MAKING THE COFFEE TABLE TOP - Getting Started, Gluing up the Top, Cutting the Top to Size.


Marking out the boards.Lay the 5 boards for the coffee table top out on your level surface such that the end grain of each plank is in alternate directions like the diagram to the right and number each board on the face and draw some lines across each joint where you want them to line up.
Close the boards up together and check that they form a good straight joint between each board ( this is why picking perfectly straight boards is so important ).

If you've got a planer thicknesser you can re-plane any of the timber that's not straight to form a perfect joint.
If you have got plenty of time and the skill to use a hand plane, you could replane by hand. I would use a try plane for this, the Record 07 mentioned under 'flattening the top.'
If the boards aren't straight and you haven't got a planer thicknesser or access to one or a suitable hand plane, you could try taking the boards to your local joinery works and asking them to straight edge them for you at a price.

If you've got a biscuit jointer mark out 90 degree lines at 3 points along the length of the joints and cut the slots. If you haven't got a biscuit jointer you will be relying on butt joints and you will probably find that you will have a lot more work to do to flatten the coffee table top after gluing up. The biscuit joints help keep the tops of the boards in line and leaves less flattening to do.


Lay the two bottom cramps out at each end of the top on your level surface set a bit wider than the coffee top. Unless you follow the tip on the left, you will need two strips of waste wood the length and thickness of the table top to protect the edges from being dented by the steel jaws of the cramps.

Lay the boards across the cramps in order and then turn them over all in the same direction to stand them on their edges. Give each edge ( except the outside edges of the table ) a liberal coating of P.V.A. glue with a brush including the slots for the biscuits if you are using them. Insert the biscuits if you are using them.

Do up the two bottom end cramps but don't overtighten them or you will pull the cramps and the top into a bow. If you are not using biscuits you should try and get the top edges of the boards to line up as you proceed with cramping by applying pressure to any that are proud. Apply the third cramp to the middle on the top. Wipe off any excess glue from the joints with a damp cloth and leave the top to dry for a minimum of 2 hours but preferably overnight.


If you haven't replaned the timber and the boards were all exactly the same width, the top of your coffee table should be more or less the right width already. If not, it should be near enough that you can use a plane on the edges to make sure the two long edges are exactly parallel.

Cutting to length is a simple matter if you have a panel saw with a sliding table. If not, you could use a hand saw, a jig saw, or a circular saw. Which ever you use, mark a line across one end of the table at 90 degrees on the underside of the table, (I use a roofer's square for this), if you are using a jig saw or a circular saw which both cut upwards, or on the top side if using a hand saw.

Make sure that the end you are going to cut is projecting out from your work surface so that the line of cut is free of any obstacles and cramp the top down firm with G cramps, (don't forget the waste wood between the cramp and the top). If you are using a hand saw cut the end off sawing along the waste side of the line. If not, measure the distance from the blade of your jig saw or circular saw to the left hand edge of the base plate. Measure in from your line of cut the same distance and transfer that measurement to the table top so that you end up with a second 90 degree pencil line parallel to your line of cut but spaced in from it by the distance from your base plate to the blade. G cramp a straight piece of wood to the table top along this line. You now have a fence to run your saw against to make a straight cut. (If you're using a jig saw the cut won't be that straight as the blade tends to wander a bit).

Turn the table top round, measure to length from your straight table edge, and repeat the whole procedure. Your coffee table top is now ready for the next stage of the task.

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