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Using cleats to join 3 boards table top.

Buzzsaw's picture

I was reading Woodsmith recently and an article talked about joining 3 boards for a table top with cleats.  We have some decent coffee tables (the bases of the tables are stong) but they are covered with veneered MDF that is really gross.  I want to replace the veneered MDF with maple boards that I will join with cleats.  I do have a router so I could cut a slot with my router in the sides of the boards and join the boards that way.  I would like to use the cleat method and was wondering about some pros and cons of joining boards for a coffee table in this manner.  Thanks in advance...

Regards,


Buzzsaw

Regards, Buzzsaw "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

BrianK57's picture

(post #78803, reply #1 of 13)

Buzz,


I'm having a hard time understanding your question.  Are you going to join the boards to each other with cleats?  If so, you'll be creating a cross grain situation that may cause the top to split over time, depending on how the cleats are attached to the top boards.  Are you using the cleats as an attachment method for the top to the table?  If so, attachment methods are varied but the main point is to attach the cleats in such a way as to allow the boards to move.


What kind of routing are you asking about here?  Do you want to rout a dado for the cleats?  If so, it's still a cross grain situation and could easily fail down the road.


It's far easier to edge-glue the boards together and then attach the top to the table.


Hope this helps but if you need further clarification, ask more questions.


Regards,


Kell

Buzzsaw's picture

(post #78803, reply #2 of 13)

Kell,


  In the latest Woodsmith magazine they talk about joining 3 maple boards for a table top with cleats underneath.  When you talk about edge gluing the boards together does this include using biscuits to attach them? I am a novice so please bear with me.


Regards,


Buzzsaw

Regards, Buzzsaw "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

SCFrankland's picture

(post #78803, reply #3 of 13)

You don't need to done anything fancy here. Just edge gluing should be fine for a small top like yours. Biscuits will not add much strength to the joint but may help you with alignment. As for fastening system (top to the legs) are you talking about something like is pictured below?









Scott C. Frankland


Scott's WOODWORKING Website

"He who has the most tools may not win the race of life but he will sure make his wife look like a good catch when she goes to move on."

Scott C. Frankland

Scott's WOODWORKING Website

"He who has the most tools may not win the race of life but he will sure make his wife look like a good catch when she goes to move on."

Buzzsaw's picture

(post #78803, reply #4 of 13)

Scott,


  We already have a decent base for the coffee table and it is attached similar to what you picture here (great picture by the way).  The cleats would be pieces of hardwood that would be underneath and would be perpendicular to the boards (maybe that is obvious, sorry).  So, what you are saying is to simply glue the board together with no biscuits, cleats, or anything?  Should I use something like Titebond II or Titebond Original to glue them?  Thanks...


 


 


Regards,


Buzzsaw

Regards, Buzzsaw "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

BrianK57's picture

(post #78803, reply #5 of 13)

We were all beginners at some point, Buzzsaw, and in many operations I still am!


I haven't seen that magazine article.  In any case, just gluing the edges of the boards together with Titebond or TII will work just fine.  You can skip the biscuits unless you're concerned about alignment as they don't add much strength but will assist you in the glue up by keeping the boards closer to perfect alignment.  After they dry, attach as shown in the other post and you're good to go.


Good luck!


Kell

Buzzsaw's picture

(post #78803, reply #6 of 13)

One other thing Kell,


  Just gluing the boards together will keep them strong enough if, say, a young child decides to sit on the coffee table (as often happens)? The support for the table top comes at all four corners but not really any support in the middle. It is a 4' X 2' table. Thanks...


 


Regards,


Buzzsaw

Regards, Buzzsaw "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

SCFrankland's picture

(post #78803, reply #7 of 13)

The glue should be strong enough for a kid and the rest of the family for that matter. The glue joint has a shear strength of around I think of 3500lbs. So unless you have a huge family then you should be find. Must glue bonds if done right are stronger than the wood it is holding together.


Scott C. Frankland


Scott's WOODWORKING Website

"He who has the most tools may not win the race of life but he will sure make his wife look like a good catch when she goes to move on."

Scott C. Frankland

Scott's WOODWORKING Website

"He who has the most tools may not win the race of life but he will sure make his wife look like a good catch when she goes to move on."

Buzzsaw's picture

(post #78803, reply #8 of 13)

Scott,


  Should I use any particular preparation to the sides of the boards before gluing.  And also what is the best thing to use to get off the hardened excess glue that I assume will leak out?  Thanks...


 


 


Regards,


Buzzsaw

Regards, Buzzsaw "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

CharlieP's picture

(post #78803, reply #9 of 13)

I have made numerous coffee tables, with tops glued up from narrower pieces.  I trim the ends after the glue-up and save the scraps for non-believers - breaking the pieces always occurs away from the glue - I have never had a glue joint fail using plain old yellow carpenter's glue.  The joint must be tight without the glue before gluing - the glob of glue that might have filled a bad joint isn't as strong as the wood, but the glue bonds the wood fibers until they are stronger than the original wood.  . 


There are two theories about cleaning up the glue that squeezes out of the joint.  One theory says let it dry then scrape it off.  My experience is that it messes up the wood too much - pulling fibers, etc.  The other theory is to wipe it off with a wet rag while it is still wet.  If you wipe very carefull, being sure to clean up all the glue, rinsing the rag frequently, I have never had it interfere with stain or other finish.  (If I do a poor job cleaning, that is another story)


As noted, the biscuits are great for alignment, but not necessary for strength.


Also as noted, the top must be able to shift with the seasons.  I have used three different ways of attaching the top.  "Z" clips. like pictured in the earlier response.  Wooden versions of the Z clip (scraps are free, but they take time to make - I think that was the first question).  My favorite way is something I saw in FWW - pocket hole cut in the side of the apron, aligned to go into the top.  Then a biscuit slot in the top of the apron, so the screw into the pocket hole can actually pivot as the top moves.  You need two tools (pocket hole cutter and biscuit cutter) but a fast, neat, stable solution.  See the result in the picture below.


 


________________________
Charlie Plesums  Austin, Texas
www.plesums.com/wood

________________________

Charlie Plesums  Austin, Texas

www.plesums.com/wood

www.solowoodworker.com

PreviewAttachmentSize
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Buzzsaw's picture

(post #78803, reply #10 of 13)

Thanks Charlie,


  Just to reiterate, I don't have to do anything to the sides of the wood that are being glued together. I can also use just good old-fashioned carpenter's glue.  I also plan on routering the edges after the boards have hardened.  Any suggestion as to which router bit to use?  I was thinking of simply a chamfer or a roundover bit.  I have seen that an ogee bit may be nice.  I just don't want the edges to be pointy as I have children and a routered edge will add a nice touch to the table.  Thanks...


Regards,


Buzzsaw

Regards, Buzzsaw "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

ownersrep's picture

(post #78803, reply #11 of 13)

Buzzsaw,


I don't want you to assume that the edges of the boards you are joining don't have to be at least reasonably straight.  You'll get a much better joint both visually and strength wise if you either joint the edges or at least rip with a blade that leaves a glueable surface.  I think everybody is assuming you know that (and maybe I should have assumed that also).  You can also joint the edges with your router or a hand plane if you don't have a jointer.


And yes plain old woodworkers (or even Elmers) glue will work fine.


Jim

Buzzsaw's picture

(post #78803, reply #13 of 13)

Thanks Scott and Jim,


  Good info and we'll see how it works out... Thanks...


Regards,


Buzzsaw

Regards, Buzzsaw "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

SCFrankland's picture

(post #78803, reply #12 of 13)

I always joint any edge that will be glued together with either a hand plane or my jointer. As for cleaning up excess glue I turn to a damp rag and wipe the surface clean. Make sure that you don't smear the glue all over the surface as it will affect most finishes. Another way is to let the glue set for a bit and clean it off with a scrapper while is is still rubber like to the touch.

Scott C. Frankland


Scott's WOODWORKING Website

"He who has the most tools may not win the race of life but he will sure make his wife look like a good catch when she goes to move on."

Scott C. Frankland

Scott's WOODWORKING Website

"He who has the most tools may not win the race of life but he will sure make his wife look like a good catch when she goes to move on."