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How To Make A Table - Tips And Tricks
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So you cleaned the workshop up, stocked the beer fridge and got yourself a plan to make a table.

Well that's great but did you know there are quite a few things that can go wrong when you make a table and if you are anything like me, Murphy's Law applies 99% of the time. So here are some tips and tricks for you.

The main difficulty people face when they make a table is "wobble". Don't you hate it when that happens! You have to keep trimming the recalcitrant leg until the table is so low it ends up in your 2 year old daughter's bedroom for pretend tea times. I am going to explain how I do it and if you follow suit then I guarantee you will never get that annoying wobble whenever you make a table again.

Let's start with the cutting. When you cut the legs use a stop on your saw bench, don't leave it to chance as even a 1mm variation in length will cause you problems. If you are using a hand saw then set a stop on your workbench and another two stops, one on each side of the workpiece, to act as a guide for the blade of the hand saw. Right, we have perfect legs but that's only half the battle. Now to the frame!

There are many ways to make a table frame and regardless of the style or technique you use these important tips will ensure your frame is absolutely perfect.

Make sure your rails are of absolutely identical length. The same as we did for the legs. I can't stress the importance of this. If you are having bottom rails as well then the same thing applies. We want to make a table that does not wobble so everything must be precise.

OK, it's time to glue, bolt or screw the frame together and this is where a simple checking method will ensure you make a table frame that is perfectly level and wobble free. When constructing the frame, do it upside down with the legs pointing into the air. This is important and you will soon see why. If you are using screws or bolts then tighten them to a little more than hand-tight. If you are gluing then set your clamps and tighten up until you just start to see the glue squeezing out. Important tip! Make sure you run a square along the rail and up each side of the leg so the leg is perfectly plumb to the frame in each direction. Do this for each leg (that's eight checks for square) and be precise.

Now, we need to check the four hypotenuses. Yes, four!

A lot of people forget that a table frame is 3 dimensional. We have to be squared off in two directions, horizontally and vertically. Much the same as we just did for the legs. When you make a table, a square horizontal plane will ensure that the amount of table top overhang will be exactly the same all the way around and a square vertical plane ensures you will eliminate the chance of wobble.

Do the horizontal plane first. Run a tape from one corner of one rail to the opposing corner of the opposite rail. You won't get right into the corner because the leg will be in the way so measure from the point where the leg joins the rail on each opposing corner. Make sure you use the same point on each corner. Make a note of the measurement and do the same for the opposite hypotenuse. If one measurement was say 1,116 mm and the other was 1,120 mm then our "target" measurement is 1,118mm. Slightly skew the frame by "squeezing" the two corners that had the longest measurement until the two measurements are identical, in this case 1,118. If you have to loosen the bolts or clamps then do so, but not too loose. When the measurements match, slightly tighten up (but not too tight yet) and run the tape over again to make sure there was no movement.

But that had nothing to do with wobble did it? No, but you now have a perfectly square base for your perfectly square table top!

Now for the vertical plane. You measure from the top corner of one leg down to the same corner points you used before on the opposite corner. So we are measuring from the "foot" of the leg diagonally down to where the opposing corner leg joins the rail. Do the same for the other side and get the measurements identical by twisting the frame "up or down" at the corners being careful not to twist horizontally. Do this by placing one hand firmly down on one corner and "lifting the opposing corner off the bench until the opposing measurements match.

The measurements match and the table is wobbling on the workbench. Why? The workbench is not as flat as you thought it was! Put some cardboard or spacers under the offending corner(s) so the frame is firm on the bench at all points. If you don't do this it will probably move during tightening thus undoing all your good work.

Next, we simply tighten everything up, but still not fully tight, then recheck the measurements yet again and readjust if we have to. If everything is good then fully tighten the clamps, screws or bolts. This method sounds time consuming but it usually only takes me two or three minutes! It will guarantee that your table frame is absolutely square in every direction. Once the frame is complete and the glue is dry you can attach the top.

That's how you make a table to be proud of!

So, I hope these little tips helped you to make a table that is perfect in every way. Now, because your daughter missed out and you now know how, you can make a table that's intended for tea parties instead of by accident.

Have fun!


Street Talk

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