Hardwood Splines In Pine Tabletop?


I got volunteered to make a blanket chest by Christmas. I only have a rickety benchsaw and a 1.5HP Craftsman router (with tiny storebought table). I've never made a tabletop before and I've only managed pockethole and dado 'n glue/screw joinery heretofore. A splined tabletop seems like the thing to do for this newby; simple joinery with some provision for achieving a flat top. I assume one makes splines grain-short. If I make the piece in white pine, should I use hardwood splines? If I make the piece in Ash, should I use Ash splines? (Should I just hide in the basement 'til January)?
I did read some of the "spline" threads, but thought I'd post anyway. (And, no, I don't have bucks to spend on biscuit cutters or anything else but the sticks themselves. I do, however have some Gorilla Glue, but I don't think I'll come close to a flat top by simply attempting butt joints.)
As always, thanks for any and all replies.
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All of your wood will have to be face jointed if you want a shot at a flat table. The stuff you buy at the store will not be nearly good enough. I suppose you could have the lumberyard do it, but it won't be cheap; and you will have to glue it up before it stops being flat.
Your time can't be worth much if you want to spline the table instead of biscuiting it; it will take forever with your router and table, and might not be all that accurate. Or consider a doweling jig. PITA compared to biscuits, but cheap.
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Why would you bother using biscuts to edge join boards for a tabletop?
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Frank Drackman wrote:

The main reason I've heard of it being used was to help with alignment, rather than for any structural purpose.
Chris
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Toller wrote:

The grooves for a splined joint or for that matter both the tongues and
the grooves for T & G are easily centered on the edge of the board when using a slot cutter on a router table.
First you run the baord through with one face down, than you run it through again with the other face down.
Practice on scrap, of course.
I agree that bigger boards are PIA to horse around on a small router table.
--

FF


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Got a slot cutter for that router? Blind grooves - stopping a couple inches from the end, which can be done easily without a router table - and hardboard splines would give you great alignment. If you glue them, wait three-four days before planing or sanding, to give them time to relax from the swelling.
If not, wax paper, cauls, and gluing one board at a time works great as well. Have a board and mallet available for microadjustment.
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Save yourself some dollars and make splines out of hardboard [Masonite]. It's cheap, cuts easily [wear a mask - it's dusty], and is more than adequate for the job. The main function of the splines is to keep the boards in alignment. If the ends of the boards will show, i.e., no breadboard ends, make sure you stop the grooves at least one inch before where the finished end will be. If you decide on a breadboard end, don't glue it on. Lateral expansion of the field boards will tear it apart. That's a subject for another thread. Save the expensive Gorilla Glue for a project where you really need that much performance. Titebond-II is more than enough for this table. Spend a little money on a carbide slot cutter bit with a 1/4 inch thick cutter [the same thickness as the hardboard]. Take the router out of the table - this job will come out better if the router is handheld, because if the boards have any curve, and if you run them across the table with the convex side up, the bit will not stay centered on thickness of the stock. Spend some time - a lot of time - arranging the boards before making any grooves. A lot of people talk about alternating the growth rings, but I think it is even more important to orient the grain. Look at the edge of each board to see which way the grain slopes up to the face. If you keep all of the grain sloping the same way it will be much easier to plane the top after glue up. To prove this to yourself, clamp two scrap boards side-by-side with alternate grain slopes, and plane the face over the joint. One face will plane smoothly and the other will tear out. Guess how I learned this. Once the boards are laid out, mark all of the faces with chalk, and make a big chalk triangle to help with re-assembly. Make sure that you rout each board with the face up, towards the router, so that any variation in board thickness will fall on the underside of the tabletop. Go easy on the glue. I small bead of squeeze-out confirms the proper amount. Practice on scrap. If you use black pipe clamps, keep them away from the wood and the glue. Waxed paper works well. Clamp up the assembly dry before you reach for the glue. You don't want to find out that you don't have enough of the right sized clamps while your glue is setting up. I'd recommend clamping long scraps along the faces to keep the assembly from curving. Put waxed paper under them so they don't become part of the table. Scraping off as much of the glue bead as you can reach when it gets tacky - about 20-30 minutes after clamping, will save you some work later. Take your time, especially with planning. The table might be aound for centuries. Enjoy. Tom
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On 14 Nov 2005 17:02:56 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net scribbled:

You don't really need splines. You could use cauls to align your glued-up top and come up with a flat top just with butt joints. By cauls, I mean straight pieces of wood that you lay across the table top (perpendicular to the boards) and clamp down. Depending on the length and quality of your timber, you could get away with two sets of two cauls or maybe three. Put wax paper under the cauls so they don't get glued to the top.
Luigi Replace "nonet" with "yukonomics" for real email address www.yukonomics.ca/wooddorking/humour.html www.yukonomics.ca/wooddorking/antifaq.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Woodworking
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