Solid Edge for a Round Table

A solid wood circumference for a round veneered table poses some tricky woodworking puzzles. In this thread, craftsman offer detailed advice for a unique project. June 28, 2005

I am working on a 42" round, pedestal base conference table for a professional's private office. He really likes some curly white ash that I have, but I do not have enough for this table unless I cut it into veneers, which I can do.

I will probably bag it on MDF and counter-veneer as well. But I want to add a thick, solid shaped edge, probably of a contrasting wood, although this is still under discussion. I can veneer it oversize, and then trammel a router for the circle no problem. But on the edging I am less sure.
I was thinking I would make a section of the circle in BB ply very carefully, and then pattern shape the edge in sections and attach it with splines.

Will this present any problems? Is there a better or easier way? I am thinking that I may want to/have to scratch a groove for a string inlay. Any help would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor D:
I would suggest that after trammeling the router around the top core, set up a swing jig where you can fasten the rim parts and swing the router to cut the inside radius. Set up a curved fence on a panel saw and cut the butt joints for the 6 or 8 pieces that will make the rim. Then slide them along the added curved fence to control the length of each and cut in a blind or through spline. Clamp these rim parts on one at a time, leaving them wide and with flats band-sawn on so you can have good clamp lands. Finesse the next butt joint while the glue sets, so it is perfect. The last one will make you sweat since you don't have any room for over cuts. Once they are all on, trammel the router to cut the outer radius and profile if you wish.

If you want to add an inlay at the transition, do this with a curved fence router around the rim, before or after the edging is on. Doing this after is a little more forgiving. Use a long curved or three point fence to insure you stay up to the edge - much is at risk at this point. I like to have someone hold the fence to the edge while I fixate on the cut. Swinging the router for the core and the rim parts is the key to getting an absolutely perfect fit.

From the original questioner:
To Contributor D: Thanks for the guidance. I think it will be hard to have fun as I sweat buckets trying to make this work. Do you feel that my idea of a precise pattern of a portion of the outside edge of the veneer sandwich and then pattern shaping it is a bad idea, or just a more difficult or time consuming task? I have a Byrd Shelix head for my shaper, with a ground ball bearing rub collar, and so I thought it would be an easier way, but without experience I can't say for sure, of course. Maybe by the time I perfect the pattern, I could have set up a swing jig for the perimeter, and the router will give a clean cut, at least with a spiral bit (which I would most likely use anyway).

From contributor P:
We have done this many times. The key is to make templates out of 1/2" MDF, and then use those to pattern shape. You can check the fit of the templates prior to cutting your irreplaceable veneer. Also, you want to make the edge band in six pieces so that the angle between segments is 60 degrees. If you are laying out these angles on a rectangular piece, the distance between the two inside corners is exactly the same as the radius of the center blank. For a 42" round, I would do a 3" wide edge band. Veneered blank diameter would be 36", with the radius 18".

Make a 36" diameter MDF circle, and then adjust the router to make an arc segment that has a 18" radius on the inside edge. The two curves should mate exactly. Then you can use this to lay out the segments. Shape the veneer blank using the 36" diameter template, and then mitre and shape the edge blanks, cutting a round on the inside edge only.

You want to leave the outside straight, and cut notches at each mitered end so that you can clamp the segments to each other as you add them one by one around the table. Then biscuit them to the veneer blank and to each other. You can slightly adjust the size of the last one for a perfect fit.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
We have done many of these and pretty much like Contributor P, except we cut a hexagon in the mdf or pb. Then the outer hardwood has straight lines and it’s way easier to clamp. Cut your 60 degree angles, glue up, and veneer. Trim round and then cut your edge shape.