Thin Strips More Stable?

Article - April 28, 2008

I starting my first real project. It is a mission style sofa table of my design constructed with semi rough cut oak. I am very pleased with the results so far. The wood is turning out great, the mortise and tenons are good (room for improvement here), and the overall look is just what I want. I have finished the four legs. Sooner than later I will have to make the top. The dimensions will be roughly 17″ x 50″. The wood I am working with is 15/16 thick and in widths of 7″-9″. I will plane the wood down to just over 3/4 thick. The guy I bought the wood from suggested that I rip the top to 3″ strips and alternate the end grain to help prevent warping of the top. I agree totally, but thought that 3″ widths was excessively small. I see photos of other people work that is much wider than this and it seems to work. I will be using a couple of biscuits to edge glue the top together. I was hoping to glue it up in about three 6″ planks. I think that six 3″ strips would cheapen the look. What do you think?

And here was my reply:
Hey Luke. Not doubt that 3″ strips would stack the cards in your favor in terms of stability. But wow, does anyone really want their table to look like a gym floor??? The bottom line is, if the wood is kiln dried and properly seasoned, it should not cause you any unexpected MAJOR issues over the course of time. Not to mention it will be secured to the base which will help keep it flat. And on a table of this size, I think the 3″ strips would be completely unnecessary. Think about how many beautiful dining room table tops are out there with nice wide boards and overall widths of about 4′, and those are nearly as flat as the day they were glued together.

I always use the widest boards my jointer will allow. And if I find a nice wide plank of 12″ or more, it would be a travesty to cut that board down under the hopes of increased stability. Wide boards are harder and harder to come by these days so furniture made with wide boards is more elegant and more appealing, in my opinion. So if I were you, I would go with your gut and assemble the top from three 6″ boards. And as long as it doesn’t make the face grain look bad, go ahead and alternate the growth rings. Conventional wisdom says that will keep the top balanced. Good luck.