I’m building a dining table. Would gluing a wood trim strip to end grain be a bad idea? I’m concerned about the wood contracting and expanding.

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Q:

I'm building a dining table. Would gluing a wood trim strip to end grain be a bad idea? I'm concerned about the wood contracting and expanding. Would a 34 " plywood tabletop be better?
—Rod Hildahl, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

A:

Gluing a wooden strip across end grain will cause wood movement problems, Rod, because wood expands and contracts twice as much across the grain as with the grain. If you opt for a solid wood top but don't want exposed end grain, one way to edge the ends while allowing for expansion is to use a breadboard end like the one shown at right that allows the table's boards to expand and contract across their width.

To create a breadboard end, cut a 12 "-deep groove the length of your table ends, and a matching tongue on one edge of the end pieces, as illustrated below, for a 1"-thick tabletop. Glue the center 4" of the joint, allowing the table to expand and contract across its width.

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If you don't require a solid wood top, opt for hardwood veneer MDF instead of plywood for a flatter surface. Trim strips can be made from stock up to 34 " wide and glued into place using clamping cauls, as shown at bottom right. Then use a bearing-guided flush trim bit to remove the excess width of the strips.