Surrounding a Solid Top with a Mitered Frame?

Article - December 31, 2007

This week’s question comes from Brad. He writes:

Marc, I’m making a hall table out of lyptus and would like add a maple border to the book matched top. I think it’s called picture frame style or something like that…..with mitered corners…I have never done this before. Any advice? Do I need to do the ends (endgrain) like a breadboard end to allow for explanation? Any help would be appreciated.

And here was my reply:

ChessBoard08Hey Brad. If the panel is solid, there is no way you can surround it with a frame. A lesson I learned the hard way with my chess board pictured left. Eventually something will have to give and typically it’s the frame itself. It will start with a little separation at the miter joint and progress to a complete joint failure (worst case). The only way to create frame in a panel like that is to let it float, kind of like a frame and panel door. But a frame and panel door is not exactly a good surface for a table top. I assume you want the frame to be flush with the panel. So you may want to consider resawing the lyptus boards and veneering them to a substrate. This way you can surround it with a frame and not have to worry much about movement.

You mentioned breadboard ends so I should explain why that wouldn’t work. With breadboard ends, the panel is allowed to expand and contract because nothing is restricting the cross-grain movement. The “frame” only exists on two sides. A full frame that surrounds the panel would limit the cross-grain movement and would negate any “breadboard-style” joinery you create.