Kitchen Table Build Advice

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Forum topic by vikefan posted 02-16-2015 07:03 PM 1171 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View vikefan's profile


2 posts in 1219 days

02-16-2015 07:03 PM

Hi all – I’m looking for quick advice.

I’m building a simple table top for a kitchen table. I used dowels to join planks together, but when I used dowels to attach to a an end board I am finding dips and valleys which will be difficult, but not impossible, to sand smooth. That said, the top will never be flat – it will always have dips and valleys.

Also, the dowels on the end boards, while close to being accurate, have caused one of the seams in the joined planks to open up (maybe 1/32nd of an inch – not much).

Since I started the project, I saw a few tutorials on how to glue planks together in a way to ensure they are flat and aligned (I wish I had seen them before). So the question is this: do I break the planks apart, re-plane the boards, and effectively start over? Or, do I push through with a less than perfect build which will have dips and valleys.

A few other points that might help: this will be used in our kitchen, but it is being built as a learning project. As such, I expect the table to get beat up and have a fairly short lifespan (we have 4 small kids).

7 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1763 posts in 2883 days

#1 posted 02-16-2015 10:24 PM

Get handplanes and learn to flatten the top using them.

-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Brad H.'s profile

Brad H.

5 posts in 1421 days

#2 posted 02-17-2015 02:42 AM

Along with using handplanes, you may want to consider cutting a series of mortise and tenons, along with cutting a wide dado/rabbett/haunched tenon across the ends of the length-wise boards, and into the breadboard ends.

View jdh122's profile


1018 posts in 2841 days

#3 posted 02-17-2015 12:29 PM

I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re saying. But if you attached the end boards with dowels and glue to the ends of the table tops and perpendicular to the other joined boards, the tabletop is guaranteed to crack over time because of wood movement.
As for your main question, I’d suggest you break the planks apart and start over. Forget the dowels and use curved cawls in the glue-up.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6859 posts in 4003 days

#4 posted 02-17-2015 12:46 PM

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it sounds kind of like you’re tired of putzing around with it, and are asking people for permission to call it good enough.

I don’t know about you, but having a table that has obvious flaws in it would haunt me every time I looked at it.

I would take the time to fix it, either by cutting it apart, (which would be my option), or using hand planes, or other tools to flatten it. Using a biscuit joiner to align things when gluing back together will make this much easier than using dowels. There’s a short blurb on them on my woodworking website:

Either one will be a pain in the butt for about a week, but very satisfying for the rest of your life, and you will get a great amount of pride out of not having settling for close enough. (which it probably isn’t) Probably would impress the wife enough to let you go buy some tools, too.

Course I’ve been called anal, so what do I know.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2628 days

#5 posted 02-17-2015 01:51 PM

Your table top is officially fubar.

You will need to cut it back open and try again.

This time make sure you face joint the boards. By that I mean you need to run them face down on a jointer so they are flat. I would wager you did not do this before. Rather you jointed an edge and then ran both sides through a planer. This can be made to work on smaller pieces where the strain of the wood wanting to move to its “natural” position will be countered by glue and joints, but on large pieces like tables this does not work. Instead you need to face joint one face, the run the other face through the planer. This gets rid of most of the wood movement (though not always all of it). You can then joint the boards together with dowels if you prefer, but frankly joining them edge grain to edge grain in a simple butt joint works fine. You will likely have small deviations and that is where a hand plane works wonderfully. A number 4 is my preferred go to plane but a lot of people like a number 5.

As for joining the bread boards (what you are calling end boards). If you wish to add them there are several options to do so including dowels, but you would be better off using something like screws to allow for wood movement, and better still do it the “right” way and use a tenon and mortise. Take a gander at this article

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3766 days

#6 posted 02-17-2015 02:23 PM

you wil have to split the seams.

Why are you doweling the joint anyway? The glue (even old timer hide glue) is stonger than the wood.
The dowels aren’t doing anything but annoying you.

If you need some ‘registration’ for the table use biscuits – - but understand they add little strength, the glue is all you really need to hold the boards tight, so long as you have a good seam, jointed well..

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View vikefan's profile


2 posts in 1219 days

#7 posted 02-17-2015 04:12 PM

Awesome feedback everyone. Thank you!

A few personal responses:

jdh122 – “As for your main question, I’d suggest you break the planks apart and start over. Forget the dowels and use curved cawls in the glue-up.”

That is currently my plan. In addition to some of the mistakes I made, the planks themselves are lined up in a way that will encourage bending over time as the wood moves.

Lee – “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it sounds kind of like you’re tired of putzing around with it, and are asking people for permission to call it good enough.”

Not taken the wrong way at all! And thanks for the link – really helpful.

In response to this, the opposite is quite true. One of the things I am trying to learn is where I can “rough it” and where I need to be fine. I tend to be a perfectionist (it drives my wife crazy) and as a result what should take an hour can take me much, much longer because I am very detailed. Personally, I love being detailed, but I’d also like to get a table done eventually. :)

Minorhero – “Your table top is officially fubar.

You will need to cut it back open and try again.”

That’s my thought as well, but as I said above, I am still learning the difference between “rough, but fixable” and “fubar’ed”.

I’ll likely go with mortise and tenon joints. I’ve always liked joining with them.

Again – thanks everyone for the feedback. Looks like I’m breaking the boards apart and doing it the right way!

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