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Discussion Starter #1
I’m building a coffee table with the tabletop flush to the legs, aprons and stretchers (no overhang). I’m pretty new to woodworking but I’ve only seen tabletops connected to the base with some sort of fasteners. However, I don’t think my top will be perfectly seamless to the aprons and stretchers without a glue up. Am I going to regret glueing the top to the base once the weather changes or is there a better way to attach the top?
 

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The Nut in the Cellar
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You didn''t state the dimensions of the table top. Wood moves with temperature/humidity changes even if finished. Therefore, I would not advise gluing the top to the aprons and leg tops without any mechanical connection as I would expect glue joint failure, or top joint failure over time. Unless the top is made of veneered plywood, I would expect the joints that make up the top panel to fail after time passes. I am currently making a coffee table from maple and the top measures 50" long by 30" wide. I am using the figure 8 desktop connectors to fasten the top to the carcass. The top is a glue up of six pieces of hard maple biscuit joined with Titebond II clue. The top panel is finished on both faces (top and bottom) to minimize/equalize movement. I am using 24 of the connectors as the finished coffee table will weigh in excess of 225 pounds and I don't want someone to rip the top off trying to move the table. The connectors are let into the top of the carcass (your table aprons) with a forstner bit so the top will sit flush with the top of the carcass.
 

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It would be good to have a sketch of your coffee table to understand the design. What type/species of wood are you using. Will the top be solid wood or plywood?


George
 

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If its solid wood and you want to obey rules about movement, you need to fasten in a way that will allow, such as buttons, figure eight fasteners, glue blocks with slotted holes, etc.

That said, about 30 years ago, knowing nothing, I made a coffee table using dowels on the whole thing, even the top was fastened to the apron with dowels (don't ask me how I managed that).

Long story short, the top never cracked until it was exposed to outside
air which caused a couple glue lines to open - but the top (20" wide) never cracked.

But you should do it the right way. Moving furniture from a shop to indoors, especially this time of year, you can expect it to shrink.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks for the input so far! To answer some of the questions - the tabletop is 44” x 18” and curly maple.

The pictures are a dry fit and hopefully do a better job of explaining what I’m going for better than I can. Again, my concern is how to ensure there will be to gaps when the table top is connected as the top will sit flush against the top of the base.
 

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If its solid wood and you want to obey rules about movement, you need to fasten in a way that will allow, such as buttons, figure eight fasteners, glue blocks with slotted holes, etc.

That said, about 30 years ago, knowing nothing, I made a coffee table using dowels on the whole thing, even the top was fastened to the apron with dowels (don't ask me how I managed that).

Long story short, the top never cracked until it was exposed to outside
air which caused a couple glue lines to open - but the top (20" wide) never cracked.

But you should do it the right way. Moving furniture from a shop to indoors, especially this time of year, you can expect it to shrink.

A buddy of mine has always said that you can get away with this sort of thing if you genuinely didn't know better at the time; but once you know, all bets are off!
 

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The Nut in the Cellar
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OP: Nice clean design. I think the desktop connectors would give you the flush attachment you seek. If you don't have the tooling to install the figure eight connectors, you could attach 3/4" square pieces to the top inside of the apron pieces and then attach the top through the square strips with screws in slightly elongated holes.
 

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I am using 24 of the connectors as the finished coffee table will weigh in excess of 225 pounds and I don't want someone to rip the top off trying to move the table. The connectors are let into the top of the carcass (your table aprons) with a forstner bit so the top flush with the top of the carcass.
Jim, I understand that you are not the OP here. However, maybe my comment will help with the OP's question. Looking at the photos of your project (nicely done, by the way) I note that the figure 8 fasteners along the front and back edges are perpendicular. This configuration defeats the purpose of these fasteners. They are intended to pivot around both screws as the top expands or contracts. The fasteners along both ends are fine and as the top expands/contracts front to back, they will pivot as intended. The others will not.

I almost always build my casework, as you did, with the top frame. I then use washerhead or trusshead screws through oblong holes in that frame to hold the top down. It works just fine. I'm with you on fastening the top securely enough to allow someone to lift by the top overhang. They are gonna do it whether you intend it or not.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
OP: Nice clean design. I think the desktop connectors would give you the flush attachment you seek. If you don't have the tooling to install the figure eight connectors, you could attach 3/4" square pieces to the top inside of the apron pieces and then attach the top through the square strips with screws in slightly elongated holes.
I have some of the figure 8 connectors arriving tomorrow so I’m going to give that a try. Thanks for the recommendation. Amazing work on your coffee table, by the way!
 

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With no overhang buttons are a good option to pull the top down tight.

How do you plan to finish?
Do you mean what do I plan to use for a topcoat? Sorry, I’m still pretty new to this. I’m planning to make a wipe on poly but open to suggestions.
 

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Do you mean what do I plan to use for a topcoat? Sorry, I’m still pretty new to this. I’m planning to make a wipe on poly but open to suggestions.
Just asked because maple has issues with staining.
Actually, I’ve been wondering what to do with that. I tested a piece of the maple with several stains and was a bit confused on how spotty it received the stain. I’ve only used pine for the few things I’ve built so far so wasn’t sure if this is typical of hardwoods.

I’m not a big fan of lightly colored furniture. Any suggestions on a stain or or process to get a darker finish without the spotty look?
 

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The Nut in the Cellar
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maple will blotch easily and it does not take stain well due to the tightly closed grain. My method for coloring maple is rather time consuming but seems to work for me over the years.

1. Sand the surface to 220 grit and tack off.
2. Apply 1 pound cut shellac to seal the grain evenly. Lately, I've been using Sealcoat cut 50/50 with denatured alcohol to seal maple. This step helps prevent the blotching by sealing up the more porous grain.
3. Lightly sand the surface again with 220 grit paper.
4. Color the piece. I use an aniline water based dye (Lockwood's is my fave). The dye will penetrate the surface easier than most stains and you can add more color with a additional applications or lighten the color with a damp rag.
5. Once the desired color is achieved, I apply a coat of danish oil to bring out or "pop" the grain.
6. Once the oil has cured completely, I apply wipe on top coats until the desired build is achieved. My preferred top coat is polyurethane varnish thinned to wiping consistency. Right now I'm using Minwax Polyurethane thinned 60/40 with mineral spirits rubbed out between applications with a gray non-woven pad (000 steel wool equivalent).
7. Once the top coats are done and fully cured, I rub out the finish with a white non-woven pad (0000 equivalent) and wax.
The maple pieces below were all finished with this method
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Jim,

Thanks for the steps on staining maple. I’ve been curious about shellac so I’ll be sure to use those steps!

I’ve decided for this table to skip the stain and just clear coat it. I really like the look of curly maple so I think I’ll love with such a light colored piece.

I have a good amount of maple leftover so I may start a smaller project with it soon. For that one I’ll definitely try the stops you provided.

I have a few more coats of wipe on poly to go but so far it’s looking ok.
 

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