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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© Shane Larson 2018