Maple Trestle Table, Session 7 – Installing Battens and Flattening the Underside

On the morning of Sunday, April 15th, Morton and I exchanged ideas about trestle tables, spurred on by a recent sketch of a table on which he was working.  That got me yearning to build a trestle table.

I documented my progress live on Twitter which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  Here is a list of the previous Sessions:

Session 1 – Flat Boards are Boring;
Session 2 – Playing with Slabs;
Session 3 – From Two Slabs to One Table Top;
Session 4 – Clamping Odd Shapes and Sketching on Wood;
Session 5 – Routing Pockets for Battens; and
Session 6 – Making Battens and Installing Countertop Connectors.

(If you are not familiar with the format used on Twitter, every update, or “tweet” below starts with a username, being the author of that tweet.  Sometimes, you see two or more usernames in a tweet.  The second (and third, etc) usernames are preceded by a @ symbol and are people to whom the author is talking.  The other symbol you see is #, which serves as a category.  I try to remember to categorize all my tweets pertaining to this project under #flairww.)

FlairWoodworks Today I bought some 5/16″ x 2-1/2″ bolts and washers to fasten the battens to the bottom of the table top. #flairww -6:49 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks To sink oval holes to allow for expansion and contraction, I’m drilling overlapping holes at the drill press. #flairww -7:03 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m drilling two holes with a 1-1/16″ diameter saw-tooth bit, 1/2″ apart. #flairww -7:07 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks For consistency, I use a fence and stop block. #flairww -7:10 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks For the second hole, I insert a 1/2″ spacer between the stop and workpiece. #flairww -7:12 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks To bore clearance holes for the bolts, I’ve switched to a 3/8″ brad-point bit and drilled the two end holes. #flairww -7:20 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Then I drill out the waste in the middle. #flairww -7:22 PM Apr 24th, 2012

I recorded this video showing how I bore an elongated hole.  (Duration – 0:59)

FlairWoodworks The holes are all drilled so my next step is to mark where to drill pilot holes in the slabs using a transfer punch. #flairww -7:32 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’ve been using an electric drill plugged into a ceiling mount more often and my cordless drill less often as of late. #flairww -7:43 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I used a socket adapter in the drill to drive the bolts and a ratchet to tighten them. #flairww -7:48 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks With the countertop connectors and battens installed, I can finally move the top without losing alignment. #flairww -7:56 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks While thinking about what to do next, I picked up my jack plane and worked on surfacing the underside. #flairww -8:06 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I think I’ll stop for dinner break. #flairww -8:06 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m back in the shop and I’m going to see if I can smooth the underside of the table tonight. #flairww -9:35 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m making good progress but I need to resharpen my plane blade. It’s an O1 blade, by the way. #flairww -9:51 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks After a bit of work on my 1200x diamond stone and a little stropping, I’m back to work. #flairww -9:53 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks One good thing about surfacing wood by hand is that you get a good feel for how it works before you get to the smoothing stage. #flairww-10:21 PM Apr 24th, 2012

Tumblewood That is looking extremely cool, Chris!! -10:22 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Thanks, Vic! #flairww RT @Tumblewood: That is looking extremely cool, Chris!! -10:24 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @Tumblewood I’m not sure about the long-term consequences of making the top in two pieces, instead of gluing them. Any thoughts? #flairww -10:25 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks @Tumblewood What about how laminate countertops are joined underneath? Might allow for wood movement if not glued #flairww -10:29 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan But laminate countertops are usually glued to particle board which does not move much. @Tumblewood #flairww -10:32 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks True, but I was thinking you could use that system without the glue to allow for the movement. #flairww -10:33 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan Glue the slabs to particleboard? I don’t follow. I already have installed countertop connector bolts. #flairww -10:34 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Whoops, I guess I missed that. #flairww -10:36 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks That was in Session 5. [Actually, the countertop connectors appeared in Session 6.] RT @gvmcmillan:@FlairWoodworks Whoops, I guess I missed that. #flairww -10:39 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Right. I went back and looked just now. I think long-term consequences should be better than glue, no? -10:41 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Half done! Half of the bottom, that is. #flairww -10:50 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I’m unsure. At the moment, I think glue would be better long term so that the seams stay level. #flairww -10:52 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I wish I could turn the table top around so I could more easily plane the other half. #flairww -10:53 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks What about something like a biscuit joint to do that? #flairww -10:56 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks And glue? I don’t think biscuits add strength RT @gvmcmillan: @FlairWoodworks What about something like a biscuit joint to do that?#flairww -10:58 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks By the way, I’m planing mostly at a 30-90 degree angle to the grain. #flairww -11:01 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Yes. But not the whole seam. Kinda like gluing a large mortise & tenon joint – just glue an inch in the middle. #flairww -11:07 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I’m not sure that would help… #flairww -11:08 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ahhhh! Water! #flairww -11:10 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Ok, what about these?  #flairww -11:11 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Ha ha ha… That’s what I’ve installed! RT @gvmcmillan:@FlairWoodworks Ok, what about these#flairww -11:11 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I’m confident that those connectors can keep the joint together but it’s the veritcal alignment that worries me. #flairww-11:12 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan I may try building the table without glue first. I can always glue it together later. #flairww -11:13 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan Whoops. I haven’t yet posted Session 6 in which I installed those countertop connectors. #flairww -11:15 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m about 3/4 done. Just this section remains… on this side.#flairww -11:19 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m really surprised that I haven’t had to resharpen the plane blade yet. I might finish the bottom without resharpening! #flairww -11:27 PM Apr 24th, 2012

gvmcmillan @FlairWoodworks Yeah, that way you can see if it moves. You don’t think a hardwood biscuit joint would stop it shifting vertically? #flairww-11:38 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan If the slabs want to move, I think that only a good glue joint can keep them aligned. #flairww -11:40 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks @gvmcmillan Actually, now you’ve got me thinking. Perhaps a beefy tongue and groove would work. #flairww -11:40 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I just sharpened my plane blade again. It wasn’t too bad, but was starting to get dull. #flairww -11:52 PM Apr 24th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I’m slowing down… and working up an appetite. #flairww -12:11 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Would ya just look at this! The bottom’s nearly finished.#flairww -12:21 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks The surface is planed as smooth as it’s going to be tonight. I need to flip it over and do the other side. #flairww -12:40 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Yikes! I just broke a sawhorse! I didn’t drop the top – the weight was just too much, apparently. #flairww -12:45 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Despite the sawhorse breaking, it was not difficult for me to flip the top by myself. #flairww -1:00 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks I reglued the sawhorse’s foot and put it back into service supporting the top. #flairww -1:01 AM Apr 25th, 2012

FlairWoodworks Time for a break. Actually, I’m going to get something to eat, then go to bed. #flairww -1:03 AM Apr 25th, 2012

Tumblewood I think it’s ultimately a good thing. Allows adjustment and easier portability. RT @FlairWoodworks:@Tumblewood I’m not sure about the long-term consequences of making the top in two pieces, instead of gluing them. Any thoughts? #flairww -6:12 AM, April 25, 2012

Tumblewood I can’t think of a negative. -6:12 AM, April 25, 2012

Tumblewood Too much weight + lateral force. RT @FlairWoodworks: Yikes! I just broke a sawhorse! I didn’t drop the top – the weight was just too much, apparently. #flairww -6:23 AM, April 25, 2012

That was a good amount of work for one evening and a good workout.  In Session 8 I flattened the top.

I would appreciate it if you left a comment.

13 thoughts on “Maple Trestle Table, Session 7 – Installing Battens and Flattening the Underside

  1. Nice lookin’ slabs, Chris!

    I agree you should put something, anything, to keep the slabs aligned both laterally and vertically. The bolts will hold them together, but neither guarantee lateral nor vertical alignment. Even some Dominos would work or just use the Domino to plow a long mortise precisely from the surface and put a shop-made tenon in there.

    You seem hungry throughout this session. I’ll send food.

  2. Forgot to mention… nice lookin’ drill press table. Surly you have a blog entry documenting it. Link?

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the comment. It is certainly a behemoth, but fortunately it’s not so heavy that I can’t shuffle it around the shop by myself.

      Um, yeah… I havent’ figured out how I’ll get it onto the legs. I could probably do it myself with a little ingenuity and fussing around. I do like challenges. Or else I’ll get my brother to help.


    1. Thanks for the comment, Michael. My best way to explain my work is that I am sensitive to the materials on hand, adventurous and willing to take chances, and trusting that I will get something in the end, even if it’s not what I had expected.

      Having a good supply of interesting wood is a big factor in the way I work. Find a local sawyer!


  3. Great table chris.
    If you are worried about vertical alignment, you may want 2 sets of countertop conectors, one 2 inches in from each end, and one 2 inches from each end of the middle gap. Also, a blind spline , no glue, or glued on one side only will also help. This may be your best bet, because your slabs are only joined for a short span on the ends, and if one or both of the slabs bows up or down along it’s length, you may find the ends especially going out of alignment.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Yes, I’m definitely going to use a spline of some sort. Vic Hubbard suggested making it like a breadboard since I have hybrid grain butting up to long grain and gluing only one end of the tenon (or one tenon).


      1. Yes.. I would glue to the long grain piece.. The hybrid side will move more.. This may effect the ends over time.. Much like a bread board that is never flush most of the year… I would use the domino to plow the groove, but I would use a long spline….

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