Table top "issues"

Hello All:
Yesterday I started out to glue up a top for a library table I got at the local school surplus. The table was all solid oak except for a beat up plywood top. Anyway, I figured it was a snap to make a solid top: Just face joint, edge joint, thickness plane, rip and glue. No problem right? I guess I had never tried to face joint 4/4 lumber of any length before. By the time I got the 5 foot long boards face jointed and planed they were getting might thin. Doesn't take much of a cup in a board to really take away the thickness. So now I am left with a bunch of really thin (but flat!) boards and I'm trying to figure out a way to save the situation.
I'm thinking of using the old plywood top and gluing down a thin solid top. However, I know that the solid wood will move and the plywood won't. How thin would I have to make the oak top so that it will act like a veneer?
Put more simply: How thick can veneer be and still act like veneer rather than solid wood?
Any other solutions welcome as well as advice for the next time. Maybe just start with 8/4 lumber ;-)
Thanks,
Jim
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Jim, Typical veneer is usually less than 1/32 of inch or so (give or take a few hundreths). You'd have to be pretty skilled to turn the top into veneer (plus you'd be wasting a lot of wood). Try a thick/wide edging around your table panel. If you're down to a 1/2" board, glue 1" edging around it. The edging can be as much as several inches wide. This will give it the appearance of a much thicker top. Because of the wood movement of your main top, you'll probably want to use a breadboard type joint on the ends. gary

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Jim, I don't have the answered to your question but I know on engineered flooring the solid wood layer is about 1/8th in. But, those are planks that are only about 6" wide before the next tongue and groove which does allow some expansion across a whole room.
As far as your flattening exercise, did you support the gap on the "under cup" side of the board when you ran it through the planer? You need to build a sled to do this so the rollers don't just flatten the board as it goes through the planer and really does not flatten the board until way too many passes have reduced the usable thickness. Perhaps this was not the issue and the boards were flat after you used the jointer.. not sure of your sequence, but just a thought.
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Without seeing how bad your starting lumber was, might I suggest:
1) Better grades of lumber are best to start with. FAS may cost more, but it has better width, which means less sapwood, and no knots, which means it doesn't twist around them.
2) Sight your boards and plan ahead. Rough cut to length with the objective of eliminating the worst twist. As they normally sticker 6-8" from the end, don't plan on using that in your long cuts. I like to work by taking a touch from either high end versus trying to guess the middle.
3) If the board will ride flat through the planer, regardless of whether it is flat (rough in middle or an odd edge, e.g.), it's ok to thickness. There's a bottom that is seldom seen on every tabletop. Also, two straight boards can take a lot of bow out of a board in between if you use good alignment.
4) I like 5/4 lumber for tabletops.

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"Jim Martin" wrote in message

You appear to be at the point where anything you can do to salvage the project is worth trying, even it does not confrom precisely to conventional wood working wisdom ... IOW, what have you got to lose?
At this point, I would be tempted to buy a good sheet of cabinet grade Oak Plywood, edge band it for the table top, and use your thin, but flat, boards for another project.

Depends upon the wood and width, but on 12- 24" bookmatched widths, I've had luck bandsawing to 3/16" and using that as a veneer on an mdf substrate without problems.
Although I prefer thinner for most veneer applications, IME, 1/16" is pushing the edge for "thin" in a home shop with a well tuned planer, sharp blades, and some type of carrier jig ... a drum sander is ideal, if not almost a requirement, for this situation.
Commercial veneers are generally much thinner, but 1/16 - 3/16" thickness should be OK providing your substrate is stable, ie good ply or mdf, and you use good glue.

Pick your lumber with more care. If you can't take 4/4 down to 3/4", you made your mistake in purchasing.
For table tops I always try to start with 5/4 if possible. Short of that, buy 3./4" dimensioned, straight as you can find and use it right away.
Keep in mind that "perfectly flat" is not always achievable and a slight bow can usually be forced out of individual boards during glueup of a panel without any ill effects.
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Last update: 9/21/03
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I just glued up a maple butcher block counter (yes another one). I went the other way, not having a jointer. I glued them (1x2 s4s) up with the slight warps in them resulting in some rough joints and took it all out later with my belt sander. I turned a lot of wood into dust but only the wood that wasn't working with me. BTW "Norton" blue sanding belts, accept no substitute. The crap I got at Harbor Freight weren't worth the time to load them on the sander. I got more done with one 50 grit Norton belt than a half dozen HF belts and it still has some life in it. I followed up with a 150g belt and then 150 in my ROS. It came out great.
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I'm not at all sure how you are going to recover and still use the stock you have but you should note that you are operating under a misconception if you think veneer doesn't work like solid wood.
When you veneer the top of a substrate it is usually advisable to also apply a veneer (it need not be of the same species so a cheaper one can be used) to the bottom of the substrate to counter act the bending and twisting the top layer can cause to a substrate.
Just a thought.
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Mike G.
Heirloom Woods
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