Farmhouse table question

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Forum topic by cylis007 posted 11-05-2012 03:52 AM 2283 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 3498 days

11-05-2012 03:52 AM

Topic tags/keywords: farmhouse table edge joining glue biscuit dowel tip question

Hello. I am building a farmhouse style table for our house and have a technique question. I will be edge joining five boards for the top. Is it better to use a biscuit jointer to correctly position the boards for glue up or can I drill holes and use dowels? I also see that rockers has a floating tenon system, but I haven’t done research on that yet. Thanks for your time.


-- A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave. ~Benjamin Franklin

13 replies so far

View Ted's profile


2873 posts in 2240 days

#1 posted 11-05-2012 04:02 AM

I’ve had bad luck using biscuits for lining up… use them more for strength on miter joints and such. A good and sure way to keep them lined up is to clamp board across them. Use wax paper to keep the glue from sticking to the boards. There will still be some edges sticking up, which I think is pretty much unavoidable. I figure that’s what belt sanders and random orbital sanders are for. Others with more experience should be along soon, probably to dispel everything I just said, but that’s my thoughts on glue-ups. The glue-up in the following photo did not line up at all, and turned into an exercise in frustration – that’s my experience.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2865 days

#2 posted 11-05-2012 04:03 AM

Either biscuits or dowels will work. The table doesn’t need them structurally they just position the boards as you mention so I would go with whichever works easiest and most consistent for you. I like dowels because you can use a series of barely tight cauls to keep the boards aligned while using metal center finders (I’m sure they have a more proper name but I don’t know it) to determine where to drill on the second board.

Admittedly until it occurred to me to use cauls to keep the two boards flat to each other I totally boned my first attempt at aligning dowels.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3187 days

#3 posted 11-05-2012 04:10 AM

You don’t need anything. But I normally use biscuits just for alignment and peace of mind.

-- jay,

View Wdwerker's profile


333 posts in 2262 days

#4 posted 11-05-2012 04:11 AM

Dowels or biscuits just help keep the planks flush at glue up. Long grain to long grain glue joint is all you need to hold the top together.
If you use a caul on top and bottom to keep the edges aligned between every clamp you could skip the biscuits or dowels.
If you don’t have access to a wide planer the biscuits might keep the edges aligned close enough so you can sand it flat.

-- Fine Custom Woodwork since 1978

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2315 days

#5 posted 11-05-2012 12:15 PM

This island top ( 8 feet long by 42 inches wide) was done with no biscuits, splines or dowels. Just glue.

Also made some smaller tops.

Edge glued. There was some misalignment of the boards and that was handled first with a hand plane and then sanded. They came out fine.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2998 days

#6 posted 11-05-2012 01:11 PM

You can do it with no biscuits or dowels and just edge glue, but your boards would want to line up very well for that to work successfully – and use cauls with wax paper to keep the boards level at glue-up time.
I biscuit joint my glue ups for alignment – a decent biscuit jointer does a great job. Never used dowels, the potential for dowels not lining up quite right has always put me off this method.
For a more authentic way of making a farmhouse table, you could always tongue and groove the boards and put on a breadboard end.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2593 days

#7 posted 11-05-2012 01:33 PM

I feel like you could use anything, but I’d say don’t think that it will give you a perfectly flat top. ie expect to spend some time with a handplane or sander at least on the top side and possible the bottom as well

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View johnstoneb's profile


2944 posts in 2202 days

#8 posted 11-05-2012 01:40 PM

I use biscuits rather than dowels because the biscuit cutter is set and will cut both boards without having to measure a second time. The biscuits keep the board close enough that you can use sander or scraper to get final flattening.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2943 days

#9 posted 11-05-2012 03:22 PM

I used a 1/4” spline run the entire length of the boards when I laid up the top for my bookcase. This was a very easy procedure on the TS. For a spline, I used 1/4” plywood cut to 1” width and cut the splines 1/2” deep on the boards. On the TS I used a full kerf blade and “snuck up” on the proper spline width by adjusting the TS fence. I always keep the same sides of the boards facing the same direction (all tops to the fence, or all bottoms to the fence) so that I got proper/equal registration for all boards.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2505 days

#10 posted 11-05-2012 08:33 PM

Keith, I came late to this and I agree that biscuits, dowels, splines, or T&G are all good options along with a simple glue up. A number of cauls along with proper clamping could do the job with glue alone. The biscuits, dowels, splines, or T&G’s simply help to register and align the five boards and perhaps lend a bit of strength to the edge joining you are doing. Did you have much trouble with your work bench glue up?
Care should be taken as HorizontalMike pointed out to make one side and surface the reference in an attempt to achieve the flattest glue up. Another point to consider is how true is your stock? Before I had my jointer, or even now for long stock, I often used mt track saw to cut a straight edge for glue ups. I learned that really close to 90 degrees only works if you cut one face up and the mate face down so as to cancel out any minimal angle error.
I’m a power tool type with a small plainer so I look towards getting the flattest glue up with minimal sanding.

View cylis007's profile


56 posts in 3498 days

#11 posted 11-06-2012 02:29 AM

Thanks for all of the replies. I have been skip planing the stock over the past few weeks. It started out at 6/4. I will use breadboard ends. I didn’t have any problems on the workbench, but it isn’t in my dining room either. As suggested, I think that I will flatten the stock on one side and edge, use caulks and wax paper, and try it without biscuits or dowels. Charlie, that is a beautiful island. Thanks to everyone for your input. I will post this table in the projects section soon.

-- A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave. ~Benjamin Franklin

View a1Jim's profile


117128 posts in 3606 days

#12 posted 11-06-2012 04:41 AM

Thumbs up on not using anything but well jointed edges and good alignment of your stock . I’m sure you know to alternate the clamps on the top and bottom to equalize the clamping pressure. If you have any trouble with alignment you can put little wedges between the stock and your clamps on either or both sides to hold the you material where you want it for perfect alignment.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3677 days

#13 posted 11-06-2012 04:53 AM

One trick I have used sometimes in the past is putting little
wire nails in the edge of one board and clipping the heads
off. This way the alignment you have when you start to
close the clamps is pretty close to what you get when you
finish closing them. Jim’s suggestion of wedges under the
clamp bars is good too.

This is fussy stuff you learn as your skills grow. If you are
careful with your milling process you can get excellent
results a lot of the time with no biscuits, dowels and
whatever other methods come into play to align glue-ups.
I consider a 78” level essential to milling boards because
it’s a bit more reliable than my eye to help see smaller
or more subtle distortions in straightness.

If you plan the glue-up well and you want to minimize
thickness lost, it’s really not that much trouble to make
some custom cauls for the job. They are a hassle
sometimes when you want to bang out a lot of panels
but if the wood is special and you want to get it
right… well, in woodworking, preparation is everything.

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