Breadboard Ends


Doing Breadboard Ends on a tabletop can be a challenging experience. What I am trying to do here is to demystify the process of just how to do breadboards. Each project will vary from time to time and working with wood can be and is a very rewarding experience.

So why do breadboards in the first place?
Breadboards are normally used to help prevent cupping or warpping on a tabletop. This is caused in part by the drying process of the wood, which in turn causes the wood to shrink, check, split, warp, cup, and etc.....but...that is another science altogether!!
Assuming that your tabletop is already glued up and dry, clamps have been removed, and the top has been cut to the length of the top you want (remember to make an allowance for the size of the breadboards in the overall length of the tabletop), you should be ready to think and make preparations for your tabletop and breadboards.

Think of it this way:
If your tabletop is to be 84" long with breadboards installed, then you must take into account the following:
1. The length of the tabletop without breadboards, (mine was 84")
2. The width of the boards to be used for the actual breadboard ends, (mine was 2")
3. The length of the tabletop with the breadboards installed, (mine was 85-1/2")
4. Tenon thickness, length and width on each end of the tabletop that the breadboard will slip onto, (mine was 1/2" thick by 40" long by 1-1/4" wide)
5. Mortise length, width and depth on each piece of wood that will be used for the breadboard ends, (my mortise was 41" long, 1/2" wide, 1-3/8" deep)

In this first picture, we see a fellow Badger Pond Member who is busy measuring and laying out the tenon for the first of the two breadboard ends. The table top is 1" thick, and we decided to leave a tenon thickness of 1/2". This would calculate to a router bit depth setting of just about 1/4". Note: It is BEST to adjust the router bit depth to be generously SHY of the actual measurement so you can Sneak Up on the tenon dimension.


Here is a shot of the straight edge clamped in place and the initial cut has been made to one side of the tabletop. We used a 3/4" two flute straight bit to make the cut. Since the tenon is to be 1-1/4" wide, we had to make two passes with the router by adjusting the straight edge to the near final cut mark. The final final cut for this end, just tap the straight edge gentley back, make the cut. If you aren't at the measurement you need to be at, readjust and make another cut, re-measure and repeat the process until you are where you need to be. Getting in a HURRY here can result in two things:
1. It could result in a shorter tabletop than previously planned.
2. It could result in the ruining of the tabletop entirely and you could have to start over with another top.

Here is the other side of the top that is now being worked on and you should notice a trial cut on the opposite end has been made and is waiting a test fit of the breadboard that will go on this end of the table. It is best to make small 1" to 2" trial cuts to see if you are cutting too deep on the first pass. It is much easier to start shallow and adjust the router bit depth of cut by making cuts on the 2nd side of the tabletop as you sneak up on the real depth to complete the rest of the cut. Cut a little, make a test fit of the breadboard that will go on that end until you can snuggly slip the breadboard on. Too tight and you will NOT be able to get it back off without damage for the last and final fitting/doweling.

Here you see that the other end of the tabletop is now being prepared for the exact same process as we did on the first end.breadboard4

Make the cuts are previously described. Meaning that if you do one end of the tabletop....the other end is done the same exact way.breadboard5

YES!!!! breadboard installation can have a drawback or two. Each end has to be fitted as the tabletop will vary slightly from end to end and the breadboard mortise may have to be "tweaked" in order to get a good fit...Remember, the fit should be snug and not tight. You MUST be able to remove the board for final doweling.breadboard6

OK....Let's move along to where you need to remove the breadboards and check the fit one more time. Satisfied with the fit? OK... I decided to use 3/8" Red Oak Dowels to pin the breadboards to the tabletop. So why not just glue them on? Seasonal wood movement can and will put various stresses on the solid wood tabletop. Enough stress and the top can split, crack or nearly come apart. The ONLY glue on a breadboard is the Center few inches of it and the rest gets doweled.breadboard7

So how do I dowel pin the breadboards on the tabeltop?

1. You will need a depth guage of some sort on your drill. (I used a piece of tape).
2. Measure from the inside edge of the breadboard and mark where you will insert the dowel pins (I used 1/2" to the center of the dowel pin).
3. Measure across the table (from end to end of the breadboard) and mark where you choose to put the dowels.
4. If you are NOT going to be putting the dowel pins all the way through the breadboards (so that they can be seen from the top and bottom of the tabletop), then you will need to drill Only Partically through.

Now....what in the world do I mean by that?

I mean that you are going to have to work from the BOTTOM side of the tabletop and do the marking and drilling from the bottom. A word of caution here: If your tabletop is "X" thick, then the hole depth you should be drilling should be no deeper than X minus 1/8". In other words, my tabletop is 1" thick. The breadboards are 5/4" stock so I had some room to play a little. From the bottom side of the tabletop, I would mark and drill holes for dowels that would be no deeper than 13/16" deep. You just don't want to drill all the way through if you do NOT want the dowel pins to be seen from the finished piece.
Now....Don't go and get started yet!!!!! You have more reading to do.
1. Keep the above section in mind.
2. This is hard to explain.
3. Read this next section c a r e f u l l y!!! you've got it all figured out now. You will drill the holes for the dowels and get this over with. Hold on there Bubba-louie!!! What about getting the breadboards to fit so when the top contracts or expands with seasonal wood movement?
Remember that piece of tape I used for a depth gauge? Here is where I used it.
I measured the thickness of the wall of the wood that was left after making the mortise on the breadboard and transferred that measurement to the 3/8" brad point drill bit via my piece of tape. Why a brad point? because I want as accurate of a hole location as possible and the center point will just barely mark the tenon of where the dowel should go through. The easy hole is the Center hold....It gets drilled straight through to your specified depth. The others must get marked on the tenon, remove the breadboard, change to the next smaller brad point drill bit you have and do the following:
1. Place the center point of the brad point drill bit about 1/32" further away from the end of the table or on the backside edge of the dimple mark. This alone should space you far enough back to get it. Why further back on the other holes? So as the tabletop expands and contracts, the dowels will be drawn in tighter. This is done with the hole in the tenon only to be slight tapered back towards the tabletop so when the top shrinks, it will "draw" the breadboard in tighter.
A trick to learn here:
The next smaller drill bit allows you to get a little "off" on your drilling and still be close enough to make it all work.
You will have to "woller" the slots (only about 1/2" in length) on the backsides of the holes (side closest to the solid tabletop).
To get a more accurate "slot" for the dowel to ride in, draw a straight line with a square at the edge of each hole and angle the slot AWAY from that line for a nice tight fit and when the wood top shrinks? The breadboard will attempt to be kept up tight. the holes and slots are drilled what?
1. Put glue on the very center 4 to 6 inches of the tenon.
2. Put the Center Dowel in the hole with a little glue.
3. DO NOT glue the whole dowel and hole on any other locations except for the very center pin.
4. Sand a chamfer (your choice here) on one end of the dowel.
5. Insert the dowel in any other of the drilled holes (chamfered end first) - but NOT all the way in. You may have to have a mallet here as the off centered holes will make it hard to get the dowel in the holes...but this is good....makes a nice tight fit.
6. With the dowel pin almost all the way in, apply a dab of glue to the dowel pin and hammer it home.
7. Cut the dowel off well above the breadboard surface and sand flush when the glue has set.
8. Repeat the process until all dowels and breadboards have been inserted and secure.

The finished tabletop and breadboards "should" look something like this:breadboarddone

Now for the coolest "trick" of them all:
The Arkie Way to cut a tenon for breadboards:

Thanks for checking out my breadboard page. Many THANKS to Terry Hatfield for helping me get my very first breadboards done on my wife’s new kitchen table.

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