Are these buttons and are the pedestal tops cleats?

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Forum topic by shwoodnt posted 06-02-2016 04:31 PM 872 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 894 days

06-02-2016 04:31 PM

Some Danish modern style tables and Sam Maloof tops don’t have visible aprons or breadboard ends. I’m wondering how they keep the tops from warping.

On this Sam Maloof piece,

Are those buttons sliding in slots on the top arms extending out from the pedestal?

Are those arms also cleats?

This page describes what I mean by buttons and cleats:

Or is the table plywood with veneer?

2. What do you think is keeping this Hans Wegner top, especially the drop leafs, from warping? No cleats or buttons visible. Plywood with veneer?

4 replies so far

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1091 days

#1 posted 06-08-2016 12:59 AM


It looks to me like the Sam Maloof table is made from a segmented and curved-cut legs that also extend as integral support both parallel and perpendicular to the wood grain of the top. Slots milled in the pedestal accept buttons that are used to secure the top to the pedestal. I am not sure of the architectural nomenclature, but to my mind these “arms” would not be cleats. It looks like this table top is solid wood.

Hans Wegner top appears to be plywood with edge banding, but it is difficult to say for sure.

Most problems encountered with a misbehaving solid wood table tops can be traced back to wood that was not properly acclimated before milling the rough stock, failure to provide adequate air flow to the top mostly when being built, improper sanding and finishing, improper fastening that ignores wood movement, or abuse, such as placing the table in unconditioned storage space.

Why do you ask?

View shwoodnt's profile


24 posts in 894 days

#2 posted 06-08-2016 03:02 AM

Thank you Jbrow.

The questions were because a solid wood table, without apron, might work well in my kitchen renovation. The table would be generally shaped like a right triangle with the corners at the ends of the hypotenuse curved outward enough to make the corners functional. The plan is for bench seating along the two sides that are not the hypotenuse. An apron near the edge would reduce space for sliding along the benches. The type of support that Sam Maloof used lacks material where knees would pass while entering and exiting the bench seating. If there were vertical legs in the corners, they would be in the way. A pedestal like Sam Maloof used, with the feet and “arms” extending from the pedestal toward each of the three corners, might work well. With the two sides of the table that are not the hypotenuse being 80” and 60” respectively, the feet and arms may need additional feet and arms extending out from them.

I haven’t built one before, so any or all of the above may be incorrect, but that is as far as my thinking about this has taken me at this point.

The clip system Sam Maloof used has only two “arms” at the center of the table extending to the width of the table. At the long ends of the table the clips are near the center of the table. With no clips to fight warping across the width of the table at its ends, he must have done a very good job of avoiding the problems you listed in your third paragraph.

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1366 posts in 1091 days

#3 posted 06-08-2016 02:38 PM


It seems that many tables feature aprons; I suppose these are easier to design and build. Like you, I dislike aprons since they can get in the way when seated. I have built several apron-less side tables and an apron-less dining table. Since you are kicking around design ideas, I include a description of the dining table since it is most like your project. It features a different table top attaching system from that of the slot and button method. Maybe this will spark some ideas.

The solid wood top (about 80” x 40+” elliptically shaped) is three layers of ¾” solid wood. Each layer is recessed from the edges of the layer above. The layers were face glued together keeping the grain on all three layers running parallel. Measuring from one end, I installed threaded inserts on the underside of the table for attaching the base at 1/3 and 2/3 from the one end. The threaded inserts were installed in a line running perpendicular to the grain and received ¼” bolts for attaching the top to the pedestal. I elected threaded inserts and bolts so the top can the re-attached to pedestal many times; since the table is too large to move from one room to another. Otherwise I would have used screws.

The pedestal has two pier-like structures attached together with top and bottom stretchers. At the top of each pier structure is an arm on which the top sets. The arms run perpendicular to the grain of the top. The arms are slotted and the bolts pass through the slots and into the threaded inserts in the top.

Some good things to do when making a stay-flat solid wood top are first let the rough lumber rest in the work shop a couple of weeks before beginning the milling process. The lumber should be stickered so air can freely move around all boards. Starting will kiln dried lumber is good. Lumber that has been air-dried for one year per 1” thickness is ok, but it too must acclimate to the shop.

After the lumber is milled flat with parallel faces and square edges, it too should be stickered until glued into a table top slab. Once the lumber is glued-up to to form the top, the top is best stored so that air can circulate freely across both the faces.

Both sides of the top should get exactly the same treatment. If the upper surface of the top is sanded to a final grit of 180, then the bottom surface, edges and ends of the top should likewise be sanded to 180 grit. I also like to sand the end grain to the next higher grit from the rest of the piece.

Similarly when the finish is applied to the top, the same finish is best applied to both surfaces. For example, if 5 coats of polyurethane are applied to the top surface, then 5 coats should be applied to the lower surface and the edges and end-grain. When I apply finish to the end- gran, I usually add an additional coat or two, until the end grain no longer wicks away the wet finish.

Whatever attachment system selected, wood movement of the top should be accommodated. Even with many coats of finish, the wood can still absorb and release moisture and cause the top to expand and contract mostly in the direction across the width of the top (perpendicular to the grain). A top that is free to expand and contract is less likely to cup when the top expands and cracking when it contracts. Buttons attached to the top and riding in slots that run perpendicular to the grain of the top or screws into the top where the screws can slide in slots both allow movement to occur unimpeded.

In the end, wood is wood and will move; and when it moves the force is more powerful than any system designed to restrain that movement. Plywood is a safer alternative. However, I personally do not like the look of plywood when compared to a solid top. In my case, I have made solid wood tops over the years that have all stayed flat by following the prescriptions laid out above.

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24 posts in 894 days

#4 posted 06-08-2016 10:54 PM

Thank you, JBrow, for these new ideas.

The table you’ve described seems like the one shown in your projects gallery. Congratulations on building a very a nice table.

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