How to make solid wood table top

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Forum topic by Shibbz posted 06-13-2010 07:38 AM 63365 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 3079 days

06-13-2010 07:38 AM

Hi guys,

I bought a new home this year and would like to begin replacing my crappy furniture with some DIY items.

I am not an expert, more of a journeyman. I’ve built quite a few complicated speaker boxes, but my experience is almost exclusively with ply.

I want to build a computer desk – however I’d like to make the top from a solid wood. I’ve been searching the internet for the last few hours on a guide describing the techniques required to turn planks of solid wood into a table top and have come up empty handed.

I currently do not own a planer/jointer but am ready/willing to purchase obviously.

Can anyone give me the idiots guide to making a table top from solid?


12 replies so far

View Bothus's profile


441 posts in 3350 days

#1 posted 06-13-2010 08:10 AM

Hi Shibbz,

I am sure there are lots of folks here who can tell you better than I can but I’ll answer anyway.

My first thought was to suggest you take a class at a local community college.

My second thought was to tell you to make sure the crowns of the planks alternate to avoid warping.

My third thought was to google it.

Hope that helps,


-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

View miserybob's profile


88 posts in 3218 days

#2 posted 06-13-2010 08:28 AM

More and smarter people than me will arrive tomorrow morning to answer your question, but I’ll take a crack at it until they show up!

It isn’t too difficult – essentially you take boards, make them the same thickness, give them the cleanest edge possible, clamp the holy living hell out of them, et voila!

The difficulties you’ll face are the following -

- Even for a computer desk, you’ll quickly get a top that’s too wide for anything but a rather expensive planer. You won’t be able to just glue the thing up and run it through the planer to get everything all level and glue-free all at once. You can glue it up in sections that are narrow enough to fit through your planer, but you’ll still be stuck with a final glue-up that you’ll have to deal with by hand – either by sanding (not a great solution) or with handplanes (much better!).

- You really, really have to use more clamps than you think you need. Not only clamps to hold it together, but clamps and cauls to keep it flat while the glue sets.

- How are you going to deal with the edge grain? It may not be very attractive. Breadboard ends hide the end grain, help keep the top from cupping and hide seasonal movement. More for a dining room table than a computer desk, probably.

- How are you going to match the grain across the top? Since you’re glueing up multiple boards, the grain pattern won’t match – you’ll need to pay particular attention to the color and grain of the boards you select.

- Some folks use biscuits, some don’t. They can help with alignment, but it’s debatable that they add any strength to what is already a very good glueing surface.

No actual answers there, just more questions for you to ponder!

View uffitze's profile


199 posts in 3129 days

#3 posted 06-13-2010 05:03 PM

Well, Shibbz, you’ve got a bit of learning to do … not only the glue up for the top, but the joinery necessary for the base.

The first step in most woodworking projects is to get you lumber perfectly rectangular (or as close as possible). You can do that with a number of tools, the most common being the jointer and planer.

To answer your specific question … joint, plane to thickness, spread the glue on and clamp, clean it up, and you’re about done (or at least ready for the joinery). With practice, it’s possible to get awful close to a perfectly aligned glue up … the real trick is in stock preparation.

Breadboard ends do have an aesthetic element, but their real purpose is to keep the top flat with time. Another technique to keep a top flat is to use a batten.

I hear New Yankee Workshop episodes are online … you might want to watch a few of them. I would be surprised if Norm hasn’t done one or two tables, but even without the exact project match, you’ll learn some good stuff. At the very least, it will give you an idea as to what you need to learn.

View childress's profile


841 posts in 3716 days

#4 posted 06-13-2010 05:58 PM

As a beginner, I’m pretty sure you could make something with the kreg system. It might not be traditional woodworking, but it would do the job. Browse their site and I think they even have videos on youtube that could definitely get you going in the right direction.

-- Childress Woodworks

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3225 days

#5 posted 06-13-2010 11:16 PM


Go to and search for articles on table building. Lots of good articles, plans, a wealth of information. They offer a 2 week free trial of their on-line membership which gives access to all their content. Good authors to look for are Garrett Hack, Christian Becksvoort, Charles Durfee, Mario Rodriguez, Tage Fridge, and the list goes on. Also try and look under projects. Lost of FREE plans there as well as design criteria at both sites. Read, read, and read some more before you put your hands on expensive wood. It’s not too hard, but a little knowledge goes a long way. Have fun.


PS What kind of speaker boxes have you built? Do you use Thiel-Small parameters to design?

-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View HallTree's profile


5664 posts in 3941 days

#6 posted 06-14-2010 03:14 AM

I would stay with plywood for the top. Use a good grade 3/4” plywood (walnut, or ?) with a nice 3/4” X 2” trim on all the edges. Attached the trim with the kreg system or with biscuits.

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View Shibbz's profile


2 posts in 3079 days

#7 posted 06-14-2010 03:17 AM

Thanks a lot for the suggestions guys, been watching quite a few video’s. I think it looks pretty reasonable. I’m probably going to grab some smaller cheaper boards and do some joining prior to going out and buying the good stuff. We’re lucky here in Cincinnati – there’s quite a few nice lumber yards that carry good stuff.

Watching the video’s does help—one more question. Most of the jointers I see are fairly narrow – like around 6”. How would you work with 8-10” stock with this? Or do you simply use 6” stock?

Regarding cabs – yup, start with a driver, plug in the specs and use one of the various tools available to get the box design. I’ve done quite a few of the Bill Fitzmaurice designs too. They are pretty cool.

View uffitze's profile


199 posts in 3129 days

#8 posted 06-14-2010 07:18 AM

You can use a 6” jointer on slightly wider than 6” stock if you use a hand plane in conjunction with the jointer. You might have to take the blade guard off in order to do it, but what you do is to take a pass on the jointer, then clean up the 1-2” that weren’t covered by the knives with a hand plane. Continue until you have a flat face on the board.

But, really that’s a pain in the arse, so you’ll likely look for stock that “fits” your tooling. If you’ve got a little extra cash and the space, get a 8” jointer from Grizzly. It is a better tool than the 6” model that you see in the big box stores, and you’ll have the option of using wider stock.

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3225 days

#9 posted 06-14-2010 07:37 AM

Or you can do what I’m doing now with 8” 8/4 red oak and a 6” jointer. Set the jointer fence to 5”, make a pass, turn the piece edge for edge so you’re jointing the same face in the OPPOSITE direction, until you have a flat face, then run the other face through the planer, then flip and plane the jointed side and you’re done. Other than having to remove the blade guard and a really bad run-on sentence, it works really well. Any tearout from jointing in 2 directions can be cleaned up on the planer. I’ve done about 100 bd/ft today and about that much to do tomorrow. So far, all is well. One just has to be careful, but that’s always true around power tools. About the widest you can do on a 6” jointer is 10”.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View uffitze's profile


199 posts in 3129 days

#10 posted 06-14-2010 04:20 PM

Steve … don’t you have a problem with wind in the board when doing it that way?

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3225 days

#11 posted 06-15-2010 12:17 AM

I haven’t had any problem with wind (twist?). First, I don’t joint really long boards. I cut to rough length before jointing. The wind is corner to corner and gets averaged out. One corner gets jointed, and the next pass gets the other. After several light passes it’s all flatened down. Remember, you don’t need to get a board PERFECTLY flat on the jointer. Just flat enough that it can’t be mashed down by the preassure rollers on the planer.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3216 days

#12 posted 06-15-2010 02:19 AM

Here are some download able videos or watch online….

squaring Lumber+
Perfect panels

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