I will soon be building a table top (approximately 36" x 72") out of kiln
dried, native, Texas mesquite. Since mesquite rarely comes in long lengths
I have decided to rip the 3'-5' boards (4/4 thick) into 1 1/2" wide boards
and glue them together edge side up--with one butt joint for each 72" board.
I will stagger the end butt joints so that no two are beside each other.
With this in mind, I respectfully ask the members of this forum for answers
to the following questions: (1) will glueing the boards together "edge
side up" eliminate lateral expansion/movement? (2) will I need to use
biscuits for such a glue-up or will jointed boards and glue be strong
enough? (3) is there a better way to construct such a table top out of
Your suggestions have never been more anticipated or appreciated.
Well you have a good amount of gluing work ahead.
A face joint of 1.5inches will be very strong. Biscuits or dowels do not
add any strength to such a joint since you have so much surface area being
glued. They do help alignment. In my experience dowels help alignment more
than biscuits, but take longer. Biscuits may be faster for you and should
help with the vertical alignment to minimize sanding or planing once glued
I suggest you use a good straight edge to support the first few sections in
order to get the assembly started out straight. Although you could edge
joint later, I think you would hate any visual joint lines which are not
I think the butt jointing will not be a problem. Manufacturers of table
tops made in this fashion normally finger joint the boards. I do not know
if this adds strength, but may make it easier to handle the strips in the
I have a purchased table top of about 36 x 48 which is made of strips of
beech or some light wood which is made from random short lengths glued
together using finger joints for the strips. The strips are then face glued
to each other.
I have not observed any movement issued with this table top. It is not a
high quality piece, but it shows no signs of splitting/cracking. It has
been finished with water based varnish. It sits in a heated room.
If your wood is dried to the average moisture content of the room in which
the table will be placed you will eliminate future cracking.
I think the main movement issue to address is the fastening of the table top
to the table frame. The overall assembly will expand and contract, so you
need to allow for this movement in the attachment. Places like Rockler and
other hardware stores sell special brackets for attached a table top which
allows movement. The bracket is screwed to the top and has a lip which sits
in a groove in the frame. This holds the top down, but allows for the top
to move with moisture changes.
Do you already have the mesquite? Is that a conscious choice or is it
something you had easy access to? It seems like your construction choice
will be a lot of work that will eliminate the opportunity to show much wood
figure. If you haven't committed already, perhaps reconsidering wood choice
or looking further for bigger pieces of Mesquite should be considered. I
remember a local dealer got some pieces of mesquite that were 8-10' long.
Wouldn't a 3' X 6' table top 1-1/2" thick be heavy as hell? Do you really
need all that beef or are you trying to compensate for voids in the
I remember Norm Abram making an armoire (I think) out of New Mexico mesquite
a couple seasons ago. He compensated for the voids by filling them with
black epoxy and that gave the piece a distinctive look. It was easily
machined by his power tools.
Seems to me you could reduce your weight by one third by gluing your 4/4
stock edge-to-edge and working with the character of the mesquite.
I think butt joints in the top will be OK as long as they're cut with all
the faces either up or down on the same miter saw. That way, if there's any
error in alignment, they'll all be even so should fit perfectly together.
BTW, the joining ends that form every butt joint will have to be trimmed on
the miter saw.
I built a reloading bench top using hard maple this way. Biscuits help with
the alignment but not necessary for strength. The wood will still expand
and contract but at least it shouldn't warp.
The butt joints won't be a problem strength wise but are hard to pull tight
if you try to glue both pieces at the same time. 72" clamps are hard to
deal with over top or around all your other clamps. With this in mind, it
would be well worth the money (very little money really) to get an 8 foot
piece of 3/4" pipe and build yourself a clamp to span the table. Get that
butt joint as tight as you can, it'll be ugly if you don't.
One way to make your wood go farther would be to make the it thinner, attach
it to a piece of particle board (or plywood) and then put a taller piece on
the edge to give the appearance of a top that thickness. I did that with
the table top that I'm typing on right now, again out of maple.
If you have a planer, make 3 sections 12 inches wide and then put them
through the planer before the final glue up. Could save you ALOT of
sanding. Just make sure your final 2 glues lines are perfect.
Hope this helps.
I missed the original post, but:
Wouldn't edge gluing this into something resembling a Texas butcher
block rather hide the beauty of using mesquite in the first place?
Seems to be somewhat of a waste of the scarce wood. Edge gluing, with
staggered but joints, sort of like a wood floor, should work well. I
don't think that you really want to try to do to much to fool the eye
into thinking it's something that never existed in nature.
I'd deal with the movement in the attachment to the base of the table,
and let it be.
I have made two small tables by using 1 1/2 inch plywood strips and
glue/nailing together. They are strong enough for a 300 pounder to
stand on. I was after the laminated look of the plywood edges and just
used wood putty for voids.
Getting the first piece square was crucial since it was an end table and
the sides intersected with the top.
One thing to consider is how you will get the top flat and even all the
way across. I spent hours with a plane and belt sander getting mine
fairly flat. A friend did the same table and took the top to a cabinet
shop to get it run through a large planer or sander to get it even.
Cost him some green but it saved him time.
Good luck with the top. It would be interesting to see how the mesquite
There is no rule against making the boards run side to side
instead of end to end. I suspect a little more work doing
it that way, but it would certainly work and require much
less work than you are planning. Build a simple ladder frame
and lay the short boards across the frame.
With a more funky look, you could "stagger" the boards
using more bracing underneath the table top and run the
stock end to end. That requires a good bit more work but
it will certainly work. I would skip the edge side up
Dick Pewthers wrote:
If you haven't bought the mesquite yet, I can probably fix you up. I
am just down the road from you in Llano, and have KD mesquite in the sizes
you need for just such a top without all the splicing in both 4/4 and 8/4
Kiln Dried to 6-8% MC. Most of the wood is 8"+ wide. The wider boards will
show off the beauty of the mesquite much better than the narrow strips. I
build mesquite furniture also and can give you a hand with info on the
methods I use if you are interested.
I am harvesting some huge trees right now that will yield 12 -
14+" wide boards over 8 feet long, but will be about mid to late February
before they are out of the kiln since they are still out on the ranch I am
cutting on in log form at the moment.
I have a price list at http://www.tbird-hardwoods.com
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