Introduction: Make a Conference Table & How to Cut Breadboard Ends
This Instructable will walk you through the process on making a tabletop with breadboard ends. The table I'm making here is a conference table but it can be scaled up or down to suit your specific needs. This table top is 10’ long, 3’ wide and made up of 1 ½” thick red oak. Needless to say, at the end of this built, it was extremely heavy. I buy all my lumber rough sawn and usually mill it myself, but in this case I had the lumberyard S3S these boards for me simply because their equipment can do it much faster than mine can.
Tools that I used:
Sawstop table saw - https://amzn.to/2ILhw5L
Jointer - https://amzn.to/2ILhw5L
Chisels - https://amzn.to/2ILhw5L
Japanese handsaw - https://amzn.to/2ILhw5L
Drill & driver set - https://amzn.to/2ILhw5L
120" x 9" x 1 1/2" red oak
Hairpin table legs - https://www.diyhairpinlegs.com/products/3-rod-hair...
Step 1: Cut Boards to Width
The boards that I'm starting with are S3S (surfaced on three sides). Depending on your material you may need to process your lumber differently. Since these boards are S3S, there is one edge that didn’t get milled. That edge got cut off at the table saw when I trimmed these boards to their final width. This table top on 36" wide and made up of four boards so each board gets cut down to 9" wide.
Step 2: Orient the Boards and Cut Slots for Biscuits
Next orient the boards in a way they look best and clamp them together without any glue. Then mark the areas where you'll be adding biscuits as well as number the boards so you don’t accidentally mix them up.
These biscuits are added to help keep the board faces even with one another during the glue up. I suggest adding two rows of biscuits for boards this thick and cutting each slot being about 12” from its neighbor.
To cut the second row, you'll need to flip the board over and reference the biscuit jointer off the bottom of the board. All four boards got these biscuits.
Dowels or dominoes will work the same as biscuits in this application.
Step 3: Glue and Clamp
Here I took some time to think about which glue I was going to use. Titebond is my go to wood glue and I keep Titebond 1 and 3 on hand. I ended up using 1 because it better matched the color of the wood. If I were to build this table again I would use titebond 3 simply because it has a longer working time.
After adding the biscuits and fully covering the joint with glue, give the biscuits a light tap with a hammer to ensure that they’re fully seated in their slots.
To make the glue up more manageable, glue up the the two halves of the tabletop individually. It's important here to keep these panels as flat as possible during the glue up. Use cauls on either sides of the boards. I keep a few 2x4s on hand that I flattened their sides and covered them with packing tape so glue won't stick to them. I added cauls in the middle of this glue up as well as either end. It's also a good idea to alternate your clamps. Put some on top and bottom of these panels to disperse clamping pressure.
Step 4: Clean Up the Seams
After their first glue up, clean up the seams between the boards. A block plane works great to level any high spots. Then draw a bunch of pencil lines across the top surface. This helps me see where you may have missed any spots during sanding.
Start with a belt sander sanding across the grain to remove material quickly. Once all the pencil lines are gone, do one light pass sanding with the grain to remove any heavy scratches. Then repeat the pencil trick for your orbital sander. Only sand to about 80 grit since here since there will be more sanding needed later on.
This entire step can be done with an orbital sander. The other tools mentioned simply speed up the process.
Step 5: Cut Biscuits
Clamp your boards together once again and mark where to cut biscuit slots to join the two sections together.
Step 6: Glue Up the Table Top
This glue up should go just like the previous one. A good tip here is to also rub the sawdust from the sanding over the joint to soak up the glue squeeze out and fill small gaps if there are any.
Your table may weigh less depending on its size but after the glue dries this top weighs nearly 200 lbs. Always get help to move things that are large and heavy like this.
Step 7: Cut the Tenons
There are many ways to cut these tenons but first we need to square off the ends of our table top. Use a track saw or circular saw and a straight like I did here.
Mark where the shoulder of the tenon will be and line up your router bit that mark. Then clamp a straight edge to the table top to use as reference for you router base to ride against. There’s a lot of material to remove so take light passes to ensure a good quality cut.
Of course these steps get repeated on the opposite side of the tabletop and with that done, lay out where the tenons and marked the areas to remove with a marker.
My tenons are 5" wide, 4" apart from each other, and 2" in from the edge.
Step 8: Prep the Breadboard End
With that out of the way, we can start on the breadboard ends. These are pieces of wood that will be mortised and tenoned to the short ends of the table to help keep the over all tabletop flat over time.
Start with cutting the boards to their final width. Next, establish the outside walls and thickness of the mortise. I use my table saw to make these but a router or router table will also work. I make multiple cuts and move my fence over to take several passes to remove the remaining material between the two outside cuts.
Step 9: Mark and Cut the Mortises
Transfer the tenon lines to the breadboard so you can cut the full depth of the mortises using the drill press.
Drill the two outside holes first to establish the length of the mortise and then nudge the piece over to drill a series of holes to remove the bulk of the material. This leaves a messy looking mortise which then needs to get cleaned up with some light chisel work.
Step 10: Cut the Tenons
Next use a hand saw as well as a coping saw to remove the material between the tenons.
Also ease the edges of the tenons with a chisel to help the breadboard end slide on easier
Step 11: Test Fit the Breadboard
With all that done, we can finally see if we cut out everything correctly. This joint should be snug but not too tight. You should be able to press it into place by hand or using light hits with a hammer.
Make adjustments as needed.
It's important to keep the breadboard long at this point to make it easier to remove for the next step. Place a scrap block on the overhang and use a hammer or mallet to remove the breadboard if it's to tight to remove my hand.
Step 12: Drill for the Pins
Breadboards can’t be glued in place because wood movement would cause the joint to fail. Because of this they need to be pinned in place. Mark out where to drill the holes for the pins and drill them with a drill press to ensure they're straight. Here I used ⅜” dowel as the pins so I’m using my pocket hole drill bit to drill the holes since it’s the same diameter.
After fitting the breadboard back in place, transfer the hole locations onto the tenons with a pencil. When drilling the holes, position the drill bit slightly closer to the shoulder of the tenon. This way when you drive the pins in place, they’ll help draw the breadboard in tighter to the table. This technique is call draw boring. Also elongate the outermost holes to allow the pins to move freely side to side within the tenon as the tabletop expands and contracts during seasonal change.
Step 13: Add the Pins
Sharpen one end of the pins so it can be hammered into the hole easier and chamfer the other end to reduce the risk of breaking it as it’s being hammered into place.
Then apply some glue and hammer the pins in further to secure them to the breadboard and ensure they won’t come out.
Step 14: Final Touches
Trim the excess material on the breadboards and pins. Now it's time to do quite a bit of sanding. Move up through the grits and finish off with 220. You can take this to a higher grit if you'd like. Then add a chamfer or round over to the edges of the table to give it a more comfortable feel.
Route backwards on the corners to reduce the risk of tear out. Have a firm grip on your router and take your time.
Step 15: Finish the Table
Using wipe on poly to finish the table is a great and simple choice. It really brings out the natural colors in the wood and offers a fair amount of protection over time. It’s also incredibly simple to apply. I added a total of 4 coats sanding with 220 grit between coats.
Step 16: Congrats!! You're All Done!
Attach the legs and you're all done! Hope you liked this project!
You can watch the video here on how I built this table.
You can also find me on Youtube
Instagram to see what I'm currently working on
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Second Prize in the
Furniture Contest 2018