edge joining planks by hand to make a table top.

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Forum topic by artimuscf posted 07-01-2016 02:46 PM 1950 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 840 days

07-01-2016 02:46 PM

Hi folks. Im not a carpenter or woodworker by any means, but i do like taking on projects i can’t handle. Now im stuck and in desperate need of assistance. I decided to build a nice table, and want to edge join all the planks together.

All the boards i got from home depot are wavy and bowed. I thought i would have at least 1 with a straight edge. Nope. To further the issue, i had no source of truth to make a straight line. Eventually i figured a taught string would have to be straight so i used that to mark the wood. Transfering that line from the string to the wavy boards was tougher then i thought. I eventually got it, and cut the 12’ boards using a 6’ jig i made for my circular saw. Best i could do with what i have. The look straight as an arrow by eye.

When i line the boards up, i have some undesirable spacing between them. Maybe 1/8”, which i thought was damn good considering i did it by hand.

Now im stuck trying to figure out how to remove those gaps. Current approach is to try to identify where the boards are touching each other and sand away. This will take the rest of my life. Any suggestions?

I dont have a router, jointer, planer or router to whip out :)

18 replies so far

View GR8HUNTER's profile


4724 posts in 857 days

#1 posted 07-01-2016 02:55 PM

do you have a wood milling place near where you live ?

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

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Monte Pittman

29876 posts in 2483 days

#2 posted 07-01-2016 04:09 PM

Without the mentioned tools that you don’t have, sanding may be your only real option. Sanding is often your best friend anyway. Less drastic so that you don’t over do to compensate.

There is a misconception that if you buy higher quality pine at the store it will always be straight and stay that way. As someone who has hated lumber yards for years, pine is pine and lumber yards are in it for business. Pine will twist and lumber yards don’t care about straight or consistent thickness. You learn to compensate for both.

Welcome to Lumberjocks.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View bobasaurus's profile


3531 posts in 3329 days

#3 posted 07-01-2016 05:08 PM

I would recommend getting a jointer of some kind, even an old hand plane that you could sharpen up would work great (the longer the better). Or if you just want a straight edge, pick up a sheet of MDF (the edges come pretty flat and square typically), or buy a long level/straight edge, or buy a guide rail for your circular saw that clamps in place.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1065 days

#4 posted 07-01-2016 11:10 PM


A method to consider is what I call the double cut method. Adjoining planks that make up the top are placed side by side and ripped along the edge that will be glued, cutting a little off each board at the same time. With this method mating glue edges of a pair of adjoining boards are created in one straight rip cut of the circular saw centered on the seam of the adjoining boards. The resulting edges should be a near perfect fit.

Each pair of adjoining boards is laid side by side with the edges as close as possible without clamping. In order to keep the two boards together, the ends can be fastened together with a pair of cleats and screws (one cleat at each end). Fastening the boards temporarily together holds them in place when the cut is made. A straight edge is positioned and clamped in place to act as a guide for the circular. The straight edge guide is positioned so that the approximate center of the thickness of the saw blade is centered on the seam. The rip cut is then made. If the two boards continue to exhibit a gap, the process is repeated, since this indicates the seam prior to the rip cut was wider than the circular saw blade kerf. One board must be repositioned in contact with the other board and then the seam is cut again.

After the circular saw blade has removed material from both boards in one pass, the boards should come together almost perfectly. After the glue-up is complete, the holes left from screwing the cleats in place can be removed when cutting the top to length. Also, the best results are achieved when the face of the boards that will become the upper surface of the top are faced down when the rip cuts are made. In this face down position there should be little if any tear out along the glue seams on the upper surface. It is also critical to keep track of the mating seams and the orientation of the boards during glue up. Keeping the planks that will make up the top correctly oriented is, in my opinion, the most difficult part of this method.

View bbasiaga's profile


1240 posts in 2140 days

#5 posted 07-01-2016 11:53 PM

Just to clarify Jbrow’s advice…the show faces of the boards should be the inside of the sandwich when you put them together to cut them.

-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2835 days

#6 posted 07-02-2016 12:07 AM

Jbrow’s technique seems like an inspired solution! These boards will continue to move and shrink as they dry so you may still have issues. Big box SPF just doesn’t make for easy tabletops. Maybe some kiln dried poplar would be within budget? (and a lot more user friendly).

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View diverlloyd's profile


3107 posts in 2002 days

#7 posted 07-02-2016 12:15 AM

jbrows technique would work well and you could also us a router with a spiral bit if the gaps are big.

View firefighterontheside's profile


19060 posts in 2001 days

#8 posted 07-02-2016 12:24 AM

Those are some great ideas.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1065 days

#9 posted 07-02-2016 12:37 AM


Based on bbasiaga’s comment, my post is probably confusing or vague. The approach I described is different from that of bbasiaga, assuming I understood his comment correctly. In the approach I described the pair of boards laid edge to edge and the cut is made through both edges where they meet. bbasiaga’s method I think is stacking the two adjoining boards one atop the other with the inside faces in contact. A single cut through both stacked boards produces the glue edge.

bbasiaga seems to have a classic hand planing technique in mind, but where a circular saw is used rather than a hand plane. I would think that while both approaches could result in good glue seams, his method probably requires less set up.

To clarify my approach and what I think bbasiaga has in mind, I include a pair of diagrams showing each set up. I hope that if I have misunderstood bbasiaga’s method, he will post a clarification.

View artimuscf's profile


2 posts in 840 days

#10 posted 07-02-2016 05:21 AM

Thank you for the followups. The double cut makes a lot of sense. The wife pressured me to hurry up so we cut a corner. Knowing the hack job will be visible, we decided to glue best we could. Im depending on screws rather then glue now. For the gaps, ill be filling them in with saw dust and glue. I wish i had more time, because that double cut i think is perfect for my situation. Ill keep that in mind for the benches

View rwe2156's profile


3090 posts in 1625 days

#11 posted 07-02-2016 12:18 PM

Don’t understand “taking on projects I can’t handle”, but to do ww’ing, no way around it, you need some tools, dude.

Maybe you just needed a table real quick, but my Daddy always taught me any job worth doing is worth doing right. Sorry, but it looks like you cheezed out on the project.

My advise is get a straight edge like a long 6’ level or factor edge of a piece of plywood and a decent circular saw, take the screws out, resaw those boards, and reglue. It still won’t be jointed perfectly but better than the mess you’ve got now.

Now get to it, young man and be proud enough of it to post a pic when you’re done. :D

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View GR8HUNTER's profile


4724 posts in 857 days

#12 posted 07-02-2016 01:46 PM

Jbrow s technique seems like an inspired solution! These boards will continue to move and shrink as they dry so you may still have issues. Big box SPF just doesn t make for easy tabletops. Maybe some kiln dried poplar would be within budget? (and a lot more user friendly).

- gfadvm

this is the best solution I have heard …. have a nice bonfire ..with the pine ….toast some marshmallows LMAO

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

View waho6o9's profile


8421 posts in 2721 days

#13 posted 07-02-2016 01:51 PM

Kudos to your for increasing your skill set and welcome to LumberJocks!

View Lazyman's profile


2525 posts in 1532 days

#14 posted 07-02-2016 05:27 PM

Maybe I’m not understanding something but I don’t understand how stacking the pieces to cut them as bbisiaga says to will give you 2 matched glue edges. Any slight deviations from a perfectly straight line as you are cutting would cause a gap that is double the deviation. Just try doing this with 2 pieces of paper and you’ll see what I mean. Jbrows technique is plausible (never tried it myself) but the gap between the 2 boards must be less than the width of the saw blade which on most modern circular saw blades is pretty narrow so it might take 2 passes? You still need a relatively straight reference edge to run the saw against to get a nice joint. Also, you said that the boards are wavy. If by that you mean they aren’t flat, this technique may not work.

I think that you are missing an opportunity to buy some new tools. Google techniques for jointing boards with a router for example. You could rig a simple router table and fence to at least get the edges planed. You might also look for a bench top jointer on Craig’s list. You can usually find them for under $200 and if properly tuned with sharp blades they actually work fairly well.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View bbasiaga's profile


1240 posts in 2140 days

#15 posted 07-02-2016 08:11 PM

Jbrow, I misunderstood you, but you got my thinking right on. Thanks!

Lazyman…by putting the two faces that show together, the error in the cut is negated when they are folded open. The angle of the cut is complementary, so you’d get a decent glue line. As Jbrown stated, it is an old hand plane technique that can work with a saw in this situation as well – at least I believe it would. You would still have to establish a straight edge guide for your saw. It will not compensate for a wavy cut along the length of the board.

Jbrow’s technique looks like it would be better for a situation where you can’t keep the cut straight.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

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