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Dining Table in Design Phase—Seeking Opinions

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Forum topic by Walker posted 12-24-2017 06:30 AM 1337 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Walker

150 posts in 676 days


12-24-2017 06:30 AM

Topic tags/keywords: kitchen table table top design help

this is a long one…

TL;DR:
-designing a dining room table, concept is modern frame with rustic top
-must be knockdown design.
-attempting to hide all fasteners, have smooth unbroken faces for a sleek look.
-seeking advice on structural integrity of the design.
-also seeking opinions on materials
-please don’t judge me too harshly, hey I’m asking first at least!

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Overture: Hey all. My wife wants me to build a table for the dining room. This project is in the design stage, far from cutting anything or even purchasing materials. So things can be easily changed. The concept is to make the frame as modern and sleek looking as possible, and by contrast the table top rustic, rough, farmhouse-whatever you want to call it. My wife calls it “Shabby Chic”. Oh, it also has to be of knockdown design. I live in an old house and my doorways are rather narrow.

Why I’m asking: I’d still consider myself a hobbyist, with intermediate woodworking skills and a modest collection of tools. I’ve learned a lot, but I’m not a historian or an expert on traditional furniture design and joinery methods. However, I do make a large effort to research these things and how they relate to issues like wood movement, internal stress, load capacity, structural integrity, etc. I understand that certain methods have been around for centuries for a reason. Which is why I’m on lumberjocks in the first place!

Normally I like to start with function and dress it up with form. However in this case I have a very specific mandate from the “client” on form. The challenge is to maintain the desired aesthetic while adhering to the structural requirements required for long lasting proper function. This is where I’m seeking the collective expertise. A vast majority of table plans I found online seem to be garbage. Like, only using pocket screws. Even to join the top to the apron, which I know is bad news. (side note ^, see below) Many of them trace back to one popular “designer”, with a blog-type site who is widely criticized for her flawed techniques. I’m hoping some more qualified engineer could weigh in. Will this thing fall apart under it’s own weight? Any improvements I could make?

Budget is somewhere in the middle. I don’t mind spending a little extra for quality, but I’m not rich either. If I could get the whole project done for under $1000 I’d be happy. If I could get it done under $500 that would be preferred.


Now that you have the background, here’s my ideas/concerns so far:

-The overall dimensions are 5.5’ long x 3’ wide x 30” tall.
-All joints/fasteners should be hidden.
-Ideally all visible faces of the frame would be smooth and unbroken by joint lines, etc.
-matching benches will slide underneath when not in use.
-Chairs on either end, so no low cross piece, which makes me concerned about racking and load capacity. Maybe a 5th leg in the center?

-each long rail with 2 legs will be one unit. The short rails, including the center one, would be the knockdown parts. I racked my brain for a while trying to figure out how to join all these with mortise and tenons, keeping unbroken faces, without any hardware showing. Then I found this product called Striplox. They are hardware that make hidden butt joints, and the load capacity specs are impressive. The “Striplox Clip 50” looks like it would fit my dimensions. Or the “Pro 23” if I went with a little wider stock. Anybody have experience with Striplox?

- I want the frame to be approx. 3×3” square, black and slick looking. I’m not sure what material to use to accomplish this. My initial thoughts are 12/4 stock ripped to size with either black gel stain or paint. Or rip ¾” hardwood ply into 3” strips, bond them together to make 3×3 work pieces, then surface with black laminate. I’ve seen a few LJ workbench builds done this way (minus the laminate) I suspect this will be the cheaper option, but since I’ve never worked with laminate before I’d worry about the results not looking too great. Also not sure which method would be sturdier? Any concerns about gluing plywood to plywood?

-The top planks will be 1” thick, something rustic looking. Possibly rough cut quarter sawn cherry if I can afford it. Quarter sawn to help with dimensional stability. If it’s too rough I have the tools to refine it as needed. Stained a nice deep red with a high gloss clear coat. Waterlox?

-The boards will not be jointed into one larger panel. The wife wants the slotted look (and has signed off on the pitfalls of cleaning it). I’m thinking about an 1/8” gap between boards. The concern here is how to hold the whole top together and resist cupping. I’m considering breadboard ends, but I like the look better without them. Would a few proper cleats (counterbored slotted holes, no glue) on the bottom be sufficient? Or use biscuits also? In which case I could possibly forgo the 1/8” gap and instead maybe do a small roundover or rabbit on each board to fake the slotted look.

-The top can be secured via normal buttons/slot or tabletop fasteners. I realize since my frame sits level with the table top, I’ll have to leave a gap between it and the boards. I’m hoping ¼” will be enough.

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Preliminary Sketch Up pics:

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Inspired by these:

Example of the way I want the top to look (sort of):


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Example of the slatted look (as opposed to jointed, flat, and smooth).

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^Side note: Is there any functional point to attaching a breadboard end with only pocket screws instead of a mortise and tenon? Seems like this would be counterproductive to allowing wood movement and wouldn’t help that much with cupping.

-- ~Walker


7 replies so far

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Walker

150 posts in 676 days


#1 posted 12-24-2017 07:13 AM

Here is an alternative design. This one might have more stability, with 5 cross pieces rather than 3 and the additional long rail on the bottom. Aesthetically I’m torn, not sure which design I like better. This one the frame would look more bulky, but also the top would appear to be floating, which is sort of cool. The downside to this one is any chairs on the end would not slide under the table, and anybody sitting there would likely be uncomfortable with the obstacle by their feet.

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-- ~Walker

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Woodknack

12431 posts in 2583 days


#2 posted 12-24-2017 07:26 AM

This is fairly complex for a table, definitely not a beginner project.
-Center stretcher is unnecessary on a table that small, especially with 4/4 top. But you are doing planks, not a solid top so consider battens instead. It will have to be planks as a solid top wouldn’t be able to expand.
-Way overbuilt for a table that small.
-Don’t know anything about Striplox. Load capacity isn’t the primary concern but resistance to racking. That problem is already solved with normal table designs. Custom table will probably require a custom solution.
-I think wood is the wrong material for what you want, metal would be better. The usual way of making wood joinery tight but able to be taken apart is wedges: tusk tenons, screws, lag screws.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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JBrow

1366 posts in 1123 days


#3 posted 12-24-2017 04:59 PM

Walker,

The rustic top your wife is after can be achieved by either buying recycled lumber and using it as is or buying and milling lumber and finishing the top to give your wife the shabby look she is after.

The recycled lumber idea will likely result in a rustic look but the lumber may be cupped, twisted, etc. This would allow items set on the table to rock and move around. Some light planing, scraping, and/or sanding can remedy some of these issues, but the patina is removed in the process. Recycled wood could be expensive. The planks could be held together with battens spaced about every 2’ down the length of the top. However, the gap between the planks could allow the battens to be a catch-all for bread crumbs and the like. Edge-gluing recycled would be challenging. The absence of a flat reference face against the jointer fence could produce straight edges that when brought together would not produce a flat top. However, jointing the two mating edges at the same time with a hand plane could produce better results in a glue-up.

The alternative of milling lumber for the top can result in a flat table top. The milled stock could then be edge glued with the corners knocked off with a slight chamfer or round over for the rustic look (as you suggested). I would think a block plane haphazardly used to create a chamfer would leave a more rustic look. Or, the planks could be unglued and assembled with battens. Getting to the rustic look by denting and staining the wood could be a lot of work and challenging. Some woods take stain better than others. A wood that is stained and leaves botches could spoil the look. If this route is considered, it could be beneficial develop a finishing protocol on some sample boards. When the wife signs off, then the top could be built.

Using the quantity of 12/4 lumber would be more expensive than 4/4 stock. The aprons (frame) could be a lamination of 4/4 lumber or even plywood and the ends mitred to conceal the glue end-grain glue lines. The legs could likewise be laminated using solid wood or plywood. A 1/8” to ¼” thick veneer could be applied over the glue seams resulting in large format table legs that appear solid. The thin hardwood veneer on most plywoods could limit sanding and edge profiling. Plywood could pose problems later on should a repair be required, due to the thin face veneer.

I generally prefer mortise and tenon and lap joinery. But where the joint needs to dissemble, an alternative hardware solution could be threaded inserts and bolts or screws. I have not used Striplox Clip 50 but would be concerned if the joint is subject to rotational or lateral stresses (racking).

I doubt a center leg would do much to tame racking forces. The apron around the perimeter of the top would likely provide adequate support for the load that a dining table would carry.

I have not used Waterlox, but it seems to be a Tung oil based produce. An oil finish may not offer the level of protection required to keep stains like wine out of the wood. However, perhaps the Waterlox marine line of products would offer that additional protection. I tend toward a film finish for table tops. A film finish like polyurethane offers a barrier between the spill and wood.

Here is a link that addresses design considerations for various styles of dining tables. Perhaps it will be helpful.

http://www.stephanwoodworking.com/DiningTableDesignConsiderations1-16-14.pdf

View Walker's profile

Walker

150 posts in 676 days


#4 posted 12-24-2017 10:11 PM

Wow, thanks for the thorough replies thus far! I’ll try to respond mostly in order.

-Overbuilt! That’s reassuring, I was concerned it was under built. I’m okay with overbuilt, I’d even strive for it. As long as I stay within budget there’s no reason not to.

-I had to look up battens. It seems like the term could refer to many different things (in regards to siding, roofing, bench planing, etc) In this application, is there a difference between a batten and a cleat? They appear to be the same thing to me.

-If I used lag screws etc, I’m not sure how I could keep it all hidden. The nice thing about the Striplox is they’re relatively cheap and available at my local woodcraft, so I’m going to go buy a few to mess around with and see how well they function. I can throw something together with scrap 2×4’s and test racking resistance.

-I did consider a metal frame, but I don’t have any tools for metal working. And the wife nixed the idea.

-Jbrow you’ve given me some methods to think about with the top. My large projects like this tend to have a long gestation period and I only have one going at a time. That provides me the benefit of looking around for the right materials and inspiration. I’ll keep on eye out for recycled lumber or nice rough sawn pieces. Sometimes you have a vision and then find the right materials to make it happen. Other times you spot a great piece of wood and then the vision comes. I do have a jointer, a planer, TS, router, and a collection of bench planes to use as needed.

-if I used the plywood to make the aprons/frame, I would be covering with black laminate. So not as concerned with dings and repairs. But strength and finished look are my worries.

-I was leaning toward the waterlox marine varnish. I’ve used Epifane’s marine varnish on a Padauk Parson’s table which came out great. Waterlox also makes a Urethane finish I used on my basement stairs which I really like.

-Thanks for the link, I’m reading through the article now.

-- ~Walker

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Woodknack

12431 posts in 2583 days


#5 posted 12-25-2017 02:27 AM

Strength should come from good design, not volume of material.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View Walker's profile

Walker

150 posts in 676 days


#6 posted 12-27-2017 12:33 AM

Bump

-- ~Walker

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Woodknack

12431 posts in 2583 days


#7 posted 12-27-2017 01:46 AM

You’re going off book with a custom design, you’ll need to solve some of these problems yourself.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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