Top and Battens – Part 1


A few months ago, I picked out some 1x8 red alder for the top, crosscut the pieces to the rough length, and then stacked them until I was ready to continue.  But when I brought the pieces back out and arranged them together, I just wasn’t happy with the grain and the way the pieces looked side-by-side.

So I ended up going back, pulling out every single piece of 1x8 alder they had, and choosing two pieces which had relatively straight grain along at least one edge (to make the glue-lines less distracting) and relatively few knots (an almost unreasonable expectation for alder).  Each board yielded two out of four pieces which I would glue together for the top.

I made a clamping platform out of 2x3’s on top of sawhorses, as well as some cambered clamping cauls.  The cauls helped keep the boards aligned vertically along the glue-lines.


For the battens, I surveyed what’s left of the stash of “probably cherry” I bought on craigslist some years ago, and pulled one of the long pieces of 8/4.  It’s full of knots and stress fractures, and the twist is almost 3/4″ from opposite corners.

With a handsaw, I crosscut two pieces and did some rough planing to make them a little more stable.  Then I marked oversized rip lines for the battens, trying to follow the grain as best I could.

Earlier this year I added a small tablesaw to the shop.  Since then, I’ve made a little outfeed table, a crosscut sled, and a ripping sled to hold roughsawn boards to establish a straight edge.  This was the first opportunity to try the ripping sled to saw the battens out at some wonky angle.  The first one sailed through fine.  But as I started ripping the second one, it got harder and harder and harder to push.  I stopped the saw and pulled the sled back.  It’s difficult to tell in the photo but the kerf was at least half closed at the free end.  It’s probably case-hardened, or some other stress defect, which was pinching the blade.

Now a smart person would throw this in the firewood pile.  But I just crosscut the waste near where I’d stopped the blade, and then carried on.


After some planing to clean up the faces, I tilted the tablesaw blade and ripped the bevels.  Then more planing and crosscutting to length.

Yeah, so, about aligning the grain…  One of them turned out well, but the other wanders off.  It’s a good idea to check both sides before committing to a sawcut.  It’s lined up nicely on the face that will be buried in the table.