What to make wood top out of?

BungalowMonkeysAugust 27, 2014

When we bought this house, the first thing we did was rip down the walls that enclosed the basement stairs. That area was located right in between our living room and dinning room (future kitchen). I built a bookcase on the dinning side and railing on the living room side. Being the first thing i've ever built, i'm pretty happy with it. Of course now that it is done, I have a few things that I want to change, but down the road that will have to be. So many projects to be done in this old home.

What is haunting me now is the wood top, back, and top to the newel post. I called multiple places and they quoted me hundreds to do it for me. Not in the budget. What I did was take 2 2x8x12's, kreg and glued them together. Then sanded the heck out of them and rounded the corners a bit, before adding stain. I hate it. Looks cheap and is bowing. Never attatched it because I hated it. My question is, what do I use? And what method? No lumber yards are near me, so it would be easiest if it could be purchased at lowes. If not, I can drive to an 84lumber and get it ordered. Any help would be wonderful. Please remember, new to woodworking. Do have most tools available.

The photos are of the bookcase and current 2x8 top
Back end of wall where the outside patio door is - would also need to be an extension of the top.
Pic of how the wood warped and bowed since doing the top 2 months ago.

Thank you

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First, you used framing lumber in an interior wood furniture type setting.

Framing lumber had been minimally dried and no one cares---or sees---it after the drywall/siding has been installed.

So, now you know.

Time to learn woodworking.

And be prepared to spend some fai8rly serious money, depending on what you want to do.

Decide what thickness you want for the top. Hardwoods are sold by thickness. Those thicknesses are by(usually) 1/4" increments. So, a 4/4(called four quarter) board would be 1" thick.

Except, that only applies to mill cut wood---wood that still has saw marks and the thickness can vary in different areas.

The hardwood supplier with sell surfaced wood---wood from a mill that has been smoothed by removing 1/8". That surfacing is denoted by a S and a number denoting how many surfaces have been smoothed(called planing).

So an S2S 4/4 board would have both faces planed and be an actual 3/4" thick. The edges of the board are still rough(unplaned)

An S4S 5/4 board would have both faces and both edges planed and be an actual 0ne inch thick. The width of S4S boards varies and is only a factor in actual board feet---which is how that wood is sold.

Since you do not have a planer or a jointer, you will need to buy S4S wood. Which is more expensive than a board before planing(mill cut). But for one or two projects, buying S4S is a lot less expensive than buying a planer($300 to $4,000) or a jointer(starting at $400)

First, find a real lumberyard or a hardwood supplier.

Take your plans in and have them help you decide how to proceed. Most of those places should offer some help(if not busy at the time.)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 5:59PM
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I knew it was framing lumber when purchased. Had seen several nice examples online where people did the exact same and it turned out nice in pics. They were not doing as long a piece though.

Thank you for the advice. I'll drive to 84 lumber and see what they recommend. The nearest true lumber yard is 65 miles away. Hopefully 84 will have something.

I've been adding tools to my workshop and don't mind dropping good money on something I know will be used over and over again. With all the woodworking projects that need to be done in this house buying a jointer/planer seems like a good idea. Do you have any opinions on this one?

Here is a link that might be useful: RIGID jointer/planer

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 7:50AM
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That's a pretty good looking first project!

I guess there are several possible less expensive alternatives to buying a nice piece of thick hardwood for your top. First, do you want it stained, or is painted OK?

While just using a thick board is easy it's not so cost effective. To get a thicker look using thinner lumber you can essentially build an open shallow (upside down) box-- use 4/4 lumber to create an edge on what will end up as the bottom of your cap creating the appearance of a thick board.

If you are happy with paint you could save what you have now by letting it get thoroughly acclimated to your house (will take a year or so) then plane it flat and square again (many articles on the web to tell you how to do this, and also how to identify and rehab a good hand plane for a few bucks). Depending on how much it has moved it will be smaller when you are done and will probably never look as good as using better lumber. But you will have picked up a very useful skill.

For the "box" plan you could use either poplar (available at the big box stores) which will paint very nicely, a hardwood like oak or maple that you can also get at the HD or Lowes, or a hybrid where you cut the wide top from birch-faced plywood then edge it with solid hardwood to hide the plies on the edge and create the appearance of greater thickness, using either a close match like maple or a contrasting wood.

Do have a look in the phone book for hardwood lumber yards, they will have a lot more alternatives at better prices than the big box stores; many will joint and plane wood for you at a small charge, probably even cut it to width. They tend not to be high profile, so you may be surprised to find one closer than you think. If you have any local cabinetmakers or woodworkers close by ask them where they go for wood. I've also been very happy with some of the mail order suppliers. In bulk, truck freight is actually pretty cheap, UPS is not unreasonable for boards under 8 ft long.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 8:17AM
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The first bigger power tool I would buy is a small table saw; there are I think recent reviews in Fine Woodworking or Fine Homebuilding that would be helpful. Ability to cut long boards to width is 1) essential and 2) difficult by hand. For work around an older house a chop saw or sliding compound miter saw will see constant use.

If you see yourself becoming a more serious woodworker and using rough cut lumber a planer and jointer are next on the list. I use mine all the time, but could get by without them for most home projects. A hand plane can be used; nice useable old Stanley planes are generally cheap.

I couldn't in good conscience recommend Ridgid tools. Like Ryobi (who may make many of them) they tend to use a lot of plastic where metal would be better. They tend to be flimsy, underpowered and poorly designed--but consult review articles int he woodworking magazines as there are probably exceptions. The little Dewalt or Makita planers are great; for the most part your table saw will give you a good edge for gluing with just a little cleanup if you start with a flat board. Use a good blade (ie not the one that comes with the saw). If you are trying to use a jointer to get the first flat surface on a warped or bowed board you will want a much larger and heavier duty machine. You can buy a lot of S4S or S2S lumber for the price of the kind of good 6 or 8 inch jointer you need for larger scale lumber prep. Though if you going to do a lot of woodworking it is on most people's short list of essentials.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 8:39AM
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The tool you listed is a jointer, regardless of how it is advertised. If you use S2S or similar wood, you do not need a jointer or a planer---unless you have to make the wood you get thinner. If you use sawmill wood(rough cut), you can start with a good table saw and a planer. The planer can do parallel faces and the table saw can to edge angles. That was what I did for several years and was fine. Took some extra sanding(a sawn edge is not as smooth as a jointed edge).

Basically a jointer is designed to flatten(surface one face of a board and them make one edge at a designated angle to that face.

A planer is designed to make a second(or opposite) face parallel to the first(jointed face). A planer can make two faces parallel, but make edges a specific angle to the faces. And a jointer cannot make parallel faces.

Most woodshops are built around a table saw, but buying a cheap tablesaw is the first step in misery. I've owned five table saws(had four for my business and bought cheap ones only to find them completely lacking.

My woodshop table saw is a Rigid 2424($550)---and I really am so satisfied with it I see no reason to buy another. I've had it for about 8 years and never had an ounce of trouble. My portable saw is a Porter Cable---and it cost $400. It is the bare minimum for a portable model.

Grizzly makes some pretty decent tools, I have a 2hp dust collector and a coplanar jointer(has longer ways(or extensions)

Each cost $500 and will long outlast me.

I have a Delta planer(bought used for $300).

My recommendations for a good hobby woodshop are:

Table saw
Router(fixed and plunge base)
Router table
5" random orbit sander(hook and loop design)
band saw(not a table top model---14" minimum)
some kind of chip/dust collection
cordless drill
various hand tools as desired.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:26AM
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Thank you rwiegand. I would want it stained, not painted. I've thought about the box idea since I prefer the thick top look. My concern would be making everything tight and seamless. That is something I'm still struggling with. I used red oak on the handrail side and loved the texture and grain after it was stained. If I went the box route, would I grab the same wood, 3/4inch thick 4x12s, join them, then attatch the thicker same wood cap around the edge, and sand to get it smooth? Joining would be with a kreg and glue? Or should I invest in a biscuit joiner?

You might be right about the phone book. Didnt think about that since I never use a phone book anymore. We just moved to this small town so it wouldnt surprise me if an old lumber yard wasn't on the web yet. Now just need to find a phone book.

Thank you for explaining jointer/planer, wasn't too clear on exactly what each did.

Before we closed on this house, the first purchases made were a very nice Dewalt table saw and a Dewalt compound miter saw, with the nice matching stand, a router and table, drill press, and a few other tools needed to complete that bookcase. Those two saw purchases have already paid for themselves many times over with the few projects that have been completed. Have everything on that list but the planer. Will look into getting one.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:46AM
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A biscuit joiner is handy for aligning parts in a glue up, completely unnecessary for strength in edge joints, modern glues are much stronger than the wood. It's a "nice to have" and I do use mine (a Porter Cable) constantly.

You will need clamps, lots of them.

Yes, construction would be as you describe. I'd miter the corners and put the edge boards on the outside of the center panel. If you are careful in cutting to length you can get the corners nice and tight. With solid wood you don't need to hide the edges, so you could also apply the edge below the center panel, if you're OK with a little more rustic look you could forego the miters and just butt join the corners, exposing the end grain, which would be easier to get right.

I'd set the edges a tad high of the center panel and then use a hand plane or cabinet scraper to make everything perfectly flush. Then sand and finish as you did for your other pieces. You could also sand things flush, but that's painfully slow and more dangerous in terms of rounding a corner or getting a wavy edge

Handymac's tool suggestions are right on. That's the core of my shop, but I knew I was in it for the long haul and like nice tools, so have mostly older Delta and Powermatic "heavy iron". Still kicking myself about a relatively cheap 12" powermatic jointer on Craigslist I barely missed out on.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 3:31PM
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Grabbed the boards today and am going to start constructing in the next day or so. Will post pics when it is finished. Forgot to buy glue. What kind do you recommend?

Never thought about doing a miter for the corners. The whole reason I ruled out the box idea in the first place, was not wanting the trim slapped against the side. Feel silly that I overlooked that as a way to do it. Doing a miter would give that clean, uniformed look. Glad I read this before going with the other method. Thank you so much for recommending that.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 10:31PM
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Yellow carpenter's glue (eg Titebond II or original). Where water resistance is important, where the darker color is helpful, or where a longer open assembly time is helpful, Titebond III.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 8:35AM
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