Set The Record Straight: Panel Assembly


I’m always amazed when I see woodworkers struggle with gluing up two or more boards to make a panel. I’ve seen photos of guys with their panel assemblies on the concrete floor of the shop with their knees at the joint straining to level the seam and clamp the pieces before the glue sets. And the number of clamps used? Don’t get me going on that one. Clamps every few inches – please! This should be, and is, one of the easiest things a woodworker needs to do. Let’s set the record straight when it comes to panel assembly.

First, though, you have to start with flat and square stock. This is the single biggest problem I see when gluing up panels. If you are not milling your own material, start. Who knows how your local supplier mills lumber – a double-sided thickness planer crushes the boards flat before it perfectly mills the two faces parallel, but on the out-feed side of the cutterheads that board flexes back to whatever shape it had before beginning its trip. If it wasn’t flat at the outset, it’s not going to be flat at the end. Proper milling is imperative. (Learn the proper steps for better machine milling, here.)

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4 thoughts on “Set The Record Straight: Panel Assembly

  1. Nice post. I have been ignoring myths 2-4 for years only because I liked the look of wide boards and matching grain. Many times people have cautioned me about what I was doing. Now I don’t feel so bad! 😉 In my experience, properly dried lumber and a quality piece of wood allows you to use extremely wide panels.

    I’m going to start ignoring myths 1 and 5 now.


  2. Glen, very good article. Well done. Thanks, Elmer

  3. Thanks for that Glen! Question: I’ve read and been told that clamp pressure propagates outward form the clamp contact with the wood at approximately a 45° angle. Further, pressure declines as you move outward from the clamp point. If any of that is true then one needs more that 3 clamps for a 36″ panel. Clearly, your experience says otherwise. Comments please.

    1. Curt,
      I’ve read and heard the same about clamping glue-ups. I’m not the guy to discuss any science around the topic, but I can tell you that all I’m interested in is closing the joint. With the right amount of glue (not too much) and appropriate clamping pressure, I look for a small amount of squeeze-out. That’s the way I’ve worked for 20 years, and I’ve not had a panel fail. (Makes one wonder about the classic rub joint when using hot hide glue, huh?)

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