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Forum topic by DynaBlue posted 10-20-2009 06:11 AM 1612 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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131 posts in 3212 days

10-20-2009 06:11 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question cherry joining

I’m reaching out to you, Oh Elite Woodworkers of Lumberjocks, for advice. I’m building a 36” round top cherry coffee table (1” thick) and I have obtained several pieces of varying widths from 5” to 9” wide. I have a few questions about laminating up the top:

1. Wide boards vs narrow boards for visual appeal? I have a 6” jointer so I’m leaning towards ripping all the boards down to an appropriate width to reach 36”. Also I was thinking that might be more visually pleasing..however as my wife reminds me, I’m often wrong when I go off thinking on my own.

2. Will narrower boards make a more stable top than wider boards? I plan on BLO and wax for a finish if that makes a difference.

3. Alternate growth rings or not? I’ve read back and forth on this topic and I’m hoping that some of you with personal experience making tables will share. Assume that I’m going with narrow stock per #1 but would be interested to know either way.

4. I plan on fastening the top down to two perpendicular stretchers, aligning the long grain with one stretcher and fastening the cross grain to the other stretcher with elongated screw holes to allow expansion. Does this sound right? Span is going to be about 15” from the center to the mortise on the set of expansion holes per span or two (which is my current plan)? The table will live in San Diego so there is only an average of 10-ish% humidity change over a year which I hope translates to something like “not much expansion problem”

Hopefully nobody suffered a concussion from being put to sleep with the length of the post.


-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

8 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117114 posts in 3599 days

#1 posted 10-20-2009 06:19 AM

alternating growth rings is a good idea but not an absolute. larger boards have more movement than smaller ones it’s common to use different size boards for table tops. I would put both battens across the grain with the enlarged holes for movement. I’m not a fan of Blo but others will say they love it.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View knotscott's profile


8055 posts in 3397 days

#2 posted 10-20-2009 11:07 AM

Blue – The way it looks is always a matter of opinion. I tend to pay more attention to matching the flow of the grain than I do board width, though the grain is less pronounced on cherry.

I like oils on cherry…usually tung oil, but BLO should be nice too. Tables tend to encounter moisture and other abuses more than the finish on something like a clock or frame. While I prefer oils, a poly blend of some sort on the top surface will provide better protection. You can actually blend poly, BLO, and mineral spirits in an even mix for a nice wipe on poly concoction.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3844 days

#3 posted 10-20-2009 12:26 PM

The advice that Jim, Patrick and Scott have given is pretty much on target. I tend to prefer to use smaller boards since I have a 6” jointer as well and it is a more stable panel to use smaller boards. I have gone both ways with respect to alternating growth rings but have given up on this, I hope that Norm forgives me for this, and go with matching coloration and grain rather than worrying about the growth rings.

I agree with Scott about the finish. BLO will slightly darken the cherry and give it more of an aged appearance but neither it nor the wax will provide any surface protection. Nor will either provide any protection to chemical damage- alcohol, water etc. My usual routine with respect to cherry is to use BLO and follow it up with several coats of wipe-on polyurethane.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View NathanAllen's profile


376 posts in 3166 days

#4 posted 10-20-2009 06:08 PM

1. Width shouldn’t make a difference on your jointer, unless your stock is warped. Symmetry is great, but straight edges will almost make cherry look like a single surface (unless you reverse grain)

2. Narrower will experience less expansion. More boards will lead to a slower glue-up, but if you can glue up three 12” sections and run them through a benchtop planer you’ll be able to reduce it to only three lines you have to worry about.

BLO will look great. Wipe-on Poly is an okay choice for a topcoat. Another is waterlox or a General Finishes top coat. Still a third would be to build up coats of varnish.

3. The goal of alternating rings is to provide a more stable gluing surface. I’d worry some about a desktop or a dining table top, but the way out of that mess is to beadlock the edge. At 3’ with 1” thick you should be fine to match grain.

4. It sounds like you’re doing 4 post with apron stretchers? Something between 4-6 screws set with expansion (pocket hole, elongated through or tabletop fasteners) should be fine.

Sounds like a geat project. I have a cherry coffee table in my living room that my great grandfather made (beadlocked with a giant 2” slab of cork stabalizing the top inside the apron) and making family heirlooms is always fun.

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3212 days

#5 posted 10-21-2009 12:23 AM


Thanks for the quick and thoughtful replies. So..a clarification and more questions:

NathanAllen- Yes, four post legs with two sets of stretchers running in an ‘X’ shape between them. There will be a top set flush with the top of each leg and a bottom set up 2 1/2” from the foot. There will be a round top on each, one 36” and the bottom being 29” diameter.

Jim/Pat- Are you recommending multiple battens across the grain before securing it down to the stretchers? Do you still recommend that with the clarification above?

Growth rings- I’ll aim to alternate with priority given to visual appeal to the top.

Various- Assuming that coasters will mainly be used on the table with the occasional non-coaster user: What finish over the oil do you find gives the best medium between ‘still able to feel the wood’ and ‘wow..that’s plastic-y’? Thin poly coats? Thin Liberon coats? Raincoat?

Now if I can just get a few more pieces cut out without a bunch of sapwood..

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View a1Jim's profile


117114 posts in 3599 days

#6 posted 10-21-2009 03:23 AM

I read through a couple of times and I guess I’m missing the part about connecting the top to the apron.
I would use wooden buttons in a groove or fiqure 8s to connect the top to the aprons. Then you shouldn’t have to have the battens.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3212 days

#7 posted 10-22-2009 12:10 AM

Let me try to post some sketchup drawings to show more of what I have in mind..

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10117 posts in 4074 days

#8 posted 10-22-2009 01:11 AM

Handle the top the best way you want from all the good suggestions.

Looks like Figure 8 fasteners would be the easiest to connect the tops…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

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