How to Join Wood Plank For Table Top: Best Tips

Joining planks to make a tabletop is one of the basic woodworking projects. It is beginner-friendly and also as exciting as eating ice cream. So how to join wood plank for table top to embark on this rousing project?

When I first started carpentry, I decided to make a coffee table for my porch. From the instructions and videos I found online, it seemed a relatively easy thing to do. And it was for the most part. But there were certain tricks I wish they had put on those tutorials.

I want you to have that smooth experience I wanted on my first try. With that said, I will share with you the necessary instruction and some tips that made me a pro.

Make A Table Top From Plank

John Peters, one of the famous woodworking instructors, said in his video that he never found a big enough board to make a whole tabletop.  I highly agree with him. In my whole craftsman carrier, I never saw this.

So for starters, you need to find a big plank and cut it as your desired measure. Or you can find two boards and then shape them up. After that, you glue them together. Simple enough, right?

For a beginner, that explanation can be a bit overwhelming. So I am going to elaborate a bit.

How to Join Wood Plank For the Table Top

Below here you will get a step-by-step overview of how to execute the entire process.

Step One, Finding The Right Wood

Wood for plank on table

Before thinking about any other thing, you need to find good woods for your work. It might not seem like a big thing to fuss about, but this is indeed an essential one. Because wood is the base. It needs to be sturdy and presentable. Otherwise, the finishing of your project won’t come out well.

There are a few things you can keep in mind while choosing the planks:

  • Check if there are any damages and defects like holes, cracks, or markings.
  • It shouldn’t contain any blemishes.
  • And most importantly, the surface should be flat, with no bumps or twists along the way.

Note: You need to check all your options thoroughly. You have to venture a great deal of your time into the home depot or wood store for that perfect board. Trust me it will be worth doing.

Step Two, Measuring and Shaping

Doing wood measurment

From here on out, we are going to discuss tabletop construction techniques

In-home depot or home improvement stores, you will easily find woods of the same size. They will save you the time of trimming and shaping. Nevertheless, if you somehow can’t find them anywhere, you will have to take the affair into your own hands.

  • Firstly, you need to calculate the size of the width and length of the plank.
  • Then, mark the sections you want to mill.
  • After that use a planner to trim the plank till your desired measurement.

Doing this process manually will teach you some necessary woodwork approaches. Now, You might be wondering here what a planner is? 

A wood planer is a piece of equipment that cuts through the length of the wood. It is usually used for these few purposes:

  1. Smoothing out the surface of the wood
  2. Making the wood parallel
  3. And making the thickness consistent

You can easily purchase it from an equipment store. But if you can’t find it or afford it somehow, take the boards to a woodshop for milling.

Step Four, Do Some Recheck

Rechecking wood

Once you have trimmed all the boards, put them all over a plain workstation. A workstation with a smooth surface top is “must-have equipment” for your woodworking currier.  It is better to invest in it from your first project.

After putting the boards on the table, you need to check if the board’s edges are all perfectly aligned. Just joint them together with an edge joint to see how they look. This is the process of your final orientation check.

If any plank needs some extra work, run them through the planner to get the perfect shape. You have to check if all the edges are smoothed and aligned perfectly; you will have a hassle-free gluing time.

Step Five,  Preparation for the Edge gluing process

Preparing wood for gluing

Gluing boards together is the most ancient and effective technique of woodwork. You will find some of the best glue for the tabletop in online or offline shops. But before that, you must decide on the pattern or design that you will follow.

After you have decided, you can move to the gluing process. For this, you need to mark the plank pieces with a pencil or chalk so that you don’t get them all mixed up.

Let me get you in on the marking process we carpenters follow:

  • As you glue along with the pieces, write and an upside-down V across the surface of the board. This V denotes which piece will be glued next.
  • After that, you have to mark the joint line of the planks with I or an O. The letter I symbolize that the planks face should be turned inside. And the letter O denotes that it should be faced outside. This will assist you in determining what to do in case the board is upside down.

This, however, is not universal. You can put any symbols you prefer.

Step Six, The Gluing Process

Gluing on wood process

After everything is said and done, let’s get down to business.  Put your preferred glue on the edge of the board. Make sure the coating is thick and evenly consistent. Then attach the planks.

When you glue one board with another, make sure to hold it for a few minutes. By doing this, the woods get attached more prominently. 

Pro tip – don’t attach more than 2 or 3 planks with glue at the same time. On my first project, I tried to stick 5 boards at the same time. The result wasn’t beautiful. However, if you have done it practically before, you can try gluing 5 or even 10 wood boards. I still don’t attempt more than 3.

Step Seven, Clamping 

Wood clamping

One thing you need to remember is that the glue won’t dry instantly. So you need to keep it secured somewhere so that it doesn’t move around, knocking down the whole attaching process. Clamps come in handy in this case, well, more like Clamp cauls.

Cauls are like a gigantic pin that holds the whole width of the board. Put one at the top and one at the bottom for extra balance.

Two things you need to keep in mind during this whole process.

  • Firstly, freshly glued planks can move around. So you should be more careful here. Make sure the alignment doesn’t get disrupted while clamping.
  • For more precaution, you can use another pair of clamps on the joint.
  • The second thing is the pressure. You can’t put too much force while clamping. Fractions or dents might form due to this.

Step Eight, Final Touch

Final touch for wood

After 20 to 30 minutes, clean off the excess glues on the surface. Don’t worry; it won’t hamper your work. Keep wiping the glue off until all the excess is gone.

Roughly after 24 hours, the glue will be thoroughly dried. So after that, check the whole thing. There might be some possible dents or damages that might have escalated during the clamping process.

Check if the alignment is correct. Access the corners for possible descriptions.

If you want to widen the top, then add more planks using the same process. Once you got your desired width, you need to focus on the finishing.

After gluing the whole tabletop you might have to smoothen the surface once more. If you touch the surface, you would feel some bumps, stuck-out wood, and a rough surface.

The result won’t turn out well with them on. You need to fix that with a planner. Sand with the planner until the surface is smooth and perfect.

Step Nine, Finishing

The wood finishing process

Finally, for the finishing, you have two possible choices :

  • Commonly used stain and urethane
  • Oil and Wax finish

Stain and urethane finish is cheap and creates a smooth glossy surface. But after it wears out you won’t get the same look. You will have to sand and refurnish again.

Oil and Wax finish takes time to process. However, this thing lasts longer and can be easily reapplied. With just one coating, The old glossy look will return.


Is wood glue enough for the tabletop?

Yes, wood glue is enough to make a tabletop.  From ancient times they have been known as a verified method.

How long should the dry before sanding?

Initially, 20 to 30 minutes after gluing, you can try sanding. But make sure you don’t put too much strain on the planks.

How much Glue should I use?

There is no hard and fast rule here. As long as each attached wood piece is coated completely, it will work.

Final Words

After reading the whole thing, you got the entire picture of how to join wood plank for the table top, right? Now is the time for action. Take your gear and start making the table.

Just have some patience and follow our guidelines. Remember, on your first try; you will face complications. Don’t judge yourself for that. It is acceptable. Keep going & have fun. Hopefully, you will end up doing great in this project.

Read Also: How to Fill a Hole in Wood and Re-drill

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Oliver is an efficient interior designer and part-time content writer of TopToolsLab. He has strong research skills about tools, accessories, and products such as drills, saws, air composers, cutting machines, etc. He knows the correct uses of the part of every tool. He can give proper information and meaningful description to find out the perfect result of the tool.

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