Creating an Attractive Tabletop
Part 1: Lumber selection and rough milling
Synopsis: This first article in a three-part series on making a tabletop covers choosing the right boards, milling them, and arranging them in the proper sequence. These early decisions on grain, color, and matching can make or break a tabletop, so it’s best to take the time to do things right. Bob Van Dyke shows you how.
Click here to read part two.
From Fine Woodworking #207
The top is the most visible part of the table, so you need to get it right. This sounds easy on the surface, but the process is loaded with pitfalls. In this three-part series, I’ll describe my method for producing a tabletop you can be proud of. In this issue, you’ll learn how to choose the best boards, mill them, and arrange them for the best-looking sequence. In part two, I’ll show you how three glue-ups are less traumatic than one. In part three, I’ll show you how to achieve a perfectly flat and smooth tabletop.
Remember, someone (probably you) is going to be living with this table for many years. And as a furniture maker, one of the advantages you have over the factory is that you can hand-pick beautiful boards. Those early decisions make or break a tabletop.
Pick the right boards: The best design option is to make the top from a single wide board. Realistically, though, that is limited to small tabletops. Most often you’ll need to glue up boards, and the lumber selection will be critical.
Start thick—You’ll be removing a lot of material during flattening and planing, so start with lumber that is considerably thicker than the final thickness. For a top that will be 3⁄4 in. to 7 ⁄8 in. thick, plan on using roughsawn 4/4 lumber, typically 1 in. to…