Live Edge Dining Room Table
I’m very new to woodworking. I recently started working with two live edge slabs of cherry. Making a dining room table. I know how to use dowels to glue the two together. My question is this: What is the best way to make the two edges (the cut edges I’m gluing) to match? I need to work on making cleaner cuts, but I’m not far off and I think I just need to sand each edge until it’s flat and will leave no gap when I merge them, but I’m wondering if anyone has any suggestions on a better, more efficient method than sanding.
**Update** So I just found a video on YouTube of a guy using a router for this purpose. I have routers (inherited them from my dad when he passed away–but didn’t inherit his talent for woodworking). I think I can see how to make this work. I guess the biggest challenge now is supporting these large slabs while using a mounted router.
Attached image shows what I’m talking about.
The best way is to use a long bed jointer . Your next issue will be to level the surface, for this a thickness planer/sander is your best tool. I would take the planks to a capable workshop and have them joint and thickness sand the glued tabletop.
With all due respect to the prior commenter and whoever posted the YouTube video, any method that requires bringing heavy slabs to the machine (either a mounted router or long-bed jointer) is going to be impractical.
Rather, I’d suggest buying a long flush cut router bit with a top-mounted (not tip-mounted) bearing. Lay a wide, straight board (e.g., a sheet of plywood ripped to 6”) on top of the slab. Align the edge of the board as close to the edge of the slab as you can (think of the board as a big ruler). Then, use your router and flush cut bit to make the edge of the slab match the edge of the board. Repeat on the other slab and glue them up.
Alternatively, you could just use a track saw with a long track. This would be easiest solution, but I’m assuming you don’t have ready access to a track saw.
With all due respect to the prior commenter a 6" wide pc of plywood will follow the contours and twists of the rough cut slab and the flush trim bit will not produce a square cut. It might be straight, but will not be true enough to glue up. Doing the same thing to both slabs will only net you a narrower table because you will still need to flatten and joint them both.
Now you have the chance of a lifetime. Go out and buy a good jointer hand plane a Number 8 or 9. Learn how to get it really nice and sharp and learn h0w to joint the edges so they form a glue joint. Sanding will probably not work too well. The pattern router bit may work but can leave a few places where the two slabs will not form a glue joint. You will still need a good hand place to work the kinks out. You can flatten the slab with the plane also. However, there are articles in Fine Woodworking on making a sled and using a router to flatten the slab. Good luck with your project.
OK, another county heard from. If your concern is making a strong joint, then consider splining the joint. Use the router with a slot cutter, or if practical, stand the slabs on edge on our table saw and use a flat-bottomed blade to make grooves in both pieces Make a spline to fit whatever groove you make. The advantage of using the router with slot cutter is that the groove will be the same distance from the top on both pieces (presumably the top is close to flat).
A little more out of left field be to use floating tenons to join the two halves. Borrow someone's Festool Domino, I guess, for that.
Back to the spline: hopefully after you've glued them together with the spline to strengthen, the seam will be fairly seamless. You can fill any small imperfections with sawdust from machining them mixed with glue; you mayh have to adjust the color by using waste from the lightest portions of the board. It all depends just how perfect you want this to look.
There are many ways to tackle this project. I decided that, even with 40 years of serious woodworking experience, working with slabs was a difficult one person project. I reached out to a local professional, Ernie Conover, who introduced me to the Festool TS55 track saw and the DF700 XL domino which worked perfectly to align the slabs and make a glue up ready joint. In terms of alignment the D500 would have worked equally well. My slabs were in pretty good shape, but we had them surfaced them at a local lumberyard on a 30 inch planer.
If you partner with an excellent teacher and get a beautiful result you will be hooked on the craft and can acquire tools that you know will make you a better and much happier woodworker.
Mschlock, a spline will not make a properly prepared glue joint stronger, but it may help if you are planning ahead to fill defects with paste. Planning for no defects is better tho.
The original Q was how to get to a good glue joint, and the answer is flatten one face and joint one edge to that face. Once both slabs are done you can glue it. If you want the bottom face flat you can run the flattened slabs through a planer too.
G-star was correct in the wrong order, and M-J was correct and snippy, but in the spirit of frowning on bad advice so ok fair.
So many ways to skin a cat, so few cats.
Long bed joiner - you can probably find one of these at a local hardwood dealer. They typically make pieces to order for milling. They may charge as little as 5o cents per board foot to get this 1S (1 side square), if they even charge you. They probably have a machine that will do 3S and charge you $1.50 a board foot.If you have a truck, and a friend, or a friend with a truck, this is fairly easily done. Total cost, not including gas, maybe $10-$20.
Glue, clamps, clean-up, finish, legs, done.
Number 8 Jointer. Lie-Nielsen. $475. Your great-grandchildren will thank you.
You still have to figure out a way to hold the two joined edges flush with each other. The workmate ain't gonna cut it. Then you have to figure out how to sharpen the blade perfectly flat and get a perfect cut. Not impossible, but the scale of your project presents challenges.
The plywood thing - you will still need to start with a perfect edge on the plywood, which isn't something plywood comes with. This is a good idea if you have flat slabs and a good router bit. A good mega-flush bit from Infinity is $129.90.
Splining the joint - if your boards are 3S (the live edge is not square) and you have a reliable router you can do this if you can also produce a spline of the exact width and height and length needed. Very strong joint, but not easy to get right, and, this is likely to be affected by humidity changes in the wood more than a domino or dowel. Planning for that inevitability isn't a beginning woodworker's strong suit with something this big.
You'll notice that the professional solution uses the word "Festool." Festool is to power tools what AMG is to Mercedes. People buy Festool reconditioned tools in the USA at a slight discount and they are sold in less than 30 seconds after they are posted on the website. If you have to ask what a DF700 XL costs and you aren't making a living doing this already, you will go back to the Lie-Nielsen and think what a great deal a cold piece of metal with no motor is at a half-a-thou. You can get a cheap used truck for the combined price of a Festool Track Saw kit and DF700 kit. If you are a pro, or once you are a pro, or when you are a "money-is-not-that-much-of-an-object" woodworker, you will get the Festool. Festool is also addictive. I warned you.
Here is what I suggest. Make your table. Then get Peter Korn's book "Woodworking Basics" from Taunton. Also get Mike Pekovich's book "The How and Why of Woodworking," also from Taunton. Get some other experience with joinery. Then tear the legs off your table, cut it in half, strip the finish, and do it again.
So, to be clear, the consensus is that the OP should go out and buy $700 jointer or, alternatively, $2000 in Festool gear (and an assistant) in order to complete his project? Or that he should buy a jointer plane and a sharpening setup, and spend weeks practicing his technique in order to get a glue edge? I’m sorry, but how is this helpful to someone who is “very new to woodworking” and presumably isn’t about to drop a small fortune on tools?
Assuming the slabs are already flat (which appears to be the case in the photo), a flush trim bit guided by factory edge of plywood won’t make a perfect glue joint, but it will good enough. Plus, since it’s a table, OP can compensate for any deficiencies in the glue-up by reinforcing from underneath.
Last thought for OP: consider whether to glue the slabs at all. Instead, keep a small gap between the slabs and connect them with a couple of butterflies.
If we're really getting silly then a large capacity sliding table saw is the definitive solution. They start at about USD 5K. They are amazing for jointing longer and thicker pieces. Perfection in one pass most of the time.
I have had success with 1.5 inch thick boards using a router and a piece of angle iron as a fence.
You can also ensure a near perfect edge with the plywood idea though there is advantage in using some finishing brads to hold the board to the piece. I've never tried thicker wood this way though.
Hi Gulfstar, getting some help from a local hardwood supply or Woodworking guild might be your best bet as they will have a large jointer and planer or sander so you can get the panels jointed and flattened. A sprung joint is best and reinforcing from underneath or above with butterflies is a good idea.
Leaving an intentional gap is also a great suggestion from mcconnoly09 ,
I made the exact table you are trying to make, I jointed the panels on a jointer, sprung the joint with a handplane and glued it up and then reinforced it from below with butterflies which I cut in using a router and chisel.
Even I with a well equipped shop will at some point seek outside help, especially for projects that exceed say my 16 inches planer. In this case it is asked for the best way to join the two edges and the answer is to have flat, square and smooth edges and use good pressure at the glueing stage. The later is also challenging as it will require over a dozen pipe clamps and the outside edges offer little solid surface to apply pressure without damaging the live edge. It will be hard to apply enough pressure to make a strong joint using regular glue, I would use slow set epoxy. Having a straight and flat top that is not chipped is also challenging for the amateur woodworker, for that I take it to a nearby business that charges $2 per minute send it through a 36 inches planer/sander. For the $25 minimum charge I end up with a perfect top and bottom sanded to 100 grit and the fun begins.
Well, I might as well add my two bits...
From the size of the slabs and the experience of the woodworker, yes, it would be difficult to get a quality glue joint on his own. By all means, take it to a shop with the equipment to do it for you. Just be careful to not ding the edge when you bring it back to your shop. Otherwise, use a track saw or router to create a glue joint and epoxy together. If not satisfied with the quality of the glue line, try routing a dado and insert an inlay to disguise an imperfect glue joint, assuming you have access to a tablesaw to create the inlay. Of course , the simplest is to leave a gap between the two slabs. You can always reinforce underneath.
NB. Just combining suggestions from many of the posters without referencing...
The Drunken Woodsman, I was giving advice for someone who probably won't be able to properly prepare the joint. In that case, the spline will definitely strengthen a joint where both surfaces aren't in full contact for the entire length of this joint. In addition. clamping two such large round pieces together even with well-prepared surfaces will be difficult. Spline or tenoning the joint would be a belt and suspenders approach and make it stronger over the long haul. But hey, each to his own.
Mschlock, you gave the same glue & sawdust advice to 2 greatly differing topics yesterday where it was ill advised. Making assumptions about the capabilities of a poster looking for help and offering inferior technique based on your ass-umptions sets them up to fail instead of guiding them to success. There were many suggestions as to how to properly prepare the joint, including "find help" (which allows for your assumed lack of capability). Your post was condescending, but based on what you offered, perhaps you do not know any better. Ignorance is forgivable.
After reading and doing some thinking, I have my personal suggestion for our newbie friend.
Don’t glue the slabs together. Use a circular saw and a straight edge on the slabs so you can get a reasonably straight edge. Using a block plane, take off the saw marks. Doesn’t have to be perfect. Call it a rough hewn look. Lightly arris the cut edge. Also gives you a chance to learn a bit about planing. Depending upon the slab surface and your confidence level, you may want to try it on the top. Then use some sort of under slab fastening system. The object is to leave a small gap of 1/8” to 1/4” between the slabs. The result is that you can have a finished tabletop without being overwhelmed trying to make it perfect but in the future, as your experience and quality of tools improve, you can take another crack at it.
Or you just might learn to love the look...
@nvman - nailed it. Best solution.
What do you fill the 1/8 ´´ gap with before the food gets in and fills it ?
Thank you all for your help! I will choose a path soon and will show you the final product once it's finished.
Hello Sneezewort. Your slabs look like beautiful book matched pieces on the order of 16+ feet long. Very tall order to flatten them so the joint closes well over that entire length! I’m closer to a newbie than a master woodworker. But, I’m pretty sure This job is not a one-person job, even with the best of equipment.
Once you get the to-be-joined edges matching (even if not quite flat over that entire length): Since you want to preserve the live edge, I would glue pairs of clamping blocks on each side of the joint, top and bottom, to clamp across the joint over the entire length. I would alternate clamps top and bottom, spaced no more than 12” apart, all the way along the joint. You will need to start at one end and align the slabs as you tighten clamps one at a time. I would leave the clamps on for a full 24 hours.
Thereafter, you can cut off the sacrificial glue blocks and proceed with flattening the top. I have used a ”rails and router car“ jig like Nick Offerman to flatten white oak slabs that were 14 feet x 32” wide. It works really well! See FWW Nov/Dec2011 for his article).
One more suggestion about preparing the edges to be joined. Bob Van Dyke did a 3-part article in FWW starting in issue #207 (Sep/Oct 2009). He covers strategies for edge joint prep and glue-up. I think the second and third parts are in issues 208 and 209.
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