Whispering Woodworks - Table Construction Details
I build my tables with very traditional methods - both joinery and wood selection are considered very carefully to provide a beautiful and lasting construction. The table legs are turned or shaped from a single block of wood, the aprons are connected to the legs with solid mortise and tenon joints. These joints are pinned with two hardwood pins to further increase the strength of this critical joint.
Each corner of the table is further reinforced with a solid wood corner block that is glued and screwed to the back of the aprons.
The tops of my tables are constructed utilizing wide, grain matched boards. I offer 6 or 7 different edge profiles which you can select from. Using your choice of wood (Cherry, Maple, Tiger Maple, Mahogany, Walnut and others), I typically make the tops 1 - 1 1/8" thick. I run a decorative bead around the lower edge of the table aprons and use solid wood for all parts of the table.
Different options are available depending on the shape of the top, and the desired look. One of the most traditional and desirable features of a rectangular table are breadboard ends. (There is a good picture and description of breadboard ends in the section - Breadboards and Company Boards Explained.) The breadboard ends feature a special joint which allows natural movement of the table top due to changes in humidity, while keeping the top perfectly flat and covering the end grain. Other table shapes (round or elliptical do not allow for the use of breadboards.)
If it is desired to be able to increase the seating capacity, there are several methods. Drop leaf tables can be designed in a wide range of styles and sizes to accommodate a variety of seating options - this is a very traditional and practical approach to increasing the seating capacity.
Another traditional method is the use of company boards. The boards are added to the end of the table and can vary in width from 12 to 24" . The boards slide into slots in the apron and are well supported when in place. The company boards have the advantage of being significantly less costly than the center leafs, and the table can be built much stronger since the aprons are not cut in the center. (There is an excellent discussion on company boards in the section Breadboards and Company Boards Explained.)
Company Boards on the end of a Shaker Table
The remaining option is to use an extension mechanism and add leafs to the center of the table. This is a good way to add extra space, but is not entirely traditional. If you choose this method, one of the features I add is to put a section of the apron on each of the leafs so that the apron is still continuous with the leafs in place. All of these methods work very well to increase the size of the table.
One thing that you will quickly notice about my table tops - visible in detail on several of the farm tables featured on my website - is that I typically use 3 very wide boards for the entire top. This is almost impossible to find these days and makes a very dramatic statement - the grain, color and figure matching is excellent.
When the top is near completion, I hand plane and scrape the top before finishing to bring out the best grain features and natural highlights. I offer a variety of finishing options - I can do a natural finish which will age beautifully, or use a dye stain to give the table an aged look. I can provide light distressing for a country look. My traditional finish for a dining table is a very durable hand rubbed varnish. All of my pieces are rubbed out by hand and waxed to a satin finish.