Button, button…

When I was writing my blog post yesterday morning I realized I’d forgotten to make a provision for attaching the top to the table base.  I kew I needed to do it, but in the excitement of getting close to glue-up I lost sight of it.

So first thing, I drew up some quick dimensions for a batch of buttons to attach the table top, and headed out to the shop in search of a suitable off cut to use in making them.  I found a piece and went to town.  The article I linked from yesterday’s post shows Christian Becksvoort making them but cutting a rabbet across a scrap and then cross-cutting.  My scrap had the grain running in the wrong direction to do that, so I set up a dado blade to cut a rabbet in the end, then cross cut it with a hand saw to length, then repeated until all my stock was gone.  Add counter-sunk holes for a #10 screw and some chamfers and they were done.  I tossed them in a bag of linseed oil for the rest of the day after I took this picture.

Table top attachment buttons

Table top attachment buttons

Then I cut some slots in the back of the skirts to receive the buttons.  I set up stop blocks on the router table and cut these to depth in two passes.  I set the distance from the edge of the skirt to the slot about 1/16″ larger than the step in the attachment button so when they are installed they will draw the table down snugly.  The slots are long enough to allow the buttons to slide about 1/8″ in either direction when the wood moves.

Test fitting the attachment buttons to the skirts

Test fitting the attachment buttons to the skirts

How would I do this without a router table?  You could certainly chop shallow mortises in the back like this, that would be simple enough.  You could also saw or plow a thin groove and use these Z-clips from Lee Valley instead of making wood blocks.  I used them on a little side table I made once and they worked out OK…  They loosened up about a year ago, but the table is about 15 years old at this point and needs some re-jabbing anyway.  I’m replacing it with the Thorsen table, and I’ll clean it up and refinish it then.

Alternate approach -- Z-Clips from Lee Valley (click picture to visit their site)

Alternate approach — Z-Clips from Lee Valley (click picture to visit their site)

Then I started the process of sanding all of the details on the legs, skirts and stretchers.  This takes a long time, it’s mostly hand work with little pieces of sandpaper to shape and blend the details.  I have the skirts mostly done and still have work to do on the legs.  Probably two more hours before I’m ready to glue up the base.  I’m working everything up to 150 grit first, then I’ll go back over everything with 180, 220 and probably 320.  It makes a big difference to my eye.  The color of the sanded wood looks much lighter because it has sawdust in the pores, I’ll clean it between grits and wipe it with water to raise the grain (san scuff sand it again) before assembly.

Detailing the skirts -- one skirt is untouched and the other is done to 150 grit.

Detailing the skirts — one skirt is untouched and the other is done to 150 grit.

The other pair f skirts, also to 150 grit.

The other pair f skirts, also to 150 grit.

The BBQ Update

By the way, the pulled pork came our excellent.  It was on the smoker from 11:30pm Saturday night until 5:30pm Sunday (18 hours).  You want to putt it off when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees.  I wrapped it in foil and let it rest an hour, then shredded it with a fork and tossed it with a little BBQ sauce.  The best way to serve it is on a bun with a scoop of cole slaw in my opinion, but my family doesn’t like slaw.  Tonight, as penance for the BBQ excess, I’m sticking with brown rice and tofu…

18 hours on the smoker, just in time for dinner

18 hours on the smoker, just in time for dinner

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5 thoughts on “Button, button…

  1. Eww! Thanks for this tip on the Z clips. Rockler’s clips have gotten cheap and flimsy .. note to self – always look at LV before Rockler.

  2. dans7919

    Buttons are much better way to go i think, they seem more inline with a hand crafted project. Actually they are my preferred method for joining tabletops and the like.

    • I’ve never used wooden buttons like this before — but I’m pretty happy with how they look. I remember when I used the Z-clips as I tightened the screws they wanted to swivel out of the slot. Obviously not a big deal, but these buttons certainly won’t do that.

  3. sebastian

    nice pork… looks delicious.

    one question regarding the joinery, Why not to make double tenons? or haunched tenons? the unsupported part of the skirts looks a bit large to me. Beautiful project anyway, thanks for sharing.

    • You know, that is a really, really good question.

      I saw some versions of this table that had a single tenon, maybe 4.5″ wide. The mortises intersected, which made me nervous about the strength of the legs. With the tenons the way I have them the mortises don’t intersect and should be very strong. My main concern is that there isn’t anything preventing the skirts from cupping.

      A short, wide haunch would address that, even a stub that was only 1/4″ or so long but closer to the full width. Or two tenons that were shorter so the mortises didn’t intersect.

      I believe the orientation of the tenons came from Bob Lang’s Sketchup model and book on Greene & Greene furniture. The ebony plugs are supposed to indicate where the tenons are. I’m very confident that what I have will be plenty strong, but cupping may be a risk. On the other hand, this Sapele is quarter sawn, so it will be pretty stable.

      Time will tell, if it goes wonky some day I’m sure I’ll blog about it 🙂

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