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Forum topic by FHG1 posted 02-21-2015 02:19 PM 683 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18 posts in 1388 days

02-21-2015 02:19 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip joining

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been woodworking for some time now and have seen woodworking grow over the years. My question is:
What is your favorite way of fastening a solid wood top to your furniture?

What do you feel is the “Best”? Not necessarily the easiest.

-- AnthonyG, Brockport New York

6 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


3972 posts in 1775 days

#1 posted 02-21-2015 02:27 PM

I like buttons for that.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View waho6o9's profile


7125 posts in 2001 days

#2 posted 02-21-2015 03:26 PM

I glue up a couple of dominos and install using spax

or GRK fasteners.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


2398 posts in 1733 days

#3 posted 02-21-2015 08:15 PM

I don’t think there is a best. Just use one of the many methods/hardware that allow the top to expand and contract with the seasonal changes. At my work (Anchorage School District) I have seen many thick/wide wooden table tops that used the figure 8 fasteners.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View gfadvm's profile


14932 posts in 2114 days

#4 posted 02-22-2015 01:17 AM

Figure 8s work for me.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4408 posts in 3385 days

#5 posted 02-22-2015 02:02 AM

The “Z” styled table top clips. Inexpensive, they work, and are super ease to install.


View bobro's profile


308 posts in 735 days

#6 posted 02-22-2015 06:25 AM

As AlaskaGuy pointed out, there are big tables in stressfull environments with just f-o-8 fasteners. So unless the table is going to be subjected to some specific unusual usage or environment that calls for more, structural differences between methods are only going to show up in the very long run, if they ever show up at all. In other words, whether it’s buttons, battens, f-o-8s or Z clips, or an all-wood method, as long as it’s well made, it’s primarily a practical and aesthetic choice.

The all-wood methods that are superior to fasteners with screws, as far as strength and wood movement, also have their own disadvantages.

For example, the peg-top table was popular in the 18th century. This is a mechanically a great construction. A dovetail tongue is cut into the edge of two boards and slid into a corresponding crosswise dovetailed groove on the underside of the top, like a very tall dovetailed batten. This board is then pegged into the side aprons. So, the table top can shrink and expand at will, while being both very securely fastened and strongly held against cupping.

Usually you see this on the outside of the aprons- charming but homely. What happened in actual practice is that the dovetails were often weakly angled, so the wood would shrink and the joint would loosen, and future generations would “repair” by sinking dowels or even nails through the top, into the batten. I imagine some even glued the thing in. This defeats the whole purpose of course.

I saw a well made example the other day, probably 19th century. The dovetails were dramatic and well made, it hadn’t been monkeyed with, so the thing was structurally like new. As far as appearance and style, though, it’s a big artistic commitment to have those tall battens hanging on the side aprons like a pair of giant disco sideburns.

You can conceal the peg top mechanism inside the aprons, and there are slicker antiques made that way. In my opinion, a hidden peg top construction with an additional sliding dovetail batten across the middle seems like the method you could call “best”, but now that I want to make the thing for the first time, I’m thinking, you still have to figure in the work (it’s no good if you can’t afford to make it) and confront the fact that you have to make it pretty much perfectly or it’s going to be worse, not better, than simple fasteners.

We say wow, they sure knew how to make things back then! but the fact is that we see what has survived, and not the countless pieces which wound up as firewood.

Another method whch is mechanically excellent is a frame and panel top, with the frame secured in any number of ways, for example with the tops of the legs coming up all the way through as tenons, in the old Chinese manner. You could say this is the best, but as far as looks, you must have that groove in the table top, in order for the top/panel to move. Not everyone wants a gapped surface on their table.

I’ve come up with some other eccentric methods- they work great, but only within very narrow technical and stylistic parameters. Unlike buttons for example which can be used in any style and size of table.

In short, there are many considerations to weigh.

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

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