At Cannon Hill we often hear something along the lines of: “There are six of us in the family, but on the holidays we need to seat 12.” If you host parties occasionally but typically don’t need such a large table for your day-to-day use, there is no need to worry. From experience we know that a dining table that is too large for daily use ends up being eaten at less in favor of a smaller kitchen or coffee table. A larger table can take up most of your dining space, which could make it challenging to move about in the room and serve your guests. A great option is to use “table extenders”, which are sometimes referred to a “company boards.” This allows you to extend your table up to four feet (or more!) when necessary, and to store the boards elsewhere when they are not in use. Here are some options for helping you have the perfect size table for every holiday or occasion.
Terms For Table Extenders
Table extenders are also known as “company boards.” If you come across this term, it’s exactly the same thing. Extenders are not the same as breadboard ends, however. Aesthetically they are the similar, but breadboard ends are permanently attached to your table, meaning you cannot downsize when your guests leave. Additionally, breadboard ends are usually only 3-6” long, because they are simply an aesthetic option, while table extenders can vary in length and be up to 24 inches long without sagging (at least our's can- we can't speak for other systems).
Why Not Use a Drop Leaf on a rectangular table?
Another common way to extend your table is using a drop leaf system, which can work in two ways. These tables are sometimes designed with a large fixed slab of wood in the center, with boards that are on hinges on either side. You can then “drop” the ends of the table to make it smaller, or keep the table extended to seat larger parties. Cannon Hill Woodworking does not typically make drop leaf tables because because inevitably the dropped leaves get in the way of peoples’ knees. It just isn’t as functional of a design. Another commonly-seen option is a system whereby there is a mechanism under the table to pull the two ends apart and “drop” a leaf into the center of the table. Again, this is something Cannon Hill would only make on a case-by-case basis. The mechanism for the underside of the table is expensive to buy, and if you have chosen really beautiful fresh cut boards, a live edge slab, or reclaimed wood, a large seam in the center of the table is very disruptive and breaks up the beautiful flow of your tabletop. The center leaves are really only necessary for round or oval tables, as adding a table extension to the end is not really possible.
A Cautionary Tale
Table extenders that involve wooden rails are something to avoid in general. This system works by fixing loose rails to the underside of the table, that poke out a half inch from the skirt. You pinch the rails with your fingers and pull them out before placing the Extender Board on top. The reason we don’t make these is because the rails inevitable expand, contract, and warp over time, and get stuck in the skirt. If you overcompensate from a build perspective, and give them lots of clearance by making a bigger notch in the skirt, they have a tendency to sag when fully extended. In our early days this was our system, until we came up with a better way.
Types Of Extensions Typically Offered by Cannon Hill Woodworking
One type of table extender we have designed is our clamping slide extension. This option is best for tables with corner legs and a skirt. We make a simple curved and thin cut in the skirt on the ends of the table which is very subtle and clean. Connected to this curved piece is a rail system that is mounted to the underside of the table and completely obscured by the skirt. The rails slide out like a drawer, and then lock into the table top. An extension board is placed on top and locks into place. Since the slides are made from steel, they will not expand, warp, or sag over time. Overall, this type of table extender takes just seconds to set up. These are photos of a 24" table extension on a walnut table with a skirt and square legs.
Table Extenders on Live Edge tables, Metal Base Tables, or Trestle Base Tables: The “Invisible” "Removable" option!
What if the table doesn’t have corner legs and a skirt? This is the case with metal bases, custom trestle bases, and most live edge tables. It is also even possible to have corner legs that are not attached with the typical skirt construction. In this case, we’ve come up with a great design option for removable extender rails that we call our “Invisible Table Extenders”. You can imagine that you would not want see a rail system permanently installed on the underside of your table. It would disrupt the clean aesthetic of that beautiful top. We embed brackets flush with the bottom of the table, so they are completely invisible (unless you go under the table and look up, of course!). Then separate metal rails, which store with your extender boards, slot up and into the brackets with ease. Once the rails are attached, you can put your boards on top. The entire system takes about two minutes to set up and is very user friendly. It is also incredibly strong! With this system we are able to add extenders up to two feet in length on either side (or longer), and can even put them along the longer sides of your table if you wanted the table to be wider instead of longer!
Can You Use Table Extenders With Live Edge Tables?
Live edge tables are one of the most popular trends in custom-made wood furniture today. It is possible to use extender boards with live edge tables, but additional thought and planning will need to go into the piece. To extend a live edge table, you’ll either use horizontal boards of the same kind of wood as your table to blend in with the live edge, or you can buy one longer slab and use the cut-off length as the extender boards, so when they attach the look of the slab is continuous! This is a gorgeous look because when you use your extender board on the live edge on your table, the extension will perfectly match up with the rest of your table. The only requirement is that the original slab be a long slab so that the cuts off either end are usable boards. This option is not available for book-matched slabs (thinner slabs laminated together with dowels and glue) because the seam on that extension will naturally curl and your board will not remain flat over time.
Storing Your Table Extenders
If you’re using table extenders for reclaimed wood, particularly oak, it will be somewhat heavy. This shouldn’t be a problem for most people to use, but if you’re worried about the weight of able extenders we’re able to make them significantly lighter by planing them down, which is the process of shaving the wood so it’s thinner. Then we would install a piece on the bottom so that the board makes a continuously flat table top.
Most customers store their table extenders in a closet, but if you’d rather keep them under the table we have designed a bracket that will allow it. Your table will need to be long enough, and have the right type of base to allow for your boards to fit, but this is a good alternative if you’re short on storage room in your home or use your table extenders often and need to have them close by.
The End Goal: How Many People Can You Add?
Using table extenders to increase your table size can help you comfortably fit more guests at your dining table. We typically make extender boards 18-24” on either side, adding two or three feet to your table, though it is possible to go even longer. Two feet of total length usually allows for a minimum of two more people to join the table. Three feet adds four more people to the table usually, but four feet will guarantee four more guests.
Cannon Hill Woodworking always makes its custom furniture from scratch after an in-depth discussion and collaboration with our clients. If you’re considering purchasing a table with or without extender boards, send us an email at email@example.com or call us at 857-576-2089. We’d love to help you find the perfect dining table for every family gathering.