I want to build a desk tabletop with the surface being maple, but 8/4 maple was quite expensive so I'm opting for half the thickness. However, this narrows down the options for joining the boards to make the surface. What method should I use to join these 3/4 wood boards? Is 3/4 thick enough for pocket hole joining to be practical? Preferably the technique should not involve specialized machines or tools.

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    "Is 3/4 thick enough for pocket hole joining to be practical?" In theory yes, but don't use them — they're completely unnecessary for joining boards together to make a panel. That's what you're doing, panel making, so that's what to Google for more info. Standard technique is as described in the Answer by @FreeMan, just joint your edges nice and square (or complementary angles, e.g. 89°/91°) and glue together with lots of clamp pressure. The glue joints if you do them properly will end up stronger than the maple itself, so despite how it might seem they are not a weak point. – Graphus Jun 30 at 15:40
  • "Preferably the technique should not involve specialized machines or tools." You didn't specify what you have and what you'd consider specialised, but you have to have some means to make the edges of the boards perfectly flat and square — called jointing — so that they glue together and leave an invisible or nearly invisible glue joint. Note that only glue joints this thin are very strong, thicker glue joints are always weaker using PVA glues. Also note that straight from the saw (using the most blades) the surface of your board edges will not be smooth enough to be truly joint-ready. – Graphus Jun 30 at 15:43
  • @Graphus I will definitely be sanding any side that comes from a saw. – atulw Jun 30 at 15:53
  • How will you be sanding them? – Graphus Jun 30 at 16:24
  • @Graphus I'm planning to use 3 different sandpaper grits up to 220 by hand. That should be fine, right? Is maple very hard to sand? – atulw Jun 30 at 17:01

I'd suggest joining 3/4 maple planks into a table top exactly the same way you'd join 8/4 maple planks. Cut the edges nice and square, joint them to ensure they're 100% flat, then glue them up and apply every clamp you (and everyone in your neighborhood) own. Some gluing cauls will help to ensure it stays nice and flat while you're clamping and the glue is setting.

A jointer would make squaring the edges easier, but this would likely fall into "specialized tools", so you can do it with a jointer's plane. Of course, that may be considered "specialized", too, so you'll have to draw the line somewhere on what's "specialized" vs "how nice do you want your table top to be". If you don't get those edges really square, your glue-up won't be flat, then you'll have to sand or plane it flat and will end up with a less than 3/4" thick surface.

I wouldn't use pocket screws for any of it (even though I just picked up a pocket screw jig a couple of months ago).

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  • Thanks! Yes, I don't have a jointer but I found a way to do it with a table saw. – atulw Jun 30 at 13:37
  • @atulw a table saw will give you a nice edge, but make sure that you give it a light sand to ensure it's very square and flat before you start your gluing. – FreeMan Jun 30 at 13:50
  • Okay. And if I understand correctly, you suggest simply gluing the pieces? would adding some dowels help in any way? – atulw Jun 30 at 13:55
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    @atulw dowels don't add much in strength, really. They are useful (like pocket holes) for getting, and keeping, things square while the glue sets up. Dowels are useful when doing butt-joint corners where you don't, or can't use some other kind of joinery. With solid wood finger (or full on mortice-and-tenon) joints would give you better glue surfaces. But for edge joints dowels would be more about helping you position things squarely. – jdv Jun 30 at 14:03
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    When glueing up the planks, don't forget to look at the ends and alternate the rings direction if a ring pattern is showing. – Programmer66 Jun 30 at 15:40

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