I am asked the following question a lot – that usually means I should answer it.
Question: I am building a trestle table based on the one you built. I have a dumb question. I was lucky enough to find 5/4-thick, 18″-wide walnut for $4/bf. I can most likely get a two-board top, but both boards are too wide for my planer. When gluing up the 32″-wide top, should I flatten the face of the boards then glue? Or should I first glue and then flatten?
Answer: There are many ways to do it. Here’s what I do.
1. I scrub/fore plane both faces of the boards so I can see the grain and select the best faces.
2. I select what will be the show face of the boards and decide on their arrangement. I try to get all the grain running in the same direction, but appearance is more important than grain direction.
3. I flatten the show faces, joint the faces and get them ready for smoothing. Then I joint the edges.
4. I glue up the top, taking every precaution to line up the seams on the show faces. I ignore seams on the still-rough underside (except to make sure the seams close up under clamp pressure).
5. After the glue is dry, I fore plane the underside so it is roughly flat — flat enough to sit flat on the table’s base. I leave the traverse marks from the fore. I consider it texture.
6. Then I dress the show face of the top so it looks good. Not flat — just pretty. If I did a good job of lining up my seams, I can start with the smooth plane. If I had a bad glue-up, I start with the jointer set rank, or (shudder) with the fore plane set for a small bite.
— Christopher Schwarz