Table Top Shrinkage - amazed

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Forum topic by camps764 posted 02-09-2012 05:42 PM 3058 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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867 posts in 2359 days

02-09-2012 05:42 PM

Recently I completed a farmhouse style table – posted in my projects.

On the table i did “faux” breadboard ends. By ‘faux’ I mean, I jointed the mating edges and used dowels and glue to connect as opposed to the mortise and tenon approach (if that’s what it is called).

What has amazed me is the amount of shrinkage that my table has experienced lately. The part of my table between the breadboard ends (long grain?) has shrunk almost 1/16th of an inch! When I moved the table into the house the entire table was smooth, flush with the breadboard ends, and now on each side of the table I have a small ridge where the long part of the table transitions to the breadboard end. It’s the middle of winter here in Omaha, Ne, so the humidity hasn’t been too crazy.

That is the only culprit I can think of however. I stained the entire table, and then finished the top and legs with a wipe on poly. However, I did not use the poly on the underside of the top. When I asked the site about finishing both sides a while back I got answers from both sides of the aisle, some said to finish both, some said it didn’t matter.

It may be anecdotal, but I think I will finish all sides of my tables from now on!

-- Steve

6 replies so far

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3744 days

#1 posted 02-09-2012 05:56 PM

You should always finish all the surfaces of table tops with the same finish, and same number of coats. You’re not going to stop the seasonal changes in the wood, unless you dip the entire table in plastic. The amount, and way that wood moves should always be a consideration in the design elements of any furniture you build. I hope your doweled bread board doesn’t fall off. Even if you use the mortise and tenon method, you should allow for seasonal wood movement and only glue the center section of the joint.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4218 days

#2 posted 02-09-2012 06:02 PM

To the best of my knowledge, winter movement indoors in colder climates is usually the result of low humidity caused by indoor heating.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 2359 days

#3 posted 02-09-2012 06:11 PM

Charlie – that makes perfect sense! That didn’t occur to me.

Tenontim – when I posted a question to the forum about the topic of finshing both sides I got a very even response from people advocating both sides. My gut told me that the ‘both sides is better’ argument was probably right, but I decided to give it a shot.

I think once spring gets here I will pull the top off and redo the ends, and make a few other changes to the overall design of the table. I am very interested to see how the table expands this spring.

-- Steve

View Loren's profile


10401 posts in 3647 days

#4 posted 02-09-2012 07:33 PM

I examine a fair number of antiques and they are seldom
finished on the underside. Some primitive table top styles
like a slab top with no apron may benefit from finishing
top and bottom.

Both sides may be better, but when you make furniture
to sell, the customer won’t pay for it so the cost of the
bottom finish comes out of the builder’s pocket. Thus
generally man if not most tables have a basic finish
underneath if they are finished at all.

Veneer is a different story. If a top is veneered on top
it should be veneers on the bottom as well…. but again,
equal finishing is not needed unless top veneered
component is an unsupported one.

View KenBry's profile


484 posts in 2447 days

#5 posted 02-09-2012 07:54 PM

Pine has some of the biggest shrikage issues I have seen and read about. Cheap wood to work on and practice with, but I make zero items that I’ll use out of it. It’s to finiky

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

View Vincent Nocito's profile

Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 3364 days

#6 posted 02-09-2012 10:36 PM

It sounds like seasonal shrinkage. I built and oak farmhouse table with a breadboard edge and in the winter it would contract almost 3/16 of an inch (Chicago winter). I would definitely finish the underside and even hidden spaces to reduce the tendency to cup and warp.

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