Solid Wood Tabletop Orientation & Installation – Part 1

I never paid much attention to the particulars of round tabletop vs. base orientation, that is until a few months ago when we inherited a bent steel-base table with a round solid oak top. I liked the top but not so much the base. And since we had a glass-topped dining table with a nice wooden “X” base, I decided to marry the new wood top and our old wooden base to create the best of the two tables.

As I began my preparations for the top exchange I discovered that there were two main ways to align the top’s grain direction in relationship to the base, parallel to the “X” stretchers or diagonal to them (see illustrations A, B). Additionally, there were two options for placing the table in relationship to the seating arrangement in the room and the direction of the hard floor planks. Check the plan view drawings to see what I mean. 

Table Top Orientation and Installation

In option A the “X” base is parallel to the direction of the top’s grain and the chairs around the table form an “X” layout. In B the “X” is in diagonal to the top’s grain and the chairs form a “+” layout.

Table Top Orientation and Installation

I aligned the top grain direction with that of the floor (A1, B1) but I really disliked how it looked

To help me decide my course of action, I took the wooden top and placed it on the “X” base.

I aligned the top grain direction with that of the floor (A1, B1) but I really disliked how it looked so I rotated it 90° and this time it looked cool. I then played with the “X” base orientation in relationship to the top. In option A the “X” base is parallel to the direction of the top’s grain and the chairs around the table form an “X” layout. In option B the “X” is in diagonal to the top’s grain and the chairs form a “+” layout.

Table Top Orientation and Installation

Tabletop vs. table base alignment A

Table Top Orientation and Installation

Tabletop vs table base alignment B

What really finalized the orientation was giving attention to the layout of the chairs in the room. I concluded that the best flow of movement and the optimal balance of space in our dining area would result from option A.

Next I had to affix the top to the base, which I will show next time.    

— Yoav Liberman

Editor’s note: If you’re interested in tables, check out “Furniture Fundamentals: Making Tables,” a book with 17 step-by-step projects.

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Yoav Liberman

About Yoav Liberman

Yoav S. Liberman is a woodworker and a teacher. His pieces have been featured in several woodworking books, most recently in Robin Wood’s CORES Recycled. Yoav teaches woodworking at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, and also frequently guest teaches in craft schools across the country.  Between 2003 and 2011 Yoav  headed the woodworking program at Harvard University's Eliot House. Yoav’s articles have appeared in American Woodworker and Woodwork Magazine. He frequently contributes woodworking web content to a number of digital publications   Yoav has a degree in architecture and later held two competitive residency programs: at The Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, and the Windgate Foundation Fellowship at Purchase College, New York. He lives in Chestnut Ridge NY.

3 thoughts on “Solid Wood Tabletop Orientation & Installation – Part 1

  1. Derrick

    I like the diagonal arrangment of top to base. However, with the chairs, would you want a leg between yours (option A) or both your legs between two of the tables (option B)?

    It would seem to me the chairs would be in the same place regardless from your to picture of your options so I am unsure how the arrangement of base to top would effect traffic flow.

  2. moonchaser

    When I looked at your drawings, I had picked out that configuration based on the way foot traffic would flow between the stairwell and the table. The “B” plan had way too little clearance for a person wanting to sit “north” when another person was sitting in the “east” chair. It makes a big difference as to how easy it would be to navigate with a full plate.

    That just goes to show how a little thought into how things will look and work in a given space can make a big difference in the results.

    1. Yoav LibermanYoav Liberman Post author

      You are correct. We have to pay attention to the space that our pieces occupy and the flow of traffic around them in order to ensure maximum functionality. I may add that setting up our furniture in a pleasing composition makes them stand out and look nicer.

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