how to cut a table top straight?

6 Feb 2011
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United Kingdom

I'm a real novice with carpentry (not really done much since leaving school many years ago) however, we currently have a drop leaf table that needs a new top, we also have an old (but hardly used) table top which looks like it could be cut to fit perfectly! :)

The 'new' table top looks to be 45mm strips of pine glued together & planed smooth on the surface and 'rolled' around the edges. Total dimensions are 1200 x 1000 x 25 mm.

Here's a pic for reference:- (click to enlarge)

I would like to cut it into three pieces (2 x 420x1000mm & 1 x 340x1000 mm). The two required cuts would be along the length of two of the 45mm strips that form the table top i.e. top to bottom in the pic

I'm not that good at sawing straight lines with my jigsaw / hand saw and don't (currently) own a circular saw, so my questions are:

1) If I can find someone with a suitable saw (table / panel) would it typically give a perfect cut on both sides or do they need to have a certain type of blade? (nearby there's a "timber / fencing centre", and another timber merchant who has both a panel saw & industrial planer onsite (from their website)

2) Would sawing through one of the 45mm strips weaken the structure around the edge or should it be okay?

3) Is there anything else I should be aware of or any recomendations on how I should saw it?

After sawing, I am hoping that the sawn edges would just need a quick sand or would they typically need planing? It's fairly easy to attach to the 'old' legs. :)

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If you are going to attempt this yourself, you'll need a small smoothing plane and an orbital sander (at least to form the rolled edge).
If you can find someone to cut it for you using a table circular saw, a few strokes with a smoothing plane will see the sawn edges good.
Don't try using a jigsaw - it will wander and the cut edges will need planing to make them true. The cut may not be at 90 degrees either due to bending of the blade.
If you decide to use a hand saw, buy a new one (maybe a cross cut rather than a rip saw could be better for a novice), draw a pencil line and give it a go, holding the saw at a 45 degree angle to the cut. You'll still need to finish with a smoothing plane - a sander will follow any slight curves in the cut and look amateurish. Get someone to hold the cut pieces so they don't break away.
Don't worry about cutting into the 45mm strips - the glue will hold, just give plenty of screw support as the top is fixed to the frame. (Ideally the top should be allowed to float - with expansion and contraction due to room temperature and humidity).
John :)

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