My first table-top glue up, and it's looking to be a real mess


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I've been making a kitchen table for myself. It's my largest woodworking project to date. Today was supposed to be my triumphant table-top glue up. As I'm walking out to the woodshop, it dawns on me... I've never glued boards together to make a panel (table top). I decided to only glue up two boards at first, just to see how the process might work, and boy am I glad that I did. 

The wood I am using is Southern Yellow Pine from Home Depot. I bought 2x12s that I painstakingly sorted through to pick only boards that were straight, not twisted, with as few knots, the straightest grain, and with the heart/pith of the tree running right down the center of each board. I then spent multiple days using a table saw to cut away the pith and any sap wood. I then used a very nice industrial jointer and thickness planer to get the boards all milled down into usable lumber. I now have some very respectable straight-grained quarter-sawn southern yellow pine. Yes... I polished a turd. :-) But now... back to the glue up. 

I do not have enough clamps by FAR. I have two nice bar clamps that can handle the 36" w panel. And I have one nice Beasley F clamp that can only do 20" or so. I knew I had very flew clamps, so my solution was... Pocket holes. I tried to drill pocket holes every 12" on one board, and then every 12" on the other, offset by 6" so that there would be a screw going from one board to the other every 6 inches. Even though I planned the boards to perfection etc. they have move a little in the 4-5 days since they've been sitting in my shop. So the fit wasn't absolutely perfect between the boards, but with the very slightest of clamping pressure, the boards closed up perfectly with no seam. I held the boards down as flush as possible with one hand and drove the Kreg screws in. When I was finished... it was all screwed up. Even though I thought I had used all my weight to hold the boards flush against the assembly table, there is a slight difference in thickness between each board. Nothing more than 1/32-1/16" and I've known I would have to belt sand the whole thing flat once it's all together. But the boards somehow slipped a lot, and there were spots where one board was 1/8-1/4" higher than the adjacent board. It is as if the Kregg screws wandered and forced the boards totally out of whack. 

I panicked! I unscrewed all the screws, and reset the boards that I had to bang apart with a rubber mallet to separate the glue that had already started to set (titebond III) I slapped on some more glue, grabbed some of the discarded pitch scraps to use as cauls, and put a bar clamp on each in, about 6" in from the very end, and the F-clamp right in the center. I think I may have saved it, but the experience was so frustrating, that I can see now that I really have to rethink this process. I have $0 to buy new clamps right now. But if I am going to be making large panels like this I know I will need to buy 10 real clamps at least. But considering that I need this table done, yesterday (I have family coming with small children, and I have no place for everyone to eat.) does anyone have any tips on how to do a major glue up with only two bar clamps?

One thing that might be worth mentioning is... the boards are all 1 1/8 " thick. I left them 1/8" thick on purpose in case something like this happened. I'd actually be willing to sand down to 7/8" or even 3/4" if that is what is needed to get the table top flat in the end. 

 

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18 minutes ago, Dolmetscher007 said:

does anyone have any tips on how to do a major glue up with only two bar clamps?

Spring joint.

If your joints are clean you shouldn't need that many clamps.

But, has to be said...

Construction lumber + pocket screws = nothing good

Lesson learned on both counts, hopefully.

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Just now, Eric. said:

Construction lumber + pocket screws = nothing good

Lesson learned on both counts, hopefully.

My brother bought me a Kregg jig 3 years ago for Christmas, because I was dying to have one. after watching the commercials. The first time I used it was just to join two pieces of 3/4" birch plywood at a butt joint. I thought it was amazing! So excited. That was literally the last time that tool has worked for me. Maybe I am dumb. Maybe I'm using it wrong. I just do not know. I planned this glue up for 2 days. I predrilled the holes making sure to check the depth settings twice on the drill bit and the little jig thing. I clamped the workpiece down to the bench in 3 places, and made sure that the board nor the jig will move when I drill. I drilled the holes. I applied the glue to both faces, and spread it out evenly. Placed the boards together and gave them a little rub to properly seat them. I held the boards flat to the table with all of my weight (350 lbs) and screwed the Kregg screws in (which I also made sure were the recommended length for the board thickness.) The boards magically shifted under all my weight, and without me feeling it, and on top of that, all but one of the screws seated and kept turning at least 1/2 a turn which pretty much voids their effectiveness and clamping pressure as they are now just stripped out. 

It's not the tools fault; it's mine. I have never worked with southern yellow pine before or dimensional lumber at all for that matter. But I want to use this wood. It bothers me to no end that I can buy a 16ft long 2x12, for $19!!! Even using the actual 1.5 x 11" dimensions, that is 22 board ft. of wood for $19. I bought some 8/4 walnut recently for $10 a board ft. If I had bought a board with the same dimensions of this pine, it would have cost $220. 
Southern Yellow Pine = $19
Walnut = $220
Poplar = $110 (@ $5 per bd/ft.)

So, I am just going to have to get good at using this Southern Yellow Pine. I like the challenge anyway. But... it is hard, because in all the YouTube videos and Fine Woodworking magazines and books, everyone is using Oak, Cherry, and Walnut. It's hard to find things like... how to glue up a table top when using crap wood? 

 

For example, it is better to force the wood into a situation where it is being straightened by the clamps, such as if one board is slightly twisted, could you glue up the board forcing the twist out of it, or just clamp it up with it's twist and know that you will have to plane or sand that the top to a thinner thickness to accommodate that twist?

 

 

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1 minute ago, Eric. said:

Construction lumber is for...wait for it...construction.  It's not meant for furniture.  Sorry, I know you don't wanna hear it because it's cheap.  But it's true.  At the very least you'll need to store it in your basement for a year before you mess with it.

You and I have some pretty obvious philosophical differences that I imagine transcend woodworking and probably run the gamete. I don't think it's important that we work through those differences here, ha ha ha ha!!! or at all, really.  I know that dimensional lumber from a big box store was not grown, harvested, milled, shipped, priced, and labeled with a suggested use being to make Kitchen tables. But I also know that with education, special attention, an understanding of the material, and a great deal of practice,  you could build a kitchen table out of ground up blue jeans, road signs, petrified horse apples, and a million other things that weren't intended by their manufacturer for that use. I want to learn how to use Southern Yellow Pine. 

For example. you said that storing it in my basement for a year would be good. THAT is the kind of thing I want to know. I know that SYP is kiln-dried, probably to a point of being MUCH drier than most hard woods or woods that are air dried. Would storing it in my basement be trying to let it rehydrate some, or dry out further? I am absolutely open to buying some SYP, and stickering it up in my yard to age... but only it it does something to the wood that benefits it. Can you elaborate on what you meant?

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Holding the boards together with your body weight while you drive the pocket screws won't cut it.  The boards need to be clamped well or else they will slip every time.  

I'm not sure you could get a decent panel glue up with the resources and tools you have talked about. 

That table is going to warp badly, soon.  The thinner you make it the worse it'll be. 

There is no way SYP from the big box is drier than properly dried hardwood.  No way. Put a meter on it if you don't believe us. 

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3 hours ago, Dolmetscher007 said:

For example. you said that storing it in my basement for a year would be good. THAT is the kind of thing I want to know. I know that SYP is kiln-dried, probably to a point of being MUCH drier than most hard woods or woods that are air dried. Would storing it in my basement be trying to let it rehydrate some, or dry out further? I am absolutely open to buying some SYP, and stickering it up in my yard to age... but only it it does something to the wood that benefits it. Can you elaborate on what you meant?

No, you have it backwards.  They call it "kiln dried" but they're being pretty liberal with the term.  Most construction lumber is sopping wet when you buy it.  It needs to be around 6-8% MC before you can start building furniture.  If you intend to keep bashing your brains in and using SYP, I'd at least get a good moisture meter.  And good ones will cost more than a few pieces of cherry from a legit hardwood dealer.

If you have to put a million pounds of clamping pressure on a panel...you've screwed up.

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Let the brain bashing begin! 

I will look into moisture meters. it will be a paycheck or two, before I can afford one. But the big picture is worth it to me. These boards were in my woodshop for 8 months, so I'm hoping that some of the moisture evaporated. Also, since I am only working with the straight grained 1/4-sawn best part of all the boards, I am hopeful that I can get a good enough glue up that won't just warp. 

I'm also using breadboards on the ends of the table top, So maybe that will help too. I dunno. 

But it is always hysterical to me how people do not even want you to succeed when you mention things like this.

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The 8 months should help a lot. 

It's truly not at all true that no one here wants you to succeed.  Most of us have taken a route to where we are that included pocket screws and home depot lumber, and we had the mediocre to horrible results to show for it.  

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11 minutes ago, bleedinblue said:

The 8 months should help a lot. 

It's truly not at all true that no one here wants you to succeed.  Most of us have taken a route to where we are that included pocket screws and home depot lumber, and we had the mediocre to horrible results to show for it.  

I get that. I totally get that. I come from a long history of learning how to do things. Learned to play the drums, the guitar, to speak German fluently, to cook professionally, to code software in several languages... and I know all about the desire to use materials and tools that make success possible as quickly as possible. With the guitar, it is simply SO much easier to buy an expensive electric guitar that was perfectly crafted from amazing materials and set up at the factory and then again at the store to have perfect playing action. Meanwhile the poor kid down the street's parents bought him a $150 acoustic guitar with a twisted neck, and isn't set up at all, so the strings are tense as hell and 3/4" off the fret board. So he has to learn the same damn thing that the kid with the fancy guitar does, except his fingers are bleeding from the strings, and his sounds terrible, even when he gets it right, so he's not even sure if he's gotten it right. FFwd 20 years... the electric guitar kid is a hedge funder and hasn't touched a guitar in 19 years. The acoustic kid is playing James Taylor songs around a fire on the beach. 

I am 100% sure that buying nice red oak or even poplar would make glue ups a breeze. If I buy it from a nice hardwood dealer, the wood would most definitely be at an optimal moisture content. And let's be honest, the hardwoods are SO beautiful, and SYP is... butt ass ugly. But I will bet you, that if I get good at using Southern Yellow Pine, I will be able to make Quarter Sawn White oak walk like a dog!

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8 minutes ago, Dolmetscher007 said:

 

I am 100% sure that buying nice red oak or even poplar would make glue ups a breeze. If I buy it from a nice hardwood dealer, the wood would most definitely be at an optimal moisture content. And let's be honest, the hardwoods are SO beautiful, and SYP is... butt ass ugly. But I will bet you, that if I get good at using Southern Yellow Pine, I will be able to make Quarter Sawn White oak walk like a dog!

I wouldn't say that.  The glue up, if the stock is flat and square, will be exactly the same regardless if red oak, syp, or walnut. 

The problem with syp is what will happen to your panel later, after it is glued up and put in your kitchen.  You likely mitigated some of that if it sat in your basement for 8 months.  Like Eric said, from the store, SYP is wet.

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9 minutes ago, Dolmetscher007 said:

...But I will bet you, that if I get good at using Southern Yellow Pine, I will be able to make Quarter Sawn White oak walk like a dog!

Nothing wrong with 2x4's as long as you understand the pitfalls of working with them which have already been explained above. Having said that the statement above is pretty much a fallacy...since construction lumber rarely look, acts, or works like furniture quality wood it rarely teaches you much regarding furniture making because you spend so much time fighting the wood its hard to learn proper tool/joint techniques using it.

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3 minutes ago, pkinneb said:

...since construction lumber rarely look, acts, or works like furniture quality wood it rarely teaches you much regarding furniture making because you spend so much time fighting the wood its hard to learn proper tool/joint techniques using it.

You might be right. But I don't think so. I imagine that the problems with SYP are really the exact same as with poplar, oak, or any wood. Again, I may be wrong. But I am pretty sure that if you learn how to make SYP not warp, or how to correct twist, or everything there is to know about moisture levels, how to remove and/or deal with knots, planing with or against the grain etc etc... SYP's problems are the same as all other wood, they are just exaggerated to a ridiculous level. Again... I may be wrong. But I'm willing to look into it a LOT more. And I truly appreciate your tips and actual advice, rather than just a grumpy "don't even try it you idiot" flame. 

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You prevent warping by drying the lumber properly.  The problem as I see it is you buy cheap syp then leave it in your basement for months and months to get the moisture level to where it needs to be, then you mill it and remove defects... All to be left with an unattractive, soft board.  Price VS effort VS results come into play. 

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It's advisable to not build furniture from lumber that is not in the 6~8% moisture content range.  If you buy hardwood from a lumber dealer it'll already be there, or close.  If it's from the big box, store it as long as you can.  If you get a moisture meter that'll help you judge how long it takes. 

As far as premilling 2x, ehhhhhh, you can try, but know that the wettest wood is in the center of the board.  You'll either speed the process, or cause the board to warp so badly it'll be unusable (most likely the latter)  But hey, it's cheap lumber, so if it goes to waste... Who cares? 

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I would do a dry run with the pocket screws no glue.

Make new pocket holes take your 1 or 2 clamps and clamp one area of the panel. Get it lined up nice and flat and then put in a pocket screw there then move your clamp down and get the next spot lined up put in the pocket screw work your way down the panel. Now you have a nice flat panel held together with just the screws. Pull all the screws out add your glue lightly clamp the panel and put the screws back in. The screws will go back it the the same hole as long as they line up halfway decent.

 

I just did a dry run of on some 1x6 pine scraps and it worked grate. the thing with pocket holes is you have to clamp the joint when you screw it down or it will slip.

I am moving more in to hard wood I wish I had more cash for it. I have built a few things with box store pine and am happy with how they turned out. If they where made of cherry I would like them a lot more though. 

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2 minutes ago, Eric. said:

Poplar is extremely cheap.  Alder is cheap.  Oak is cheap.  Cherry is kind of cheap.  Count up the number of hours that you put into a build and the monetary investment pales in comparison. 

Nope!

6/4 Alder: $5.99 bd/ft
6/4 Red Oak: $6.99 bd/ft
6/4 Cherry: $7.99 bd/ft
6/4 Southern Yellow Pine: $1.15 bd/ft

The table I'm building will cost, in total, $47.50 + tax (55 bd/ft)
The same table in the other woods...

Alder: $329.45
Red Oak: $384.45
Cherry: $439.45
My table: $47.50

I mean... come on! If I can use SYP to build even passable furniture... you're G* D* right I'm going to look into it a little bit more than just being told "Can't do it." on a website. 

 

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