Hiding end grain on a table top

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Forum topic by lumberjoe posted 10-17-2012 09:29 PM 3573 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2893 posts in 1671 days

10-17-2012 09:29 PM

I’m finally ready to assemble a small arts and crafts style table I’ve been working on for a long time. The problem is I don’t like the top. The table is a small side table, and is deeper than it is wide. (21”wide, x24 deep”). Because of this the end grain is visible in the front of the table. I don’t like the way this looks. I have played with round overs, beaded roundovers, coves, beaded coves, and undercutting a chamfer around the bottom edges, and am not satisfied with any of those looks either. The top is solid heavily figured ash. I have actually at to cut and reglue it twice because of warping issues, but I got it right this time (had to break the board widths down a bit) What are my options?

I do have some walnut stripes inlayed into the legs, and am making a fairly unique “shelf” on the bottom that has walnut it it too. Is there a way to encase the top in walnut in such a manner not to induce warping? I think a breadboard end will detract from the overall aesthetic I am looking for, but I haven’t completely ruled it out as a design element.

What would be the absolute minimum size for a breadboard end (depth)?


11 replies so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 2581 days

#1 posted 10-17-2012 10:37 PM

Breadboard ends are traditional for the style. Why NOT do that?

I think the size of the breadboard end is more a question of proportional balance. Functionally, you could probably get away with a thin strip of an inch or so, as long as you can route the appropriate groove for the tongue and still have enough mass to withstand the forces of wood movement. I’m not sure what that measure is, but I’d think it doesn’t have to be much. There’s much debate as to how functional they are in the first place.

-- jay,

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2893 posts in 1671 days

#2 posted 10-17-2012 10:40 PM

Because the grain of the wood on the top looks amazing and I don’t want to break it up. I guess a contrast with walnut would look ok. I’ll have to mock it up first to see if I like it


View sixstring's profile


296 posts in 1666 days

#3 posted 10-17-2012 11:11 PM

You could always use a veneer. Hopefully theres a better answer but I actually second the breadboard idea. That seems to be the traditional solution to the endgrain problem. I suppose you could also trim all 4 sides in more of the same wood as the top, or in walnut as an alternative. Would doing that induce movement?

-- JC Garcia, Concord, CA : "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission..."

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3167 days

#4 posted 10-17-2012 11:47 PM

Except for the tables with breadboard ends, this style normally lets the end grain show. You will have to plan on doing a lot of sanding, and get the ends real smooth. Anything you wrap around the top is not going to stay the same size on the cross grain. When the top swells, it will be shorter, when it shrinks, it’ll be longer and stick out.

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2893 posts in 1671 days

#5 posted 10-17-2012 11:59 PM

Tim, or worse, the top will buckle. The end grain on this looks like crap because it’s ash. the growth rings are all in alternate directions (as they should be) and I just don’t care for it. If I had use the traditional QSWO, I wouldn’t have a problem. In addition this is only getting Arm-R-Seal, no color, and this ash is gleaming white. Even sanding down to 600, the end grain darkens up more than the flat grain.

I have seen some fancy joints used for stuff like this in the past that still allowed for independent wood expansion, but I cannot find the source anymore. I want to say it was from William Ng.


View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2406 days

#6 posted 10-20-2012 03:09 PM

You have said: I have actually at to cut and reglue it twice because of warping issues,

This makes me wonder how much of the warping is due to moisture content in the Ash top. I would check to see what the moisture content is in the tops boards. You should be somewhere around 6-8% moisture content if I’m not mistaken. You may need to let it dry some if its high. another thing you may want to do is seal all the edges and bottom with a sanding sealer to help with humidity changes to slow down the expansion and contraction rate of the wood movement and slow warping.

As for breadboard ends, from my understanding and use of them, they are only for decoration and will do very little if any in preventing warping. Breadboards are free floating to allow for wood movement due to humidity changes.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

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2893 posts in 1671 days

#7 posted 10-20-2012 03:24 PM

Greg, I check periodically, and MC hovers between 8 and 10%. The problem is with one board. It is VERY curly and cut right above a HUGE knot. It really just wants to fold in on itself. My intent is purely to hide endgrain, not to stabilize the top


View Loren's profile


8168 posts in 3071 days

#8 posted 10-20-2012 05:12 PM

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2893 posts in 1671 days

#9 posted 10-22-2012 12:06 AM

Loren, that was a good idea and I am pretty sure that is what I was looking for. Too late now though. I decided to do a small breadboard. I like the way it came out. I left the edges 1/2” proud and camfered them. Now I need to finish it (this is just rubbed down with mineral spirits so I can see how much sanding I have left to do)


View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2053 posts in 1611 days

#10 posted 10-22-2012 01:34 AM

Oh Man Joe. I can’t wait to see that beauty. The grain you selected is awesome. I was going to suggest a frame of contrasting wood with mitered corners. Looks like you have it well in hand.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View lumberjoe's profile


2893 posts in 1671 days

#11 posted 10-22-2012 02:26 PM

The grain is amazing, it just looks like crap the way it is currently arranged (compared to how I had it before). I have never worked so hard to get a glue-up to stay straight.


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