This is part two of my build for a Dining Room Table and will include the build for the table top components.

To go to the beginning, see: Dining Room Table – Dual Trestle and Extension Slides – Part 1 for the initial build of the leg components.

Cauls for the Top

Before even trying to make the top parts, which will consist of two 40″ x 40″ sides, plus two 15″ x 40″ leaves, I need to make cauls to keep the boards flat during glue up.

To do this, I made some long 2×2′s, (around 48″), so they’d extend far enough past the sides such that I could link them up with dowels. They’re going to have a slight curve to them to make sure they hold things down from the center out. As you’ll see, they’ll be clamped down later. Once everything is cut and put together, I put clear packing tape on the inside portions, then used plain parafin wax on top of that. This way, they won’t stick to the glue squeeze out on the boards during glue up.

Here’s where I learned to do this:

How To: #1: Clamping Cauls – Making & Using

Thread: Make Your Own Curved Clamping Cauls

Note that you may need to create a login on the Sawmill Creek forum in order to see the pictures.

To make the curve, I put some spacers on the ends, and countersunk a screw right in the middle of the 2x2s. Then I used a hand planer to flatten out the top. Once the top is flatten out and the screw is removed, you end up with a curved piece.

I just used 3/4″ holes and dowels in the ends to connect them.

Completed Cauls

Jointing the board edges for the top.

I don’t own a jointer. So I used the spacer rods available with the fence of my router table to create a poor man’s jointer. This was good enough to get the edges straight and flat enough for glue up. I did not need to do any sanding on the edges.

Here’s some other instructions on how to do this:

Here’s what the table top sections look like during glue up. This is just one section. I made three of these. They’re all about 42″x48″ so they’re oversized and will be trimmed down later. Two will be used for the ends. And the third will be cut to make the two 15″ leaves. I made them all the same size to start just to keep things consistent and to make sure I had at least two good large ends before slicing the last one up. As you can see, the cauls are on the ends, crossing all the boards and holding them down with clamps. To clamp across the boards, there’s three pipe clamps on the bottom and two bar clamps on top. The pipe clamps were made from getting some 10′ pipe cut down to 6′ and 4′ and then having the ends threaded. I got these at Lowe’s home center. And these are the galvanized pipes, not the black ones. The black ones can leave bad marks on wood. In any case, I put plastic packing tape over the pipes anyway. This way any glue squeeze out will be a little less messy. Once these were clamped up for an hour, I tried to carefully scrape off some of the glue squeeze out on the top. But I left them clamped overnight to be super paranoid about a well cured glue joint. Then I scraped off the rest of the glue squeeze out on both top and bottom after removing the clamps.

Now I can see how the table tops are starting to look. This is before I made the breadboard ends. I just wanted to see what it looked like as it started to really feel like a table. Even though still a lot more work to go.


Making the Breadboard Ends

Breadboards are for keeping the glued up boards flat. There have been a lot of plans I’ve seen online for simple tables that probably work just fine. But don’t necessarily account for the seasonal variation in wood expansion. So I found some instructions on how to make breadboard ends and followed them to make 3 1/2″ breadboard ends on the large sections of the table and short 2″ breadboards for the leaves. The leaves just use a simple long 1/4″ stub tenon, whereas the large pieces will have the 1/4″ stub running most of the width of the table, and also have some 2 1/2″ deep tenons that will go into deeper mortises cut into the breadboard ends. This exercise was probably the most time consuming aspect of making this table. (Mostly because I’d never done this sort of thing before and had to take time to play with test pieces before risking mangling up the expensive tops I’d just glued up.

It was especially important for me to test out these techniques as I’d never heard of “drawboring” before. To drawbored something is to use a hole in the tenon that’s slightly offset towards the piece to be attached. This ‘draws’ the breadboard into the piece with tension alone. If done well, you shouldn’t even need glue. Which means, if you’re me, you still use a little glue. But only on the small part of the dowel that attaches to the breadboard, not the tenon. Otherwise you lose the benefit of the extended holes to account for wood movement. This can be confusing and I’m not explaining it well in text. Pictures help. Here’s some online instructions on breadboard ends that will ideally make things clearer. People have a variety of techniques for this and I learned something from each of them.

Breadboard Joinery for the Table Top

Breadboard ends from Wood Magazine

Festool Owner’s Group. Method uses loose tenons, but doesn’t seem to allow for movement.

Canadian Woodworking site. Method extends mortise to ends.

Tips from the North Carolina Woodworking Forum

Tips from Sawmill Creek Forum


The Breadboard End Mortises

After cutting the boards to size, I used my router table to create the mortises. Following the directions in the How to Make Breadboard ends, these boards are several inches wider than the table itself. This will allow fitting of the ends on the tenons, and then use of a rubber mallet on the ends to get them back off. They need to come back off for both adjustment and to drill the holes for the dowels.

Here’s what they look like once the mortises are done for the stub tenon. The deeper mortises within these will be made next to accommodate the longer tenons from the large table ends.

This next piece is a test piece so I can dial in the settings for a jig to rout the tenon portions of the large table top ends. It’s basically just a guide for the router.

After I finished playing with the test piece, I attached the jig to my real work piece and put some  shims in there to hold things tight and provide a place for the router to exit the work piece into more wood to avoid tear out. I got some tear out anyway, but that will get cleaned up later during final trimming to the proper width, plus sanding and rounding over.

Starting the routing… You can see where I marked the areas that will be cut out later. I didn’t want to route those out because they provided a good platform for the router base. Those parts will get cut out later with a saw anyway, so no need to waste time routing them.

Here’s the end result. Note the bad screwup on the far side. Basically, I cut out the wrong part of the tenon. My solution was to make a “loose tenon” here. That is, I had to dig out a mortise on that side of the table and insert an appropriately sized new tenon into the table.

Here’s what the new loose tenon looks like. Both the short stub tenon and the longer ones are not all that perfectly clean. It’s a bit embarrassing. I should have gone slower and worked more carefully. The bottom line is it doesn’t matter much as no one, (except anyone looking here), will ever see these parts.


Making the Deeper Mortises for the Longer Tenons

There’s a lot of ways to chisel out mortises. I happen to have something called a Beadlock Tenon jig / tool. What this does is creates holes for so-called “loose tenons” that really aren’t loose of course. In short, you make mortises in both sides of the pieces you want to attach, and glue this loose tenon into both sides. Since I had this thing, it’s the easiest way I had to line up and hog out the mortise material with the drill insert and a drill. Then this tool has an insert that’s square and that can be used with a chisel to get the rest of the slop out.

By the way, there’s an article on Fine Woodworking Magazine for how to Cut a Mortise in Minutes. To see it you have to be a member though. As a magazine subscriber and paid member, I can tell you it’s a decent article. But I can’t share it as that would just wrong as it’s behind their pay wall. You can do their free trial to get to it though. But check out the whole site, I find the subscription worthwhile.

Here are the breadboard ends getting attached for final fitting.

Now I just have to do the same thing for the smaller leaves. Notice that I’m just using the short stub tenon here so this part is easier. You can also see that on each side of the table top, there’s a cut out so the tenon doesn’t go all the way to the end. This is a personal preference. I’ve seen others that just have it go to the very end. But I didn’t like the way that looked. So I did this cut out and made sure the mortise extends almost, but not quite, to the end. (And when I say end, I mean where the breadboard will end once the extra ends are cut off.)

Next I need to make the dowel parts for the draw bored holes. To do this, I used a stop block clamped to my table saw fence in order to consistently cut the lengths I wanted. These dowel plugs were all oversized by a 1/2″ with the intent to use flush trim the extra later. This is much easier than trying to cut precisely perfect lengths.

The large ones will be for the large table top ends and the small dowels for the leaves.

Only the center portions of the tenons will be glued. The ends will be left to float freely to account for expansion. This is where the holes are drilled in the tenon just a hair closer to the top than the holes in the breadboard. What you do is drill the breadboard holes first, then mount it. Next, put a small dimple in the tenon and pull the breadboard off. Being careful to stay centered, drill the tenon hole just 1/64th or 1/32 closer in. Note also that the holes in the far sides have been widened horizontally. The dowels should not be glued into these tenons. They should hold from pressure alone. But… you can – as I did – add a little bit of glue either on top or bottom only. I added a little bit of glue to the bottom so that gravity wouldn’t bring glue down into the tenon hole. I did this by pushing the dowel through the hole a little further than necessary. (Using a rubber mallet and another dowel as a punch.) Then I put a bit of glue around it and pushed it up flush to the bottom. Finally, after letting the glue dry, I flush cut the excess dowel portion off and gave it a little sanding.

The breadboard ends of the leaves:

And now the larger end table top halves:

Once everything is glued in and set, it’s time to cut the extra ends off. These ends were invaluable in getting the fit right. I probably pounded them on and off four or five times each to get everything worked out for the internals of the mortises and tenons.

Now we’re starting to look like a table! But… there’s still a lot of work to do.

I think that’s enough for part two. I’m going to go to a Part 3 for the next phase of attaching hardware and such.

Here’s Dining Room Table – Dual Trestle and Extension Slides – Part 3, which will have attachment of the hardware, such as the equalizer slides, and final finishing.