Topping It Off
Once I had the carcass together and looking good, I began to focus on the top and leaves, knowing they would attract the lion’s share of visual attention.
The success I had hand-planing the underframe pieces convinced me to do the same with the top. I started working at an angle across the surfaces before attacking straight on. Next, I put the top and leaves together, planing them to match in thickness. I moved on to routing the rule joint using my 3hp plunge router. I dressed the cove-cut edges with a piece of sandpaper wrapped over a scrap of lumber with the reciprocal roundover cut routed onto it. It helps to make the joint fit properly. The next thing I did was make a huge mistake…
I love setting hinges. It’s one of my favorite things, and I take pride in this process. Folks that have seen me in action even compliment me on my level of prowess. My big problem is that sometimes I don’t even look at the instructions — I should know better. That’s why I aligned the barrels with the bottom outside edge of the top, when in fact you’re supposed to align them on a line extending from the point where the flat top breaks into the shaped edge. When I realized my mistake, my heart sank. But, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I became determined to rectify my blunder. Being (as usual) luckier than I am smart, I removed the hinges and found, to my complete surprise and utter gratitude, that they dropped right into place when turned around … even the screw holes lined up! It’s situations like this that reaffirm my love for the craft.
Milling the Dovetailed Wedges
Now for the wedges that stabilize the table leaves. I used some leftover cherry that I found in the shop, with the idea of contrasting elements. There are several ways to go about this: you can make them straight or tapered in their length, or you can dovetail one side or both, generally in the spirit of easier fitting. The problem with dovetail slots is that the mating surfaces of the dovetailed areas are generally not conducive to creating a solid glue joint, as they’re often half end-grain. The only real positive glue surface in this particular assembly is on the flat underside of the wedge where it meets the flat horizontal surface of the housing, or cut-out part of the table leaf. With all this in mind, I decided to make them straight, to maximize glue surface, and use enough self-control to make them fit perfectly, sliding into place with easy taps of my mallet and a beater block.
I first cut the housings using a small plunge router equipped with a 1/4″ straight bit guided by a clamped-on straightedge. I made two straight cuts at the narrow points of the housings and removed most of the waste from the housing. I then chucked a 9/16″ dovetail bit into my router and, leaving the fences in place, cut the angled edges of the housings. Nice and simple. I then made a practice wedge using the same dovetail bit in a router table to attain my aforementioned precision fit. When I was satisfied, I made all the wedges at once. They all fit just the way I wanted them to, no hand planes or shooting boards required.