Just a simple table

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Forum topic by ScottSTL posted 09-05-2012 03:01 AM 1190 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2060 days

09-05-2012 03:01 AM

Topic tags/keywords: table hardwood softwood

I am just starting out with woodworking. My first project will be a simple 6 person table, 5 ft by 3ft 3in by 30 in tall. I have have contacted two lumbar yards,one does softwood one does hardwood. So my first question is, should i use hardwood or softwood? Or does it matter? Also, the lumber yards said the lumber was planed. so, does that mean i should not need to plane it at all? or would i need to plane at least the table top so the boards all are the same thickness? Any help would be appreciated.

9 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


6912 posts in 2568 days

#1 posted 09-05-2012 03:06 AM

Soft wood or hard wood will be up to you. I prefer hardwood, but your tool selection, HP, and budget will help drive the decision. It will most likely still need to be planed and most importantly, edge jointed. Hard to get a good glue line without that.

View jdmaher's profile


427 posts in 2549 days

#2 posted 09-05-2012 01:01 PM

Probably hardwood. Softwoods dent and ding and dimple every time somthing sorta pointed bumps into them, because most of the things that bump are harder than the “soft”wood. Each dent/ding/dimple probably also breaks the surface film of the finish. Table might not look good for very long if its softwood.

I do plane to common thickness – AFTER letting the wood sit (inside) at my place for at least a week. Then I’m sure.

As Shane pointed out, edge jointing the top boards is important. If you don’t have a jointer, you can do it on the tablesaw or with a router (just google it). You’ll still have glue squeeze-out to clean up, and maybe slight misalignments to hand plane, scrape or sand – but be a little careful and it’ll look great.

Do tell us what tools you’ll be using. That’ll make it easier to advise. And plan to take pictures as you work. We LOVE picture stories.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View AandCstyle's profile


3027 posts in 2226 days

#3 posted 09-05-2012 01:51 PM

I would not call a table that size a simple project. It will be difficult getting the top flat because the boards like to slide around (up, down, left, right) once you have applied the glue and start to squeeze together with clamps. You can minimize this by using cauls, but there will still be some play. That is where the planing, scraping or sanding will need to take place to get the surface flat. You could try practicing with inexpensive wood to get an understanding of the process.

Another option would be to make the top with a good quality hardwood plywood and edge band it to hide the plies. Then you will need to ensure that the edge banding is flush with the ply surface. Also, using ply and solid will likely cause some issues with finishing since plywood doesn’t take stain the same as solid wood does.

I don’t mean any of this is insurmountable and I don’t want to discourage you, but you don’t know what you don’t know so ask lots of questions along the way and there are many people here to help you. :)

-- Art

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3128 days

#4 posted 09-05-2012 02:06 PM

I agree with Art…one of the more difficult tasks of a woodworker is making a big table top out of narrower stock. Regardless if the boards are purchased at finished size, they will need some further attention, especially after the boards are glued together. Otherwise, you end up with a picnic table.

Tables are made of pine (softwood) all the time. But they usually are only finished with wax and are designed to show “character” developed over time…distressed. When they get too far gone, you just sand it back and put on more wax.

But if you are looking for that dining table that wants to make a statement, then a good hardwood would be great. Walnut would be my favorite for that.

-- jay,

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2234 days

#5 posted 09-05-2012 04:42 PM

Scott, do you have the design ready? I’m with Art and Jay on this one. A table of this size is not an easy first project. It’s not impossible by any means. There’s just a lot you need to know when building it.

Find out what they mean by “planed.” That could still mean the boards need to be jointed.

You’ll probably want hardwood, but that’s just my guess without seeing the wood or the design or knowing its end user environment.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View ScottSTL's profile


2 posts in 2060 days

#6 posted 09-06-2012 01:20 AM

Thanks for the advise. I think i’ll go with Oak,eventually. i didn’t realize how difficult the table top would be. So, to get a table top that is square i need to: plane one side of the board flat (since i don’t have a jointer), run the other side through a thickness planer (i guess i could rent one), cut small slice off of each end (long ways) so the board will be square, repeat the above for each board, once all boards are square, glue them together.
And i guess that needs to be done for all the boards i will be using not just the top.

This was so much more simple when i just went home depot and bought studs and plywood for a table in the garage, but this one i going in the house.

I have a book called “Woodworking Basics” that has instructions on how to make a simple bench for practice. I think i’ll try that first. I do like the idea of using veneered plywood as the top. I could put some trim around the edge to hide all the plywood layers.

View AandCstyle's profile


3027 posts in 2226 days

#7 posted 09-06-2012 01:51 AM

Scott, I dimension a rough sawn board by determining if it is bowed, cupped or whatever. Then plane one side to get it flat. Next I join an edge so it is perpendicular to the flat side. Now it is time to run it through a thickness sander so the 2 sides are parallel. Rip it with your table saw so the 2 edges are parallel, but leave it 1/16th wide. Finally, back to the jointer to remove that 1/16th inch. I tend to glue the boards together and then cut them to length using a circular saw. If you do that, make certain that your cuts will be square to the sides. HTH

-- Art

View AandCstyle's profile


3027 posts in 2226 days

#8 posted 09-06-2012 01:54 AM

P.S. I learned most of the basics from watching The New Yankee Workshop. It might be worth your while to purchase some of their DVDs to learn from Norm. FWIW

-- Art

View Gary's profile


9328 posts in 3402 days

#9 posted 09-06-2012 01:57 AM

Before you try this with hardwood ($) get yourself some cheap pine and try making a small table that you could use in your shop. It’ll teach you more than you know. It will also allow you to know the questions you need to ask BEFORE you spend the money on hardwood

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

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