Transforming table, pt. 3: Assembly, or the almighty wedge

With the dowel holes cut and the tenons made, the transforming table is ready to assemble. This is the best part, where you get to see it all come together, and witness the almighty power of the simple wedge. You’ll get other tips for glue-ups too, and not just for this table.

Here’s the most important assembly tip of all: It’s always easier to separate glue-ups into stages. Otherwise you spread too much glue and give yourself too much to do in a hurry as the glue starts getting sticky and making things difficult.

In this case, the sides go on the big dowels first, with the top just dry-fit in place, and then you wait a few hours for the glue to set up. Then the top goes onto its many little dowels and you’re done.

There will be some cleanup and finishing left to do, but the table will already be plenty nice to start showing off and bragging about.

Here’s how make make assembly a cinch, with tips that will help on any project.

Sand first when you can! It’s much easier to sand the parts when they are flat and separate.
How to make wedges on a miter saw. Cut a block off the end of a board, in this case a chunk of 2×6 fir I had lying around, and then turn the block sideways so the grain is lined up with the blade. Now angle the blade to 5 degrees, push the block firmly against the fence, and cut off a wedge. You can do that at all four corners, and then move the blade to 10 degrees and do it again to get four more 5-degree wedges.
Trim the wedges to size. I needed these wedges to be 7/8 in. wide so I marked them with my square and trimmed a little off each side with my pullsaw. You only have to cut partway through and then you can just bend and snap off the waste piece.
Avoiding glue mess. To control glue and make things easier, squirt some in a dish and use a small brush to apply it. For the big dowels, the glue goes in the holes. Use plenty of it.
Attach the sides.
Now attach the top temporarily, with no glue, just to keep the sides in the right position. A couple of dowels will hold it in place.
Now let’s wedge those tenons! Note the clamps holding the two sides tightly against the tenon shoulders as I do the wedging. That is critical. The glue goes on both sides of each wedge.
Now use a hammer to tap in the wedges. You’ll know they are home when the tapping sound turns to a dull thud. It’s cool! It’s also cool how the wedges spread the tenons so they close any gaps on the outside. Magic!
After waiting a few hours for the tenons and wedges to dry and be strong, you can take off the clamps and attach the top for real. Start by squirting some glue in the dowel holes and spreading it with a small stick.
Now stick in the dowels, give them a twist to spread the glue, and brush more glue on the exposed ends.
Use a rubber mallet (or a hammer with a piece of wood to protect the project) to tap the top down firmly.
The clamps will draw the top the rest of the way home, closing any gaps. Note how I placed the clamps to miss the protruding dowels, and used a wood block for the center clamp. If your clamps hit the dowels, they won’t do their job. Now wait overnight, and wait for part 4, where we finish off this Bauhaus beauty.



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