Stupid question about breadboard ends

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Forum topic by LiveEdge posted 07-08-2016 04:39 PM 877 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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593 posts in 1763 days

07-08-2016 04:39 PM

I understand the concept and how one glues in the middle and allows for expansion at the ends, but if a table is expanding/contracting regularly and we know that wood does this more across the grain than along the grain, does the length of the breadboard piece rarely match the width of the table top proper?

7 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1789 posts in 3002 days

#1 posted 07-08-2016 04:42 PM

If the table is not completely isolated from changes in environmental humidity then the main panel will constantly change width, thereby you are correct that the length of the breadboard will rarely match the exact width of the main panel.

-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View bondogaposis's profile


4985 posts in 2494 days

#2 posted 07-08-2016 04:52 PM

does the length of the breadboard piece rarely match the width of the table top proper?

Yes, that is true. If you make it so that the breadboards and top are even then at least some of the time they will be even as environmental conditions match the conditions under which it was built. It is kind of like a broken clock being right twice a day. The main thing to consider is to use dry lumber, if you use construction grade lumber that is not completely dry then the initial shrinkage will be far more noticeable. If all components have been thoroughly dry to begin with then the movement will be minimal and non woodworkers will never notice such things, especially because the total movement will be split between the two sides.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Mark's profile


959 posts in 2117 days

#3 posted 07-08-2016 04:52 PM

+1 Herb. About a year+- after I had finish my dining table (bread board on each end) I noticed a bit of a step where the top and the bb meet, minuscule but still there. Do I trim it down and refinish…don’t think so.

-- Mark

View jdh122's profile


1038 posts in 2960 days

#4 posted 07-08-2016 05:04 PM

Twice a year the breadboards will be flush with the table, when the moisture conditions are the same as when you built it. The fluctuations (and so the size of the discrepancy) will be greater in some parts of the country than others, of course. And the type of finish will also have an influence.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View pintodeluxe's profile


5757 posts in 2956 days

#5 posted 07-08-2016 05:28 PM

I like to leave the breadboards long for just this reason. Cut a stopped mortise in the breadboard end for the cleanest look. You can’t see it in the picture, but the ends of the breadboard are chamfered.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View splintergroup's profile


2304 posts in 1365 days

#6 posted 07-08-2016 07:48 PM

This is the reasoning behind the spline in Greene & Greene furniture. The BB end is cut such that it is always going to be wider than the table top at its widest expansion. The spline hides the tongue/groove so you can never really tell the top has expanded.

View CaptainSkully's profile


1601 posts in 3701 days

#7 posted 07-09-2016 10:30 PM

I will almost always agree with Willie by default. I made my first table in TX with breadboard ends the same width as the table (on the day I made it). Over the next year, there was 3/16” difference ON EACH SIDE. Ugh… When I made a pseudo-Rodel table, the breadboard ends are 5/8” wider on each side = 1-1/4” longer. I also did the flat-topped pyramid thing on the ends of that.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

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