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.
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