Best practices for a large tabletop

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by DrPuk2U posted 01-07-2017 08:03 PM 571 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DrPuk2U's profile


59 posts in 2440 days

01-07-2017 08:03 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tabletop walnut biscuit-joiner

I am a software engineer by profession and work from home. At present my workdesk consists of a GeekDesk frame which can be raised and lowered at will (which I do rarely). The top is just three pieces from an old Ikea kitchen table (veneered MDF). Crappy. Been meaning to make a new nice top for quite a while. Looks might I might finally get the time and energy.

Here’s the current top:

I have an antique walnut desk and a maybe antique walnut table in my office, so would like to match them. So I am thinking of making a top out of walnut planks.

Couple of interesting aspects:

1. The top has to be large. Currently it is 6 feet long and 34” wide. It can’t be smaller than that. I know that’s pretty big. Plus, I live in the upper midwest so there is a lot of temperature and humidity changes

2. The legs are steel so fastening the top to the legs could be interesting. Here’s a look from underneath. As you can see with the present top is just through bolted it but obviously don’t want to do that again.

So the questions are

Best strategy for the top itself?
- Just edge glue the planks, possibly using biscuit joins?
- Add cross-beams (which might help with the mounting of the legs?
- One idea I had was to double the edge (like they do bull-nosing granite counters and run a cross piece underneath for each leg mount.
- Breadboard ends? Good idea, bad idea?
Fastening the legs
- Any suggestions other than be careful?

I’ll try to sketch something up shortly but thought I would throw my ideas out there.

TIA, Ric

-- Ric, Northern Illinois, "Design thrice, measure twice, cut once... slap forehead, start over"

4 replies so far

View DrPuk2U's profile


59 posts in 2440 days

#1 posted 01-07-2017 08:20 PM

Addendum. I should have added that the GeekDesk is strong, so the weight of the top isn’t critical. I think max weight is 200 lbs or more. Also, since the legs are adjustable, the exact thickness of the top doesn’t matter either since I can and will adjust it once done.

-- Ric, Northern Illinois, "Design thrice, measure twice, cut once... slap forehead, start over"

View rwe2156's profile


3094 posts in 1629 days

#2 posted 01-07-2017 08:39 PM

Personally, if you just want a new top, I wouldn’t make this a ww’ing project. Just not worth it. However if you already have the wood, then yes, you would glue up the planks & breadboard if over 24” wide. A simple support brace mounted to the existing frame will work. You will need to take wood movement into account when attaching.

A solid core door can make a great desk/work top for very little money. That could potentially give you a 36” X 80” desktop for probably less than $50. You can find them at salvage yards or a Habitat for Humanity ReStore if there’s one near you. Most are painted so if you want wood grain you’ll have to do some stripping and prepping, but since the door is plat it would be easy.

You can route wires through the knob hole. On the end with the hinge mortices, you could either skim by ripping or cover the end with a hardwood strip. Or do nothing.

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

View pintodeluxe's profile


5757 posts in 2961 days

#3 posted 01-07-2017 09:07 PM

I would make a solid top from 5/4 stock. If using breadboard ends, than that is all it needs.

If no breadboards are used, attach two cleats to the underside of the tabletop. Situate the cleats on the outboard side of the metal desk frame cleats. This will make them less conspicuous, and dress up the underside of the desk as viewed from across the room. Drill oversized holes in the cleats to mount the cleats to the underside of the table. Do the same when mounting the metal support bracket to the table. Just use heavy screws to attach the bracket to the top through oversized or slotted holes. I have had good luck using Spax screws for this purpose. Predrill and zip them in with an impact driver.

I personally feel breadboard ends are a pain. I use them sometimes for arts and crafts style furniture, but they are more for looks than stability. They also can cause serious headaches if not done correctly. They double the work of building a tabletop.

As far as biscuits… I use them all the time and find a biscuit joiner quite useful, but not for panels and tabletops. They aren’t needed. Just a liberal amount of Titebond II and good clamping pressure will do. Use cauls to keep the panel flat during glueup, and check with a straightedge often.

Good luck.

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

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1068 days

#4 posted 01-08-2017 04:37 PM


A solid walnut top is one option and would look nice but as you know it carries some challenges. The top could be also made from walnut plywood.

Walnut plywood could be screwed to the metal base without having to worry about wood movement. The issues with walnut plywood are its stiffness and covering the raw edges. The raw edges could be covered with solid walnut edge banding. The edge banding could be installed with its wide face vertically oriented to stiffen the edges and provide a skirt around the perimeter of the plywood. If the edge banding is installed in this orientation and the edges are slightly proud of the top surface of the plywood, a router and flush trim bit could produce a flush meeting joint.

If ¾” thick plywood is used a set of cleats could be installed on the underside of the plywood where the top meets the legs and thus offer a little more bite to the attaching screws, although ½” long attaching screws could work if enough are used. The other option to the cleats would be to face glue a second piece of less expensive hardwood plywood to the underside of the walnut plywood. The last option for a thicker than ¾” top would be 1” thick walnut plywood which perhaps can be special ordered. The link is to a mill that makes specialty plywood and may be able to provide 1” thick walnut plywood.

I would guess that once the top is complete you may decide that the metal support structure needs to be replaced; that is building a new base either now or at some later time. If this is a possibility, building the top with this in mind could make installing the top on a new base easier.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics