Advice on Making DR Table Leaves

dfw17March 7, 2009

I bought a very nice 10-year-old Harden cherry table (Shaker-style) recently. It is absolutely gorgeous, but is lacking it's extension leaves. (This is why it was for sale....the leaves were lost in a household move.) The table is 67" long without leaves (which is perfect 360 days/year), but several times a year I want to have a big table.

My husband is a great woodworker, but has limited time. I know it would be quite a challenge to match the cherry wood in color, graining, etc, so I suggested he make leaves that wouldn't necessarily match in wood color. I don't mind using a tablecloth when the table is extended.

What would be the easiest, best (considering it doesn't need to match) wood to use? We were discussing possibly MDF thinking it would lay flat and be inexpensive. It needs to be 1" thick. Any different suggestions? (BTW, he already found the fastening hardware.)



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I don't understand why you're looking for alternative materials, since cherry is pretty widely available. You'd have to find some 5/4 planks and have them run down to 1", so you wouldn't be buying the lumber at Lowes; still, it shouldn't be too hard to source. The big-box stores don't carry any engineered materials (MDF, etc) that are 1" thick, so you're probably looking at a special order anyhow.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 6:51AM
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MDF is flat, but warps easily, soaks up water, and edges crumble/chip eaily. MDF does not hold the screws needed to secure the hardware well either.

A lumber yard should be able to provide 1" thick poplar/maple/cherry if LOYL does not have access to a planer wide enough to surface the wood---or the clamps to glue individual pieces together.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 9:54AM
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"MDF does not hold the screws needed to secure the hardware well either."

Leaves do not usually have screw mounted hardware, just some pins and sockets in the long edge.

You are going to pay a real premium for cherry boards wide enough and will likely still have to glue up at least two pieces per leaf.

If you normally use a table cloth anyway, some 1x pine with a layer of 1/4 inch plywood on the bottom to build it up would probably be fine.

If you want to save even more time look in the glue up rack for feather jointed wider shelf boards, and use slightly thicker plywood (the feather joint boards are less than 3/4 inch usually).

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 10:05AM
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For "easy", "best" and "inexpensive" I'd use poplar.

It's readily available at the box stores, even in wide planks. Pretty stable, mills well, it can be stained (with considerations) should you want to go for a basic color match.

Use 3/4" thick for the basic planks then, as brickeye mentioned, fill it out with 1/4" strips for the 1" thickness where needed.

Pine would be fine, though in my experience, poplar tends to cup a bit less than pine.

If he does edge glue-ups to get a wide plank, tell him to alternate the end grain, "smiles and frowns", etc. And for leaf stability, if he urethanes the top of the leafs, he needs to urethane the bottoms as well. Otherwise you can get moisture-induced cupping of the leaf.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 10:21AM
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Thank you for all the suggestions. I will share them with my husband.

It turns out that he went ahead and bought a 10" wide 8-foot piece of 5/4" poplar; cut it in half (the dining table is 42" wide), ran it through the jointer; and glued/clamped it. But now we have 2 issues.....the 5/4" poplar is actually thicker than the 1" of the current table, and it is actually not flat enough (even though we thought we picked it pretty carefully). He currently has placed weights on it in places to get it to lay flatter. If that works, then he knows of a shop that can plane it. And the last step would be to do a large mortise & tenon (which is the technique this table uses between leaves).

If this doesn't work, then we'll definitely consider some of your all comments for round #2!

I guess there is no such thing as a "quick" solution.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 2:44PM
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The weights aren't going to fix anything. Hopefully the shop that has the surface planer also has a jointer big enough to handle this piece, because that's the right tool for flattening. Failing that, you can probably do a decent job with just the planer, cutting some material from both sides.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 4:04PM
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    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 10:26PM
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