How to attach a tabletop

Wooden tables tend to have fairly large tops and we need to make consideration for the natural material wood. Wood moves in its width across the grain, not with the grain.  We have to be careful because timber that grows and then shrinks has considerable Force. This natural movement in the timber can damage itself and the leg frame.

There are two common methods of fixing a tabletop to a set of legs.

Method 1,  screw the table top 2 the leg frame via slots in the direction across the grain of the table top.

Method 2,  the button method is the most common and very much a traditional method.  Wooden buttons or sometimes called toggles (especially if they twist), used like little brackets to hold the table top to the leg frame.

table top fixation buttons

Why buttons?

These buttons are used in a way to allow the natural movement of the tabletop.

The concept of the table top buttons is simple in that free movement of the tabletop is allowed because the buttons travel in slots.

Alternative to the slot!

There are alternative methods of using buttons other than is demonstrated in this video for instance:  shallow mortices or the use of a Festool Domino joining system.

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What screws should I use for fixing the table top?

These days there are many budget options for screws such as the common quicksilver wood screw.

These are great for most screen tasks but the zinc plating is not really thick enough. Some timbers such as pine don’t mind it is fine to use zinc plated screws. Oak and chestnut, for instance, reacts with the iron once the plating has failed. The problem then is that the reaction causes black staining.

Reaction with the Tannin

I believe the reaction is between the alkaline and the high tannin levels in oak and chestnut wood.

It is a good idea to use brass or stainless steel screws for the purpose of fixing the wooden buttons or if using the slot method.

Can I lift the table by the top if fixed using buttons?

in most cases, this would be perfectly fine but I do not recommend it. This is not a good idea to lift the table by the tabletop especially if you have breadboard ends.

Breadboard Ends must be able to Move Freely

Breadboard ends have minimal jointing and free to move. is important that they can move because the grain will be going in the opposite direction to the main table top boards. Generally, a breadboard end is fixed mainly by an oversized tongue and groove maybe with one joint fixing in the middle.

Tabletop wood selection

If you are building a new tabletop selecting a good Grade of timber will reduce the amount of movement.

Tabletop board orientation

If you are to create a tabletop that is stable you need to orientate your boards so that they work against each other.

if you look at the end reign of each board you will see that the grain has a direction. Often this direction is in the form of a semi-circle. If the semi-circle is convex then the board next to it needs to be concave.

Sometimes the grain may appear almost vertical all slightly to one direction or the other.if this is the case you just need to make sure that each board has to drain leaning towards each other or away from each other.good alignment and orientation of each board for a table top will limit the movement of the wood.

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We have lived and worked here in the Limousin Nouvelle Aquitaine since 2010, building window shutters and external doors. Our Volet manufacturing business is based at our home property as a ‘Cottage Industry’. We are a small business operating partly off the grid and try our best to practice our woodworking ethically.

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