Building a face frame table for the shop

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Forum topic by SweetTea posted 09-22-2016 11:33 AM 1435 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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371 posts in 863 days

09-22-2016 11:33 AM

So I just recently started having issues with my work bench that I use to build face frames on. The top is no longer level and instead of building a new top I want to build a face frame table. I must admit that i don’t know much about these angled vertical tables so I am hoping that I can get some tips from you guys.

Would I start with a very flat sheet of MDF then with it on a flat surface I could add some 1” x 2” x 3/4” hardwood around the edges making sure that the corners are perfectly square? This would be my fence or whatever you call it. Then just build a simple frame out of construction lumber and do so in a way that the sheet of 3/4” MDF leans back at an angle?

Does that sound reasonable? Are there any particular methods of doing this that I should know about?

2 replies so far

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1124 days

#1 posted 09-25-2016 01:53 AM


It would be nice if I had the room in my shop for a face frame assembly table. If equipped with the right features it could make gluing up square face frames and frame and panels much easier and convenient.

From what I can gather from your plan, it seems that you would end up with a flat surface with a right angle corner and with the canted top. The canted (or sloped top) would save some floor space and provide fairly easy access to the parts. It sounds to me like you are on the right track other than plans to use construction lumber. Construction lumber is too unpredictable for me to use in an application such as this. I would opt for hardwood throughout. Poplar is relatively inexpensive and behaves well over time. I offer some additional comments regarding areas you did not specifically address.

You mentioned no provisions for clamping. I would think that to get the most out of a face frame table, the ability to clamp a fame of whatever size or configuration flat to the table and press the joints together while glue sets would greatly enhance the utility of the table. I would fear that pipe clamps or F or K body clamps pressing the joints together could lift the frame off the flat surface and spoil the glue up. Integrated clamping could reduce this problem and be incorporated with a matrix of holes (like the Festool worktable design) or a series of T-tracks running 90 degrees to each other that accept vertical and horizontal clamps. Push type horizontal and vertical toggle clamps could provide the clamping force. The matrix of holes or T-tracks would allow the clamps to be positioned where needed, whether a simple 4-piece face frame or a more complex frame for multi- drawer and door openings.

Two or more laminated sheets of MDF or Melamine particle board could be required to keep the table surface from sagging over time. A torsion box would probably offer greater stability. Either way, I would probably opt for a webbed frame on which the table surface rests and which would mount to the floor stand.

Adding a bottom lip and a lip up one vertical edge at perfect right angles one to the other would provide initial registration of the frame. A pair of ¾” thick hardwood strips screwed and glued to the table edge with an above the table surface reveal of no greater than ¾” be would probably sufficient. Holding the ends of the vertical and horizontal hardwood away from the corner would provide a relieve space which could be handy if a frame has mitred corners. Additionally a narrow relief cut running the length of the bottom strip right at and extending above the table surface would offer a place for saw dust to go. This horizontal relief cut could reduce the time otherwise required to keep the assembly table ready for duty.

Whatever design you settle on, I would definitely apply several coats of a film finish to all sides and edges of the table and maybe even a couple of coats of paste wax to the table surface and to the hardwood strips that form the bottom and vertical lips. These precautions could prevent a glued up frame from sticking to the face frame table and reduce the chances the table could go out-of-flat over time.

View Woodknack's profile


12431 posts in 2584 days

#2 posted 09-25-2016 04:08 AM

If I were going to build a badass frame table I would strongly consider a torsion box since they are rigid and stay flat without excessive framing. Then I would drill it full of holes and make a cam clamp system. Pretty much like this guy did for his CNC machine.

-- Rick M,

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