If you’ve ever taken a close look at a quality wooden table top, you’ll see that it’s made up of a number of long boards set side by side. There’s a reason for this. Even if you could find a big piece of solid wood large enough to cover your table, it would warp over time. By laminating the wood, you create a sturdy, solid, flat surface.
The standard approach to this is to smooth the edges of each plank with a jointer (a large stationary plane), glue the boards together, then pop them through a surface planer to smooth the surface.
Of course, most of us don’t have these tools in our basement. The good news is, it can be done with more common tools (you’ll need a table saw, a belt sander, a smoothing plane and pipe clamps). Here’s how.
First, eliminate the jointer, which basically gives you a smooth 90 degree edge for gluing.
Start by choosing the straightest, flattest boards you can find. Examine a board for cupping both on the face and on the edge, and line it up on the table saw so the cups are down and toward the fence. Cut a thin strip. Blade stabilizers help you get a more precise cut. And you can stabilize the board itself by clamping a long straight board to the saw’s fence, using this as your fence.
With one edge done, turn the board around and do the other.
Now, dry fit the pieces together, so the end grain curve alternates. Slightly tighten your pipe clamps, and look for gaps of more than 1/32″. If you see them, try sliding the boards back and forth a bit, or rearranging them to eliminate gaps. If need be, carefully plane edges by hand.
Next, gluing and planing.