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Table Project 5 - Top Glue-up

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Today we will be glueing up the top. The table top’s glued edge is going to be reinforced with maple dowels to add a bit more strength to the edge. Dowels are something I mix between buying and making. The store bought ones I usually only use where they are seen, and I need a perfect look. Homemade dowels are very strong, but some times not really all that good looking. But where strength is paramount like here, go the home made route. I had a scrap block of two by six maple that I had left over from the Treadle Grinder Project, which I originally found at work. To get the half inch dowels required, I pulled out my hatchet, and started splitting the stock (above). Split stock makes dowels that are much stronger then machined ones. They follow the grain lines, and once you start pounding them though a dowel plate, you will see how much of a pounding they can take. Its best not to follow my direction and do this on your workbench, your top wont like it. I am building a new one coming up,  I’d recommend you use a splitting bench. After the stock gets too small to safely hold with your fingers, I then use my hatchet with a wooden mallet, to further split the stock (below).

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Next, it was the drawknife’s turn to come out and play. Here I start bringing the stock down close to finished size. I use my bench vise to hold the stock while shaving (left). It’s not near as nice as a shaving horse, but it works. I taper one end smaller then it needs to be, to get it started in the dowel plate. I always make a few extra dowels, some may break while being driven through the plate. 

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I use a dowel plate to make my dowels. It’s a metal plate that you pound the tapered pins through to make the dowels. I have also used it to adjust the size of store bought dowels as well. You simply pound the dowels through (right). The dry hard maple took quite a pounding to make it though the plate. The dowels turned out ok, they are not the prettiest dowels, but they are tough as hell (below left). After the dowels were made, they were cut them to length and put aside as I prepared to drill the top edge for the dowels. 

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First, I needed to decided how many dowels I wanted, then mark and drill the holes. To decide upon how many dowels to use, I first decided upon a spacing from the end for the end dowels. At this point the boards ends still aren’t square and the same length, but I know roughly where they will be finished to, and just went from that. I first marked the two ends, then walked across with my dividers (right)  till I found a spacing that looked good to my eyes, which was a total of seven dowels. After marking these out, I found centre of the thickness and marked this with my marking gauge. Then, I took my bird cage awl and made the marked spots for drilling a bit deeper, this gives a good starting point for the auger bit tip (below left).

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Now its time to pull out the brace and bits. I used one half inch diameter dowels, so I grabbed my bit numbered eight from my set and grabbed my brace. Drilling the holes was a snap, I once again marked the desired depth of the holes with masking tape, checking often to make sure it didn’t move up the flutes of the bit (below left). This maple wasn’t to bad to drill with my Millers Falls ten inch brace, this was the first time using this brace, and the larger sweep sure was nice for drilling in maple. After the first half was drilled I used my dowel markers again to mark the holes in the other side. I didn’t have enough markers to do all the holes at once, so I placed the markers in the two ends and the middle, and marked them holes. I drilled these three holes, and placed dowels in these holes, and the markers in the remanning holes (below right), this keeps everything lined up, and marked them. After drilling the remaining holes the top is ready for glue up. 

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Glue up on an item like is about as easy as it gets. On some projects, it’s a nerve racking experience. There is a few things that I did to prepare this project prior to glue up and a few steps I always do to get ready for the process. First I prepared the holes with my counter sink tool to break the edge of the hole (below left). I then used a chisel to clean off any ridges left by the counter sink tool (below right). 

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Now I get ready for glue up. There are a few things I always do to make this process go smother. I use Lee Valley Cabinetmakers glue for most of my woodworking. 

  • Get your clamps ready. I get them opened, and right were they need to be. Grab more then you think you need.
  • Get your glue and spreader out. I use the little plastic ones from Lee Valley.
  • Get a damp cloth ready. Some places you can just clean the glue off after its dry, here I’m going to be planing the boards, so I can wipe it off.


Now I just start spreading the glue on. I coated the holes, using a little brush to get it on the sides, and the first edge. I glued the dowels in and started spreading on the other board. Once it was coated, it was time to clamp them together, and let it sit overnight (below). The next day I removed the clamps and got ready for the next step, planing the top flat, which I will discuss next time. Have a good week!

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Table Project 5 - Starting the Top

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Today I will be getting the birds eye maple ready for glueing together. This maple was purchased from a local supply store,  is ten and a quarter inches wide, nine feet long, inch and a quarter thick, square two side stock (above). First, I had some defective material at one end that had some cracks that I cut off. After the end was removed I determined the finished length of the top, which will be about fifty-two inches long. I marked the length and took the board over to my saw bench to cut it in half (above right). After the boards were cut (below left), which was not as bad as I was expecting, I started planing the face side. I will be glueing the two boards together, so I don’t go crazy getting the face side of either board perfect. They will be planed together as one, I am just removing and twist and getting a relatively flat surface. I start as usual with my jack plane.  This wood is figured, so it really likes to tear out, especially with my low angle jack plane. The lower cutting angle causes the wood to want to tear out, with the varying direction of the grain and the birds eyes, it can really do a number on the board. So I just backed the iron up a little, and went a little lighter then normal with my cuts. It took a little longer, but the tear out wasn’t that bad, and there is a lot of planing left to do at this stage, so I wasn’t too worried. After the jack plane, I moved on to my Stanley #6. It has a less convex blade then my jack plane, is slightly longer, and will leave more finished surface. I always check the surface with winding sticks as I go (below right), testing at several spots along the length of the board. Using my number six plane, I did a few quick passes to flatten everything out. 

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After finishing the face on both boards, I moved on to the glue edges. I took both boards and squared up the edges that would be glued together (below left). Once both were done in this manner, I lined up the boards and clamped both boards together with the faces touching (below right). This helps to create a perfect edge, they will be a mirror image of each other. I use this technique every time I glue up some boards. On some projects, you don’t have to plane the edges at all before clamping them together, just clamp and plane. The boards on this are a little to thick for that, so I got them really close and finished them off together.

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After the edges were done it was time to get ready for making dowels for support of the glue edge. I think glue would have been fine on its own, but the top is fairly heavy, with little support underneath, and so I figured dowels would be a good idea.In the next instalment, I will be making the dowels, glueing the edge and getting the final truing of the top done. I hope you enjoyed, till next time. 

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Above: The top, the edges are planed and ready for dowels and glue. 

Table Project 4 - Drilling and Prep for Finishing

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In this instalment, I will be laying out the holes for the dowels and getting things ready for finishing the base of the table. I first set my marking gauge to the measurements provided and marked the distance from the top and bottom of the stretcher to the centre of the dowel. Then, I found centre of the thickness of the stretcher and marked that where the dowel would be placed (right). I Marked the all the long and short stretchers at the same time, as they all used the same measurements. Prior to drilling the holes, I mark the centre with my birdcage awl. This gives the drill bit a good centre point to start in. Then, I measured up on my drill bit to the depth I wanted the hole to be, and marked with masking tape where to stop at. I Find this method works ok, electrical tape is a bit better, but with both the shavings sometimes push the tape up the fluting of the drill bit, so you have to check it often. You can also keep count of the turns you do with the drill. I use both methods myself. Perhaps I will pick up one of them vintage depth stops available one day. 

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Now I started drilling the holes. I Used my Stanley 945 brace I restored with a three eights inch bit to drill the holes. To drill the holes, clamp the board upright in the vice, use a square to make sure the board is square to bench top, this keeps this straight. Then I place one of my squares upright near where I will be drilling, it gives me a parallel line in both directions to Help keep me square. I drill down to the tape line, checking to keep the drill level as I go (left). I usually clamp two or more boards at a time in this manner and drill them a once.

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After the stretchers were drilled I had to mark the legs and drill them to allow for passage of the dowel. I marked the front of the legs for the long stretchers first. To do this I used dowel hole markers I purchased at Lee Valley(above right). They are inexpensive and have served me well in the past. I simply placed them in the holes in the stretcher, lined the legs up and pressed them into place (above left). I did all four legs like this.  I then marked the holes for the end stretchers. These were marked with a marking gauge from the flat spot on the face of the legs, and then I squared off the top hole from the hole for the long stretcher, then used the marking pins to line up the holes with the respective ends. This makes the holes match, so they will line up wth the holes in the end.  After all the holes were marked, I drilled the leg holes for the long stretchers, using the same methods described before (below).

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For the ends stretcher holes in the legs, I used my Millers Falls 2A drill with a brad point bit to make flat bottom holes, I didn’t want to risk drilling out the other side with my twist bits (below).

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Now That the holes were all drilled, I moved on to finishing the round over. I did the ends of the long stretchers with my block plane, going in from each end to make sure not to have any wood splitting off. After all the parts were rounded over, I sanded all the parts smooth. This gives all the surface an equal feel and appearance. I sanded down to two hundred and twenty grit paper, the parts were smooth and will be left off to the side while I complete the rest of the project.

I occasionally get visitors in the shop and would like to introduce my dog Skeets, who came in for a bit. She doesn’t come into the shop often, but decided to come in and take a nap while I was working.

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Well that concludes this entry at Shane’s Workbench, and next I will be starting on the top. As well, coming up I will be on holidays attending The Woodwright’s School in August building a spring pole lathe. I will be doing a blog feature on this trip. Stay tuned!

© Shane Larson 2017