Making a Farmhouse Table

logies101January 25, 2013

We are in the process of planning a farmhouse table and have a question regarding sizes. We want it to accommodate up to 8 people so are planning an 8ft long table. Is 36" wide a good size to make it? I have four 8ft boards of heart pine, they are each 12" wide but we want to use one of the boards for the bench seat. What is you opinion? 3ft wide enough or use the extra board to make it wider? Thanks for your replies.

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I would make it 42" wide.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 1:37PM
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yes, I agree. 36" is just too narrow if you have 8 people, their glasses, wine bottles, candles and platters of food.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 1:04PM
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Mine is 34" wide. Alright for eating, but not for serving dishes.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 10:28PM
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8' is a long table and should easily accommodate 8 people. The width is dependent upon what you intend putting on it at dinner time. 48" sounds a bit too wide, it's the size of a regular sheet of plywood! between 42" should do just fine.

Wide boards sawn from heartwood will cup (curl up at the ends of the wood). If you are not too bothered about this happening then that's fine but if you are I'd saw the boards down the middle and flip them one face up and one face down to lessen the effect of cupping.

Trees grow with annular rings concentric to the heartwood (one ring per year). When the wood is sawn the boards try to straighten out these annular rings from the heartwood. This causes cupping and the wider the board the more likely it is to cup.

Don't forget the frame: You will need four legs say 3'' or 4" square, two side rails and two end rails say 5" deep and maybe a central rail across the middle (as a strengthener). An average height for a table is around 28" to 30" and a bench seat around 16" high. Check your dimensions to ensure you will be able to sit at the table comfortably without catching your knees on the tables rails.

Most people thing 16" is low for a seat but it is just about right you can go higher up to say 18" to 20" but it's not necessary, check to see what you feel fits the table. Also give the table top an overhang of around 2" from the frame.

The above dimensions are fine to use but just take them as a general guide, they can be varied and still look fine and work.

You will need more wood for the bench seats.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 11:42PM
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Mecarp, thank you for all the great info. The boards were cut from old heart pine 2ft beams.They were sawn from the beam about two years ago and stored in an open air covered metal barn. They were planed to 1 3/4" by 12" x 8' just taking a small bit of the top off. Do you think given the age they will still cup? Now you have me worried, this will be our first table and the heart pine was super expensive.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 12:45AM
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I forgot to add that those 2ft beams are about 80 yrs old, don't know if that's important, this is all new to me.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 1:43AM
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Hi and don't worry about cupping, it's just a natural element to wood. It will add character to the table and give people sitting around the table a nice feel. The table itself could be a form of conversation over dinner. I'd rather have some slight cupping in a table made from natural materials than no cupping on a table made of composite boards.

It sounds like you are making a country style table and if so it is perfectly acceptable and desirable for it to have imperfections that give it a natural look.

Before making the table take the wood into your room where it will be living and let the wood adjust to the room for a couple of weeks before making any joints. I would set the boards on top of each other, placing 1" square sticks in between the boards at about 2' apart. Then clap the boards together to hold them flat while they adjust to the room humidity and temperature.

When fixing the top of the table together I'd use battens placed at 90 degrees to the underneath of the table top boards and slot screw through the battens to the underside of the table top. This method will help to hold down the boards at the edges and allow for movement of the boards. Slot screwing is simply putting a slot along the batten instead of a simple hole to screw to the table top. When the wood moves it can move along the slot but the top board is still held firmly down by the screw to the batten helping to avoid too much cupping.

If I had more time I'd draw you a design but I'm going to be busy working for a couple of weeks.

Try to use a fixing method that allows for movement when fixing the top of the table to the frame. You can buy flat metal fixing for table tops that have slots in them to allow for movement.

I have been making wooden items for about 37 years and I like the natural look of slight cupping on a pine table. If it's slightly cupped (SLIGHTLY) you know it's solid wood, natural and it has a nice homely feel.

Just remember that wood is natural and some movement is to be expected, so try to account for this in your construction. If you know a local carpenter just ask him for some advice on slot screws he will probably give it for free.

Enjoy your woodworking.

PS Those boards look very nice and will probably look very smart when finished.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 7:15AM
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Ps old timber is usually better quality than todays stock, but not always though. Usually timber moves the most just after cutting down to size. I tend to leave my wood for about a week or two after cutting to allow any twisting to take place before doing any further machining.

Sawing timber tends to unlock any tension that might be in the wood. Strong winds and hurricanes can twist a tree about the trunk in growth building up tension in the tree. After cutting the wood sort of unfolds the tension which can result in twisting. Even 80 year old boards can retain some tension, I always over cut the wood to allow for any slight twisting to occur then after a couple of weeks I do the final machining to the actual size I want.

Not all boards will move, cup or twist but it's something to be aware of.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 7:27AM
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See Figure 3-3.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood Handbook, Chapter 3

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 3:53PM
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would not worry about cupping either. You want nice wide boards for the top, not cut in smaller widths and glued together.

I would just be sure to apply a top coat so that the wood does not absorb more moisture, even though it is 80yrs old wood is like a sponge.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 11:29PM
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Thanks everyone for helping me out with this project. We ended up using all four boards, cutting them down to 10 1/2" so the table ended up 42". Bought another board for the bench.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:39PM
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