A Different Way to Attach a Top

For the longest time, I would attach a case top to the case with screws driven through elongated holes. Elongated holes allow a wooden top to expand and contract along its width. Often case components expand in the other direction; a situation known as cross grain expansion. Failure to let your case top expand and contract can cause the top to crack when it can’t contract. The question then is how do you keep a table top securely attached to it’s case and still allow the top to move? And, I have given the answer: elongated screw holes. See the image below…

The Jackson Dresser with the case top removed.

The Jackson Dresser with the case top removed.

The front left corner. Note the enlarged hole which the screw is poking out of.

The front left corner. Note the enlarged hole which the screw is poking out of.

I don’t like the idea of elongated screw holes. Image in the second photo; instead of an enlarged round hole for the screw to stick through, the hole would be oval, or elongated. And the hole typically would be much smaller. My concern with this method is the head of the screw really does not move much.

The Jeff Branch Method…

My method uses a screw with a flat head along with a washer to be used more like a clamp, pulling the case top into proper location (flat against the case). The washer allows the screw to span the larger hole which the screw is passed through. The screw is driven into the case top, but the screw is not so tight that movement is inhibited.

Preparing the Top Blocking.

Note the enlarged screw hole.

The enlarged screw holes are easier than trying to elongate a hole as is typical when attaching a top. I am using a 1-1/4″ coarse thread pocket hole screw along with a washer. The flat head of the pocket screw and the washer bridges the enlarged hole. When driven into the top, the screw bites into the top, but not the blocking. The washer helps clamp the dresser top to the blocking but careful tightening of the screw will allow the top to move with seasonal changes in humidity.