Attaching solid-wood tabletops
Five ways to keep your top tight and flat through the seasons
Synopsis: Since the very first table was built of wood, furniture makers have faced the challenge of holding a tabletop securely to its base while allowing it to expand and shrink with the seasons. Everyone has a favorite technique; here, Bob Van Dyke looks at five of the simpler methods, from shopmade to store-bought: figure-8 clips, screw pockets, table mounting clips, cabinetmaker’s buttons, and ledger strips.
All solid wood will move with the seasons. A board will increase in width as atmospheric humidity increases and shrink in width when the humidity decreases. Since the beginning, furniture makers have faced the challenge of holding a tabletop securely to its base while allowing for this movement.
There’s no shortage of techniques. Here I’ll show you a few of the simpler methods available, from shopmade to store-bought. In all cases, be absolutely sure that there is no chance of the screw even coming close to poking through the top. I have seen cases where the tip of the screw is so close to the surface that it creates a small dimple that’s visible when the top is viewed in raking light.
If there is any doubt in your mind, don’t hesitate to test the whole process on a mock-up top and apron rather than taking the chance of ruining a perfectly good top.
An angled screw in a pocket is one of the simplest and most traditional methods of attaching a top. A long tapered recess, or pocket, is cut into the inside face of the apron using either a flat bench chisel or a large carving gouge. Before you can cut the pocket, you must determine the pilot-hole angle.
To do this, decide how far you want the screw to project into the thickness of…