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Buttoned Framing

It’s such a proven and simple method for attaching a top to some framing: Buttons allow a solid timber top to move with the seasons, with no risk of splitting. And while it’s true some furniture is not exposed to the ravages of extreme moisture and could well survive with some skewed screws through the rails, it still makes sense to button. Who knows what fate might befit the piece you make in 20, 40, 80 years’ time? A few years in a damp barn, a decade in an ultra-dry climate? With buttons, you’ll give your top the best possible chance of lasting.

Buttoned Up

The buttons in the top image are nice; mine are a little more crude but do the job. I set them down just a fraction from the rail so when the top is screwed on it really pulls down nicely. Often a button is mounted in a groove, but if you are new to woodworking and don’t have a method to plow a groove then chopping a mortice will do just as well, and I’d say be stronger for it. Fix the buttons with good brass screws and you’ll have a durable and proven join between your top and the base.

— Graham Haydon

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Showing 6 comments
  • crcarpen

    I’ve used shop made buttons in the past and they do work great. For the more lazy of us, however, think also about “table irons”. There are two types, one a figure 8 washer type (think of an eight laying flat, you put a screw in each of the open loop of the 8. The far better type is called a few things – table irons, table top fasteners, etc. They’re angled bent metal clips, one end with a screw hole the other a flat tip of metal designed to fit into a 1/8″ kerf. They work great and are fairly cheap ($2.30/25 and cheaper still at higher quantities, I get them from McFeely’s – It’s actually a pretty old technique, look under some mid-century tables and you’ll most likely find them.

    And yes, I long ago assigned this detail to my plate joiner. At least it does a wee bit of work now.

  • drnono

    Wow! What a gorgeous folding rule!

  • Nobby1967

    Nice one Graham just a fraction lower pulls top down nicely
    Love mortise method❤️

  • Mitch Wilson

    While I usually use a groove that I rout into the rail, I have read where others use a biscuit joiner to create a slot for the buttons. It may be a reasonable alternative for securing the buttons. Just a thought.


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