by Chuck Bender
Cross-grain construction tends to freak out most beginning woodworkers, but it’s a viable construction method in many cases. Wide tables and chest lids often employ breadboard ends to keep things flat, as well as cover end grain. If it’s done right, expansion and contraction problems can be nearly eliminated.
There are many methods to attach breadboard ends, but only a few actually accomplish the primary goal of keeping things flat. It takes a little understanding, sound joinery practices, proper planning and patience to avoid disaster.
Before you jump into to making breadboard ends you need to understand what’s happening and why; that begins with a basic knowledge of wood movement.
Boards expand and contract at a greater rate across their width than they do along the length. How much they expand and contract is more a matter of species and final resting place than anything else.
Also, wood tends to expand and contract more actively toward the bark side of the tree than toward the heart side. When you look at the growth rings on the ends of the board, the convex side of the rings is generally more active than the concave side. When one face moves more than the other, the board ends up bowed across its width – this is what we refer to as cupping.
Straight away you should know that, structurally, breadboard ends are strictly used to control cupping; they are not meant to stop shrinkage or expansion. There is no way to keep a board from changing dimensionally.
Breadboard ends are a mechanical means to overcome a board’s natural tendency for one side to expand or contract at a greater rate than the other. Whenever you try to overcome the nature of wood, you run the risk of cracking, splitting or breaking something.
Article: Understand wood movement; be preemptive as you deal with expansion and contraction.
Video: Watch as Glen D. Huey makes breadboard ends.
Article: Don Weber includes breadboard ends in his Barnsley hay-rake table.
Video: Chuck Bender explores several methods of joining breadboard ends. To Come.
In our Store: Read “Powered-up Breadboard Ends,” in the Autumn 2009 issue of Woodworking Magazine (No.15)