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How to Build a Farmhouse Table (Post #4 – Gluing Table Top Together with Dowels)

How to glue up a table top for a Farmhouse Table (Harp Design copycat) -

This post is part of a series of posts for building a table out of raw lumber.  See my original post that introduces the table and all posts for the series – How to Build a Farmhouse Table (Harp Design copycat).

See my previous post about how I made the apron pieces.

In this post I will be showing how I glued the table top boards using dowels.

For this project you will need:


-planer & joiner

-table saw & circular saw + straight edge

dowel jig + dowels-suggested 1/2 x 3″ (or other joining method of your choosing)

hand drill

-glue (recommend waterproof for table tops) + rubber mallet

-several long clamps (I like pipe clamps – these are my favorite)

belt & palm sanders with various grit paper

Use your jointer, planer and table saw to machine your table top boards to the size and thickness you need for your table top.  Keep the length slightly longer than what you need so you can cut it down to size after gluing up.

On the ends of each of your boards, take a permanent marker and draw an arc with the direction the rings are running.  When you arrange your boards, you’ll want to have these arcs alternating like the picture above.

Arrange your boards how you want them to look when glued up.  Take into consideration the color and shape/patterns of the grain in the different boards, and remember you want the grain rotating like mentioned above (these ensures the movement of the wood is equal in both directions (so you don’t end up with a table top that wants to cup in a certain direction).  Now that your boards are arranged how you want them, mark with pencil over the tops so you can easily determine their orientation when it’s time to glue up.

With your boards arranged take a straight edge and make a line with your pencil over touching boards where dowel placements will be.  I kept dowel placements on the ends at least 3″ from the edge and anywhere from 10-14″ along the rest of the board.  TIP: Make your lines neat and precise without moving any of the boards otherwise your dowels will not match up in the end.  Place your jig exactly over each line, tighten and drill with a stop (I used a piece of tape).  You’ll want to drill slightly deeper than the halfway mark on your dowels.

Before starting to glue anything make sure you have the correct kind and amount of wood clamps.  It’s better to have too many than not enough (you’ll want a clamp every 10-12″ or so along your boards.  I love my pipe clamps-they’re inexpensive compared to others and they’re strong.  I buy Bessey but Harbor Freight also has clamps ends… then you buy pipe at your local hardware store and have them cut it to the size you want and add threads.

How to glue up a table top for a Farmhouse Table (Harp Design copycat) - theprojectlady.comDon’t skip doing a dry fit with your boards (honestly, i’ve found it difficult to do this with dowels because they’re hard to get back out).  At the very least, be VERY diligent checking the depth of each hole to make sure it’s slightly deeper than the halfway point of the dowels.  My table top is wide and there’s no way I could glue up all the boards in enough time.  Glue starts setting in about 20 minutes so you need to break up the amount of work.  I glued my boards in 2 sessions, but I really should have divided into thirds so I wasn’t so stressed.

TIP: Before you glue you want to have your clamps ready and adjusted.  I set mine down on the table so I could move my boards over as soon as I had them glued.

Start by gluing your dowels into one side of the holes.  Use a rubber mallet to make sure they’re seated.  Start by spreading a bead of glue all over the edge of one of your boards, including the other end of dowels.  Make sure the joining hole for the dowels also has glue spread inside.  Match the corresponding board together and use a mallet to seat together.  Continue through your boards, doing only as many as you can do in a reasonable amount of time.

How to glue up a table top for a Farmhouse Table (Harp Design copycat) - theprojectlady.comSet your boards into clamps and snug all clamps up to the boards and tighten them little by little down the line.  Do not over-tighten or you will squeeze all the glue out of your joint.  Use a straight edge to make sure the boards are straight across the surface.  Mine bowed slightly so I clamped cauls underneath to pull the bow out.  (My cauls are purple so I can find them easily/not accidentally use them for something else.)  Let glue cure.  Repeat for remaining sections.

Finally, you can glue all your sections together.  Let glue cure.  Scrap glue drips off with a sharp chisel.

Trim the ends of your top to final measurements with a straight edge and circular saw.

Use a belt sander with 100 & 120 grit paper on all surfaces.

Use your palm sander to go through 150, 180 & 220 grits on all surfaces.

– stay tuned for how I mixed & applied a color-tinted clear coat –  

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  • Reply Cathy

    Thank you for guiding me through this process!! I truly appreciate your clear instructions and accompanying photos. It had always been a dream of mine to build a harvest table, so when I recently retired, I used dried lumber from our downed Ash trees to create the planed boards, but I wasn’t sure about the next steps… that’s where you came in! It was so refreshing to see another female woodworker!! You’re an inspiration for me to take on more challenges = )

    January 14, 2022 at 6:07 pm
    • Reply danicarby

      Oh I’m so glad to have been of help! Congrats on stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something you’ve been dreaming about! Ash is so beautiful – I’d love to hear/see how the table turns out! If you want to send pictures:

      January 16, 2022 at 8:13 am

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