t get it – the table that Ana White made for that picture must have split into a million pieces too. But she still leaves it on her website (along with other photos taken by proud woodworkers 2 days after they finished the table rather than 6 months later when it’s cracking like mad)??

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View jerryminer's profile


916 posts in 1404 days

#5 posted 06-24-2015 06:37 PM

Ana White does not understand wood movement, her designs are terrible that way.- bondogaposis

+1 on that!!

I see two possible approaches here:

1. Plywood panels as you suggest.

2. Use something like Ana White’s Plan B for the top: make the top out of individual boards, NOT GLUED together (T&G would be best, but a full-length spline would be ok too) and attached to cleats from underneath, so the shrinkage/expansion can happen in individual boards, creating small gaps between boards, but not big cracks in the top. (If your wood is bone dry, then leave small spaces—-1/32” or so between boards)

Ana White’s stuff tends to be structurally weak, heavily reliant on pocket screws and such. This particular design doesn’t provide much racking resistance in the pedestal base. Would be better with some shoulders on the rail-to-pedestal connection.

Next time, if you’re going to sell this stuff, sell “as is”

-- Jerry, making sawdust professionally since 1976

View DeanWho's profile


3 posts in 1183 days

#6 posted 06-24-2015 08:25 PM

Thank you, gentlemen! I’m consulting with them now on the options above, focusing on steering them in the plywood solution.

There won’t be a next time – I’m embarrassed to have my name attached to this situation. Lesson learned!

On a side note, I’m hesitant to say anything derogatory about Ana White/Shanty-2-Chic designs because I wouldn’t have discovered such a reward and PRACTICAL hobby had it not been for them; I’m sure there are thousands of others with that same experience. That being said, some of their “how to’s” are borderline negligent because it would only take a few tweaks to not suck so bad. My favorite was a recommendation by Shanty to NOT use clamps – use duct tape :)

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