Table Extension Slide Ideas

After slides specced by a designer fail to satisfy, a woodworker gets advice on better alternatives. December 12, 2008

I'm in a jam. A local architect asked me to build a dining room table she'd designed for a client. She specified some steel extension slides with which I wasn't familiar. They are made by Watertown and sold by Rockler. These slides are only 2" high, and open 50". The table top material is 3/4" solid bamboo, roughly the same weight as MDF. The table is 6' long at its smallest, 10' long fully extended.

I've just assembled the table, and these slides are in no way rigid enough to support a table like this. Despite the considerable crown built into the slides, the extended table is as swaybacked as an old mare, roughly an inch lower in the middle than at the ends. I haven't yet installed the locks that will pull the sections tight against each other, but I can't believe they'd significantly improve the situation.

I haven't yet called the architect about this problem, because I want to be able to offer a solution. Can anyone make this learning experience a little less painful? Perhaps recommend an especially rigid, high-quality slide?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor D:
Make your own heavy duty ball bearing (drawer) slides. They come in 48" and 60". Stronger and smoother than anything I've ever seen. One person can open a table, put the leaves in, then walk across it with no deflection. I did this very experiment. There was an article a couple years ago in Fine Woodworking about these.

From contributor C:
I can't recommend an alternative slide, but I can tell you that Ethan Allen uses Watertown slides on a lot of their tables, some larger and heavier than what you described. I have a pair that are 2 1/2" high and open to fit two 18" leaves if you are interested. To be honest though, I would prefer to use a quality wooden slide if it is intended to be a high quality table. Contributor D's drawer slide idea has me intrigued.

From contributor A:

I've used both the wooden slides and then ball bearing slides that I dadoed into wood sections. The latter worked great and no worries about future binding

From contributor G:
We also use the Accuride 60" slides that are made for truck tool box slideouts and they will be the best thing you can do for the client. She may have intended those instead of the cheaper metal slides from Rockler.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I will look into the adapted ball-bearing slides that have been mentioned so many times, but I don't think I'll have room for them on this project due to some other odd elements being in the way. If anyone can point more specifically to the FWW article mentioned, I'd be thankful.

I called Watertown and they agreed that the spec'd slides are far too small for a table this size. Watertown said that they like to recommend a slide that, when closed, is 2/3 the length of the table at its smallest size. My table is 6' long without any leaves, so they would've told me to get 48" slides. The spec'd slides are only 20" long.

From the original questioner:
A follow-up question on using drawer slides for this... A single 48" slide won't fit between some necessary obstructions, so I'm considering using two 26" slides per side, with a piece of wood floating between each side's pair. Has anyone tried this or seen it done? These would have to be of the 200# (or so) rating for height reasons; the super heavy-duty 500# slides are 3" tall.

From the original questioner:
Just a follow up for posterity... I did build my own slides, but not from drawer slides. I found Jeremiah de Rham's article on extension tables in the July/Aug '87 issue of FWW, and used his general method to build a pair of heavy, three-section slides from red oak. I crowned each section slightly, and also angled the slots so that the crown increases as the slide is extended. They are lubed with paste wax, and move almost effortlessly. I'm very happy with the result, and doubly happy to have this new arrow in my quiver. Thanks again for everyone's thoughts.