Gluing Up Tabletops
Strategies for milling, matching, gluing, and clamping large panels
Making large-panel tabletops doesn’t have to be intimidating. Gary Rogowski explains all the steps needed to mill, match, glue up, and properly clamp your work. The skills involved can then benefit you in other projects, such as constructing carcases or frame-and-panel work. He explains how to lay out the stock to help prevent problems later, and shows how to mill pieces by hand for those without a jointer. Rogowski also shares tricks like leveling your workbench precisely to ensure a professional result.
From Fine Woodworking #166
For many woodworkers, the thought of making a large tabletop can be intimidating. After all, a tabletop is big and heavy—two good reasons for an elevated fear factor. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to find individual boards wide enough to make such a big part. To create a wide surface, several narrow boards must be butted edge to edge and glued together. And that big, heavy surface needs to be flat, straight, smooth, and strong. So it’s easy to understand why many shy away from making big tabletops.
But, as I have discovered during my 29 years as a woodworker, the procedure isn’t that scary. A well-made top is mostly the result of following tried-and-true steps. These techniques can be used to make any surface, large or small, whether solid-wood desktops, carcase sides and backs, or panels in frame-and-panel construction.
Before reaching for the glue and clamps, it’s worth spending time getting the boards ready. For starters, you want boards that are a little thicker, wider, and longer than needed. To minimize any tendency toward warping, they should be given time to acclimate to shop temperature and humidity. As soon as the boards are brought inside, they should be stored flat with stickers in between each one so that air can…