Joining Timber Table Tops
Getting the perfect joints in your table and bench tops.
Golden Rule: You will never make good joints in timber table or bench tops by using lots and lots of sash clamps.
I love looking at a table top that has been joined well. Where it is difficult to actually see where one leaf starts and another ends. It’s easy to find table and bench tops which are joined perfectly on older furniture and kitchens but not so much today and especially in mass produced budget furniture.
Of course the critical starting point is having a good surfacer. Yes I still prefer the British version (surfacer) instead of (jointer) the US version but let’s not get started down that road.
I use a Carbatec 200mm wide machine with a long bed (about 2000mm). I bought it second hand but it was in good condition. When I first started using it I could not figure out why I couldn’t get good joints. As it turned out the in-feed table was out of parallel to the out-feed table. I spent some time researching how to adjust the tables and then getting it done. I can’t stress enough how important this is in the overall joining process. If the timber comes off the machine “almost” perfect, the time you will spend later on will be minimal. Don’t forget also, make sure you have sharp, well set up knives and always square your fence to the table before you start machining any timber.
The next step in good joints is hand planing every joint with a long hand plane with the timber held firmly in a good bench vice. I use a number 6 Stanley hand plane. I would use a number 7 Stanley if I had one but the one I have does a great job so I have save myself the money.
I have had a lot of arguments with people over the need to hand plane joints but my results speak for themselves. One argument is it takes too long. However if you are set up well with a good work bench and a really sharp blade it only takes minutes.
Want to know more? Then check out my YouTube video