How to Glue Wood Together to Make a Table Top

The rapid disappearance of old-growth forests makes finding a slab of wood large enough for a solid table top an expensive, if not impossible task.
A sharp plane is the key to a good joint.A sharp plane is the key to a good joint.
Most modern woodworkers opt for the less expensive method of gluing individual planks together edge-to-edge when making the top for a large table. When done properly, the result is a single, apparently seamless piece of wood that will last for years. The key to success in this operation is making the mating surfaces as flat as possible before glue-up.

Step 1

Place your planks together, edge-to-edge, on a flat surface. Arrange them in the order and position you want for the final table top.

Step 2

Use a pencil to lightly number both sides of each joint on the bottom side of the planks. For the first joint, mark each adjoining edge with a 1, the second with the number 2 and so on.

Step 3

Secure the first two boards in two bench vises with the numbered surfaces facing out. The necessary distance between the vises depends on the length of your boards. As a rule of thumb, the end of each board should extend no more than 18 inches beyond the vise. The goal is to keep the boards firmly aligned during the planing process.

Step 4

Plane the edges of both boards until they are flat. Check them periodically by removing them from the vise, placing the planed edges together and looking for gaps. You are finished planing when you can’t see light between the planed edges anywhere along the length of the board.

Step 5

Repeat the planing process with the remaining boards. One of the first pair of boards planed will have an edge marked with the number 2. Pair this with the number 2 edge on the third board. Continue matching edge numbers for the remaining boards.

Step 6

Place the planks in position on a flat surface. Lift the planks one at a time and run a bead of carpenter’s glue along the edge of each joint, then place the plank back into position.

Step 7

Place the clamps across the planks no more than 12 inches apart. Tighten them until they apply light, uniform pressure across the table top.

Step 8

Adjust each plank as you continue to tighten the clamps. The glue initially lubricates the joints and increases their tendency to slide out of position. Time spent adjusting the boards now can save hours of surface planing and sanding once the project dries.

Step 9

Continue to tighten the clamps until you have uniform glue squeeze-out along each joint.

Step 10

Allow the glue to cure for at least 24 hours before removing the clamps.

Things You Will Need

  • Pencil
  • 2 woodworking bench vises
  • Bench plane
  • Clamps
  • Carpenter’s glue

About the Author

Finn McCuhil is a freelance writer based in Northern Michigan. He worked as a reporter and columnist in South Florida before becoming fascinated with computers. After studying programming at University of South Florida, he spent more than 20 years heading up IT departments at three tier-one automotive suppliers. He now builds wooden boats in the north woods.