I was going to use 3/4" oak ply for a 26 x 16 end table but decided that
I prefer the look of solid oak lumber, so I'll do a glue-up. I'm
guessing that I CAN'T merely glue on 4 pieces of trim, because the trim
at the end grain ends of the top would be a no-no. Wouldn't it look
unfinished to leave the ends of the boards exposed and just rout a
decorative edge profile into the boards? What's the usual method of
edging a table top that is solid? (The style of this table will be
informal. aprons, a drawer, a lower shelf, and square legs with a
I have several end tables where the tops have exposed end grain, it's no big
deal. They were made of cherry, so I suppose that's slightly different than
oak, but if you sand the end grain with a much higher grit sandpaper (320 or
400) then you effectively seal the wood against higher stain absorption (so
it doesn't appear darker than the rest of the wood) and then they were
routed with a simple bullnose.
I suppose it's personal preference, but I've always been partial to having
the endgrain show rather than wrapping it with edging (makes it look like
you used plywood even if you didn't). But, that's just taste rather than a
You can do several things included breadboard edges, a mitered frame, etc.
The breadboard edge will work to keep the top flat, but I have had a few
instances where I didn't account for wood movement properly and ended up
with the breadboards moving enough to protrude past the main top (from front
to back). Pretty annoying. I live near the coast and experience pretty big
humidity swings, so my mileage might not be the same as you get in CA.
The mitered top can look nice, but you have to again be careful about wood
Honestly, routing a decorative edge on a top without any other added
treatments is very common and there's nothing wrong with it, IMO. You can
bevel the underside of the top to create a thin cross section when viewed
from the side if you like, or just put a nice roundover or bead, ogee, etc.
etc. I've also seen plenty of tables with just square tops with no
embellishments at all. Anything under the sun is possible and you'll find
plenty of examples of them all.
As you often say to everyone, do what YOU like and then you'll be sure to be
happy. In things like this I don't feel there is a "wrong" way to do it.
Hi, Mike. I may go with no edging if wood movement will cause me more
grief than it's worth to "beef" up the edge. I had thought to add an
edge would give the top a heftier look. I could go with 1" thick solid
glue-up instead. and I have a few edge treatment bits to jazz it up a
Mike in Mystic wrote:
Personally, I like the look of endgrain and wherever possible, I leave the
endrain on a panel showing. I sand the endgrain to a finer grit so if
staining, it doesn't darken more than the rest of the panel.
I did a couple of 20" deep solid oak tops for the side pieces to a couple of
entertainment centers sometime back. Because of the design, I wanted 1 1/2"
wide trim pieces that ran down the sides and front. It would cover the
endgrain. The edge profile would be applied to the trim pieces. To
accomplish this, I first glued up the main panels. I then made up 1 1/2
stock for the trim. I routed the profile before I cut the trim stock to
length ( I was concerned about chip out on the mitered corners if I routed
after they were in place. Also, I pin nail the corners and didn't want the
router bit to hit that ). I then cut the front piece of trim with mitered
edges at both ends. It helps to sneak up on that length using two scrap
mitered pieces to check against the front miters. I then biscuited and
glued the front piece to panel (grain runs in same direction left to right).
Make sure you use the scrap pieces to make sure your mitered ends line up
correctly as you clamp it. Then I cut the side pieces a little long and
fine tune the miter until it fits perfectly. Then I cut the side pieces to
length. To attach, I use a bicuit at the front of the side trim piece and
use pocket holes at a few places along the rest of edge toward the back. I
elongate the pocket holes for expansion. Also, I only glue the miter, the
biscuit and the edge just to the back of the biscuit. There is no glue
along the rest of the edge to allow for expansion/contraction. Since it is
a top, the pocket holes are hidden. Works great.
You can also seal the end grain by applying one or more coats of a 1 lb cut of
dewaxed shellac. As always test on scrap until you get the desired effect.
Buffalo, NY - USA
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Here is a traditional way to treat such ends, Dave:
And here is the finished table, with the "breadboards" installed. The
only point of attachment, other than the mortises and tenons themselves,
is an ebony peg that goes thru the middle tenon from the bottom. This
allows the top to expand and contract freely.
Leave the end grain ... it look natural.
You can do a variation of two bevel techniques to make your table top
'appear' thinner or thicker:
A bevel thusly:
... will make the top appear thicker.
... will make the top appear thinner.
Edge profile bits, using the same philosophy, or a combination of bevels and
profiles, can take you just about anywhere you want to go.
I like that look a lot. The last table top I did I put a 45 degree, 1/4"
chamfer, on both the top and bottom edge of a 1" thick top ... makes the top
look much less clunky on the relatively small, but tall, table.
I also like a bevel on the bottom edge, leaving about 3/8" of the original
end grain at the top. It gives an elegant appearance to a low table, like a
And another "bevel" design tip that I failed to implement on a recent
project, but wish to hell I had: A simple, appropriate sized, 45 degree
bevel on the inside edge of a table leg can really make the legs look less
bulky when viewed from an angle where you see two planes of the same leg.
Not really a suggestion but something I pondered on in the past is something
of a breadboard treatment incorporating
a sliding dovetail with a single center pin. Never tried it though...
Oh and around this neck 'o the woods the critics would not refer to that
look as unfinished it would be "rustic".. how nice 'eh?
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