Hardwood table top from scrap wood and construction lumber

I wanted to make a hardwood table top from mostly construction lumber, similar to this one I made in 2007. I had lots of oak off-cuts I bought off of kijiji (In Canada we use Kijiji instead of Craigslist)

Here are the pieces of wood I prepared for it. The second from the left had quite a bit of twist to it, and I figured I'd cut it down the middle before jointing so it's easier to get the twist out.

But then I realized, this piece might increase or decrease in twist later, which might put a slight twist on the whole table. so I decided not to use that piece.

I face jointed all the pieces on my 12" jointer and also edge jointed them on both sides.

I then glued the pieces together in three groups, no wider than 13" so they could still fit through my thickness planer.

I used small clamps across the joint at the ends to help line up the pieces.

But one of the glue-ups didn't quite line up in the middle, so I used one of my long reach clamps to push the pieces into alignment.

I picked out a whole bunch of oak scrap wood to cut up into thin strips to glue onto the top

I ripped these boards into three layers 5 mm thick, using a very thin 7 1/4" circular saw blade in my table saw. I had to cut from both sides for most of the pieces.

With the glue dried, I scraped off the excess drips so they don't affect the thickness of planing, then planed the pieces smooth and flat on both sides.

After that, I started gluing on the oak pieces. My conventional clamps were long enough for the first three rows, but beyond that, only my long reach clamps would reach, and I only have four of those.

Also, applying glue from a glue container, with a splint, over my workpiece wasn't the smartest idea.

So I made some more long reach clamps, these ones a bit simpler and smaller than the ones from 2011. You can see them in use at left. I'm using blocks of wood to spread the load from the clamps. I sanded a slight indent in the middle of the bottom of these blocks so that the clamping force ends up applied to either end, not just the middle.

Here applying glue to the second last row on a board. I'm adding a dab of glue between the ends of the strips I'm gluing on to fill that space.

Being close to the edge, I'm using regular clamps. These Microjig clamps have slightly more reach than my other F-clamps, so I'm using them here.

With the second last row clamped, I'm slipping the last row in, through the clamps I already have in place.

These glue-ups took a long time to finish. Having six new long reach clamps in addition to my other ones really helped. But overall, I really can't recommend making a table top this way. It takes way too much time!

For the last plank,. I really wanted to finish a row, but I ran out of long reach clamps, so I used clamping cauls as levers to give my clamps an extra 3 cm of reach to clamp these down. I wouldn't use this method to extend the reach by much though, because it applies bending force to the board underneath, and I don't want the boards bent while gluing.

Once the glue had dried on my three big planks, I ran them through the thickness planer again to level all the pieces exactly with each other.

Then cutting a dado in the ends of the planks for gluing pieces of end-grain oak on to cover the spruce backing board.

I didn't want to cut away any of the hardwood strips I had on the top, so I didn't cut to full depth and finished cleaning it out with a chisel.

I then cut short pieces off the end of a thick piece of oak to make end grain pieces to glue onto the ends of the spruce planks.

I mostly glued these on by putting a regular F-clamp on the end of the board, then using a wedge between the bar of the F-clamp and the end of the plank to act as an edge clamp for gluing on the end grain pieces.

But the widest of my planks, it turns out, had cupped since gluing on the strips of hardwood. Gluing on all those pieces to the top added moisture, which in turn expanded the wood and caused it to cup.

I clamped a piece of 2x4 to the plank near the end to force it flat while gluing on the end pieces. I left this all clamped for a day so that the glue would be nice and hard by the time I took the clamps off. But as it turned out, the big plank was no longer cupped by this time. I guess the moisture had reached equilibrium again.

With the end grain pieces glued to the ends, I still needed to cover the side edges of the table top. I needed to cut away a rabbet so a strip of hardwood would fit under the strips I glued onto the top.

In retrospect, it would have been much easier to glue the end pieces and the strips on the sides onto the planks before gluing all the pieces onto the top, which is what I did last time, but I was too keen to glue all the hardwood pieces onto the top to think this through enough ahead of time.

I cut the rabbet by making two cuts from two sides on the table saw, then cleaning it up with a chisel.

Then gluing the strips of hardwood into the rabbet I cut.

So far I had not cut the overhang off the ends of the strips I glued onto the top. The reason I hand't cut that off was because I wanted to make one final pass through the thickness planer before jointing the pieces together. And the overhang on the ends would ensure that the planer snipe would get smoothed out and on the end of the piece, not 5 cm in from the end where it's really noticeable.

Then after the final pass through the planer, I trimmed the ends flush.

I cut the corners of the table round on the bandsaw. This is much easier when the top is still in pieces.

After that, carefully doing the final jointing to make sure the 1.4 meter long pieces will meet precisely along the whole length.

Normally when laminating, if there is some half millimeter gap in the middle or the end, just a small amount of clamping force will bend the pieces to conform. But with the pieces this wide, I had to get the pieces exactly straight so they'd join along the whole length. This is where having a jointer that joints exactly straight is important. Fortunately, and perhaps surprisingly, my homemade wooden jointer did the job. It's over nine years old now.

Glue up and varnish

Carefully applying glue...

.. and clamping it together. I got a bit of glue squeeze-out along the whole length, but not too much, so I guess got the amount of glue just right.

The middle or the boards were slightly misaligned, and my long reach clamps were not long enough to reach the middle to clamp them into being flush, so I put two 20 lb barbells on the board that was higher, and that was enough to get the pieces flush.

After gluing the three pieces together, I smoothed out he transitions with a cabinet scraper. Fortunately, there was only two spots where I had a height difference of about 0.1 mm (about .004"). A cabinet scraper is much better than sanding for not introducing waviness to the surface. The cabinet scraper was also useful for taking out slight ridges in the surface because the knives in my planer have nicks in them.

The scraper leaves a very smooth surface that has a bit of a shine to it, even without varnish. But it doesn't work that well on knots. The arrow at left points to and area I sanded because of a knot, and you can see how the sandpaper took off the shine. I scraped that area some more to smooth it out again.

Then adding a 1/4" (6 mm) round-over to the top and bottom

And finally four coats of oil based varnish. I dabbed a little bit of varnish on some of the joints that had tiny gaps in them to fill them with varnish before applying it to the whole surface.

And between coats, I also used a cabinet scraper to scrape over any bumps in the varnish instead of sanding. Though after the second coat, there weren't many bumps.

I varnished it on both sides, propping the table top up on small wooden triangles I made just for this, so that the underside could dry too. The initial coat took 12 hours to feel dry to the touch. For the next coats I had my air cleaner blow air at it while it dried, and that got it to dry to the touch within about two hours. I applied four coats on the top and three on the bottom.

This oil based Varathane is a different formulation from stuff I bought in 2017 or earlier. It's less smelly, dries faster, and a partly used can doesn't develop a skin on it like the old stuff always did. So it's much more convenient to use. But I don't know if it will be as resilient to cracking and as good at keeping moisture out as the old stuff was. Dining tables get lots of dings and spills, especially with kids, so time will tell.

And finally, the top on the legs of the old table. I had been thinking of making a set of legs to specifically go with this table top, but the legs from the old table go really well with this one, so I'll just leave it like that for the time being.

The glue-ups for this table were a crazy amount of work, so I don't particularly recommend making a table top this way. If I was doing it again, I'd make the top in four sections instead of three. I wouldn't have needed as many long reach clamps that way. Smoothing the top surface of the joints between the three pieces was easier than anticipated, so more sections would not have been more trouble. And if I had glued the hardwood onto the ends and sides before gluing all the pieces on top would also have saved some time.

More projects on my woodworking website.