Make a Dining Room Table by Thanksgiving

by A Manly Guest Contributor on October 27, 2011 · 113 comments

in Manly Skills, Projects

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Tuck Oden.

If you’re like me, every time you wander through a big-box furniture store, you feel a little insulted. Here you are, a man, staring at relatively simple furniture, being asked to lay down large sums of money for a bookshelf, dining set, or desk. And if you know enough about wood to spot laminate and fiberboard, you’ll quickly see these expensive pieces of furniture have a shelf life (no pun intended) of about two years.

Today I want to show you a project that’s within your reach if you have a few tools, a couple weekends, and the courage to take on something new. If you’re completely new to woodworking, this may be a little ambitious, but if you’ve got a little experience, you shouldn’t encounter too much trouble. Keep in mind that I’m an amateur. I took shop class in high school and have done a few little projects here and there, but I’m certainly no pro.

My two primary pieces of machinery: 10" Craftsman Table Saw and 10" Craftsman Radial Arm Saw

The result of this project is what your wife or girlfriend would call a “Rustic,” “Barn,” or “Ranch Style” dining room table. I call it a man table, because it’s made from inexpensive wood, can take a beating, and one day your grandchildren will be serving their kids Thanksgiving dinner on it. Being the man that built that table is, well, manly. I’ve found a few similar tables on Craigslist and furniture sites, starting at around $1200. That’s absurd. I built mine for less than $200, including the chairs I bought for it.

I started by doing some searches around the ol’ internet to find other folks who’ve built their own tables. Using the images and information I found, I started drawing up plans. My table is approximately 6′x44″x31″ (LxWxH). You may find different dimensions work better for you (31″ is pretty tall)–so make your plans however you like. I also built leaves that make the table 8.5’ long.

Leaves and All for Fall

What You’ll Need

Shall we get started? This is going to look far more expensive and complicated than it really is. Have no fear. This took two weeks from start to finish (while working full-time). Here’s what you’ll need:

Tools:

  • *Table Saw – for ripping to width and cutting the notches for the legs and leaves.
  • *Radial Arm Saw – for cutting to length (or, if you plan well, you can get the fellas at Lowes or Home Depot to cut your pieces to length and forgo the radial arm saw).
  • Chisel – for chipping out the notches. A flathead screwdriver would also work.
  • Hand-held Belt Sander – you’ll end up using this all over the place.
  • Drill/Rechargeable Screwdriver – I used my heavy drill for drilling holes and a rechargeable screwdriver to drive screws.
  • Pocket-Hole Jig – this is indispensable. Nearly every joint on this table uses pocket holes.

*You may be able to use a circular saw instead. I don’t have any experience working with these though.

Misc:

  • Stuff to ‘distress’ the table–we used chains, hammers, screws, sparklers, matches–anything that can leave a mark.
  • Stain, brushes, and paint thinner–we used Rustoleum Ultimate Wood Stain, Dark Walnut. But we did it wrong. More on that later…
  • Polyurethane (to protect your finish).
  • Black Spray Paint for the lag screws and washers.

Lumber:

We used cheap construction grade (douglas fir) lumber. Your amounts may differ, but keep in mind these usually come in lengths starting at 8′:

  • 4″x4″x8′s – 3
  • 2″x8″x8′s – 3
  • 2″x12″x12′s – 2
  • 2″x4″x8′s – 4

Hardware:

  • 3/8″ x 6″ Lag Screws (spray-painted black) – 8
  • 3/8″ x 3″ Lag Screws (spray-painted black) – 8
  • 3/8″ Washers (spray-painted black) – 16
  • 2 ½” Pocket-Hole Screws – approx 100
  • 1 ½” Pocket-Hole Screws – approx 100
  • Brackets – 10

Draw Up Your Plans

The first step is to draw up your plans. I should mention that lumber sizes are a lie. They’re typically about ½” less in every dimension than what they’re called, so a 2″x4″x8′ is actually 1 ½” x 3 ½” x 8’ 11 ½”.  Remember this when you’re drawing up your plans.

Drawing plans is a good way to make sure you understand everything you’re getting into. Draw them from every conceivable angle and think through how you’re going to make each cut and joint.

Top

End view and top view of the rail-to-leg butt joint. Don’t giggle. That’s what it’s called.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Allow about 23″-30″ in width per place setting.
  • Allow 12″ depth for each place setting, plus 6″-20″ for the center of the table.
  • Keep your dining room’s size in mind–you need at least 32″ between the back of each chair and the nearest wall or piece of furniture.

Side view

Get Your Lumber

Now that you’ve got your plans worked out, you need to determine how much lumber you need and go pick it up. You do have a pickup, right? RIGHT? Check every board for bows by looking down the length of it. Bowed wood is going to give you a lot of trouble, so get the straightest boards you can find.

It seems like a lot of wood, but all of the lumber needed for our table was less than $100.

Cut Your Wood

Your next step is to either get the guys at the hardware store to cut your wood for you, or do it yourself. Mark your lengths and go to town!

Ready to attack a 2x12 with the radial arm saw.

Be sure to label each piece as you go so you don’t get confused later.

Here’s an old woodworking adage I enjoy ignoring: “measure twice, cut once.” Honestly, I measure nonce and cut thrice. I often eyeball it. I use pieces I’ve already cut to measure what I need to cut. It’s not a great habit, but I prefer it to measuring everything. And the results usually aren’t that different. At least that’s what I tell myself. I ended up having to sand down the ends of the 2×12’s running the length of the table (where they meet the aprons) because they weren’t exactly the same length.

Pieces cut to length. From bottom to top this is aprons/leaves, tabletop length pieces, legs/crossbeams and rails.

Design the Table Top

Now that you’ve cut everything to length, it’s time to decide how you want to arrange the pieces for the top. Lay out the pieces and figure out which arrangement you like. Then flip it all over, so you’re looking at the exact bottom of your soon-to-be top.

Deciding on the arrangement.

Do this on a FLAT SURFACE–your tabletop will only be as flat as the surface you do this on. Drill your pocket holes and drive the screws in to secure all the pieces together. I recommend clamping it all together while you do this. Repeat the process with the pieces for your leaves.

Pocket-holes drilled. Use the 2 ½" pocket-hole screws for every joint.

Guess what? Your top is almost done. You might want to use a belt sander to get rid of any horrible incongruities or lumber print marks. Remember that rough spots, knots, etc. are going to look awesome with some stain–so don’t worry about sanding those out; however, you want the natural curves on the side of your table to extend along the aprons.

Build the Frame

Now let’s focus on the frame. Start by marking the notches for the legs. These should be just a tad bigger than your crossbeams. I put mine 3 ½” above the ground, to match the thickness of the crossbeam.

This is just illustrating where you’d mark the wood. You’d rotate it once (“x” facing down) before cutting. Make sure your miter gauge is sturdy enough.

Once you have each piece marked, it’s time to start cutting. Basically what you want to do is raise your table saw’s blade to a little less tall than half the thickness of the leg (about 1 5/8′). This will let the wood over-reach the wood it’s joined to by about ¼” on every side, giving you a nice, rustic look.

Set the rip fence to keep you from going too far up the leg. Cut one slice through at either end of the notch. Then cut out pieces every ¼” or so between those cuts. It’s not as complicated as it sounds–I promise. Look:

Slices trimmed out with the table saw. From here, you stick the chisel in and pull back. The chips pop right out. It’s a great feeling!

Repeat this on each of your legs and then use your chisel to knock out the slices. You’ll have rough notches at this point. Take each piece back to the saw and run it back and forth and left to right over the running blade (CAREFULLY!) to smooth out the notch.

See the roughness in the notches? That’s what you’ll eliminate using the table saw.

Repeat the same process with the crossbeams–notch out the ends and the space for the footrest that goes across the middle.

Test-fit your crossbeams to the legs. Everything look okay? Good.

Dry fit test. Nothing is screwed or glued together here--just sitting in their notches.

Now use a 3/8″ drill bit to drill some pilot holes through your crossbeams into the legs.

Use a little masking tape to mark the bit so you don’t go too deep!

Once you get all the pilot holes drilled, go ahead and ratchet in your lag screws (be careful if you use a drill to screw these in–they’re STRONG and the drill will try to break your wrist).

Look at that! You got nice legs!

Now you’re going to sort-of repeat this process to cut some notches in the top rails for your leaves to slide into. Mark the thickness of your 2×2 rails (just a 2×4 cut in half lengthwise) however far in from the edges you want them, and use the same process as before to cut out the notches.

Notches cut in the top end-rails for the leaves to slide into.

Use pocket-hole screws to attach these to your legs. Go ahead and screw on your 2×4 footrest as well.

Now it’s time for one of the trickiest parts–attaching the side rails to the legs. I did this part on top of the tabletop, because it was the flattest surface I could find. We got the rail perfectly straight and I had my wife stand on it to keep it steady as I drilled the pilot hole through the leg and into the rail. Then we screwed in the 6″ lag screws. And I just about broke my arm trying to use a power drill with a socket to do this.

Here you can see my wife's nice legs, the table's nice legs, one connected rail (top right) and one yet to be connected (bottom right). The frame is upside down.

Now the frame is right-side up, sitting on the tabletop.

Now you have a complete top, leaves, and frame. You’re almost there!

One of the leaves – use a square to make sure they’re straight.

Distress, Stain, and Finish the Table

It’s gotten too tricky lately, so I think it’s time for some catharsis. Let’s beat the crap out of this tabletop. Smack it with chains. Hit it with a pipe wrench. Drop saw blades on it. Burn it with sparklers. Just generally abuse it. Don’t worry–it’ll look great.

Tools of distress-ion.

You also need to leave another mark on this--your own signature. We used a soldering iron to do a very amateur and very permanent woodburn with our names and date.

Okay, let’s stain this beast. I should explain that we used Rustoleum’s Dark Walnut Ultimate Wood Stain, but we did it wrong. We failed to mix it well before applying it, resulting in a color we really liked–but not the color this stain is designed to create. When we came back to do a second coat, we stirred it well, resulting in a coat that looked like purple paint. I had to sand it off and start over. So, don’t follow my lead here–follow the can’s directions and TEST before staining all of your new masterpiece!

We did two coats, but that’s optional. What’s not optional is a protective finish. Polyurethane does the trick just fine!

First coat of stain. Don’t judge my garage’s cleanliness.

Your monster of a table is going to be HEAVY, so I strongly recommend moving it to its final destination in two pieces–lay a blanket down in your dining room, put the top on it upside down, then the frame upside down on top of that. Attach a couple 2×4 supports across the frame for good measure, then begin the frustrating process of centering the frame on the top. Once you have the top centered, attach your brackets–I did two on each end and three on each side.

Attaching brackets with 1 ¼" pocket-hole screws.

You got that done? Guess what? You have a brand-new, homemade, beast of a man table. Your only problem is its upside down. Flip that puppy over, find some chairs, let your wife put some girly decorative stuff on it, and get ready to be the next to host Thanksgiving!

{ 113 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Go For Miles October 27, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Excellent article. Very good stuff.

2 Jeremy October 27, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Yeah…that is awesome! I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing for a while now. This is the motivation I need to get it done.

3 Brian October 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Holy awesome… I, a 9-5er pounding on plastic keyboards all day, almost feel like I could do it.

Thanks!

4 Dave October 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I have the same motorcycle, but not the same wife.

Table looks awesome, I’ve been wanting a new table for our dinning room, looks like I have no excuse no to just make one.

5 Justin October 27, 2011 at 7:03 pm

I like the look of this table. It would be concerned that using fir would be pretty soft and not hold up over the years. Also, you could easily use a circular saw to rip and notch. Table saws are a ton easier, though. It would be hard to cut 4x4s with circular, but you could use a miter, which I think is more common in workshops thank radial arm saws. Also, I wouldn’t trust Lowes or HD with cuts to specified length. I used to work at HD in college and they would get so our of square. They were more to cut down to reasonable size if need be. Great idea though

6 Big Steve October 27, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Great post! It makes me want to build my own table as well.

When I first read your suggestion that a flat screwdriver could be used instead of a chisel, I cringed…but then I saw what you were using it for, and I agree with you. However, if a person is already going to spend $200 in supplies to build their own table, my opinion is that they might as well spring for a cheapo $3 chisel while they’re at it. It could be used instead of the radial arm saw to clean up the channels left after popping out the slices also. I still have the cheap chisel I bought to install a door hinge 14 years ago, and I manage to use it from time to time. When you NEED a chisel, no other tool will do!

7 Sasha (Global Table Adventure) October 27, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Gosh, I wish this article had been around when we were looking for our dining table. I wanted solid wood, but everything seemed to be laminate and cheapo (but costly). We finally settled on a solid teak wood that was stained dark like yours, and was almost the same design – but it would have been cooler to say we made it ourselves. Nice work!

8 Brandon Moore October 27, 2011 at 8:02 pm

its gorgeous! very well done

9 Okierover October 27, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Wow. I thought this would be much harder. My daughter asked for one early this year and asked me to make it. I really didn’t think it would look good enough. But I like what you’ve done. I’m going to do it.

10 Mike October 27, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Nice table. I am going to build a desk hopefully before the year’s end. My wife bought me a circular saw for my birthday, so that’s a start.

11 Kaleo October 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm

While I applaud your enthusiasm and the outcome of your project. I found to many things and techniques wrong with this post. I listed them and then thought I sounded like a “douche”. I think every man needs to get out there and try to build something. I just hope that you do it safe.

12 Adam October 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm

great article would like to see more wood working one.

13 Colonel October 27, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Wow, this is a really great idea for a neat project. I think I may have to try something like this, too.

14 Matt October 27, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Best post I’ve seen on here in awhile. Thanks to all who contributed and to Brett for allowing this post. Now this is some real manly stuff. 10x better than the useless junk on Huckberry.

15 mike October 28, 2011 at 1:20 am

awesome directions, i may just have to try this.

16 George P.H. October 28, 2011 at 4:35 am

Thank you for this post, Tuck. I’ve been wanting to make a drawer and while obviously I can’t use this guide to do that, a lot of the tips and directions are still helpful.

One thing I noticed is that the Polyurethane coating makes the table look different. Is there a way to preserve the more natural color?

George

17 Peter October 28, 2011 at 5:07 am

I’d say that if I already owned the tools needed to complete this project, I’d probably be building a lot of things. For those out there who live in apartments or don’t have access to the tools needed to build their own furniture, you can always buy unfinished tables, chairs, etc. at some decent prices and finish them yourself. Great way to save some money while still doing something manly. Just make sure you open your windows and close your bedroom door when you sleep. However, I would not recommend buying old furniture and stripping it in an apartment or small space. The fumes and chemicals involved are pretty nasty so best to do it outdoors if possible or in a garage with door open.

18 Daren Redekopp October 28, 2011 at 7:05 am

Stunning, absolutely stunning, both in its simplicity and its style.

19 Russ Davis October 28, 2011 at 8:31 am

I agree with Big Steve. Get a good chisel and use it to clean out those dadoes. You don’t want to be using the table saw blade if you can help it. I’ve used this method MANY times, and it’s faster anyway. Great plans, though – the only thing I’d add is, even though you’re using screws at every joint, I’d still spring for a $5 bottle of glue and glue it all up.

20 Russ Davis October 28, 2011 at 8:34 am

Also, those lag screws look great. It looks like your impact driver knocked some of the paint off around the head while driving them in – and it makes them look even better.

21 Ryan Grimm October 28, 2011 at 9:04 am

For those that want to take this on, it can be done in ONE DAY with hand tools:
Crosscut saw, hand drill (even the manual crank-types and braces & bits), wood chisels, combination square and a framing square.

You can get all the major pieces pre-cut at the Home Center or Lumberyard, but keep in mind these will be rough cuts and may be inaccurate. Hand sawing will give better results, take your time.
BE AWARE that a radial arm saw should take smaller cuts due to the risk of binding or ‘jumping’ and risking injury….know and use your tools properly.
If using a radial arm saw to make the dadoes/lap joints, use a stacked dado cutter set and you’ll get a nice clean cut while removing the bulk of the wood quickly.

SHARP TOOLS are needed. A sharp hand saw and sharp chisels are EASY to have, and easy to do with a bit of info and practice.

Contact me if you have any questions.

22 Eric October 28, 2011 at 9:09 am

Just one minor nit to pick with you. Your comment, “I should mention that lumber sizes are a lie.” isn’t entirely accurate.

While a 2×4 is not two inches by four inches, the dimensions refer to the original, green, rough-sawn size of the boards. The boards are then dried and planed down to their finished size. So the sizes you see at Home Depot or Lowes are the “nominal” sizes of the board. Wikipedia has a more than adequate article on the matter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lumber

So it’s less a matter of a “lie” and more a matter of understanding the process of going from a tree to a finished board you can use to make a table.

That said, very nice, very functional table.

23 Mark October 28, 2011 at 9:40 am

Awesome article! I’m excited to try it out…and here I thought I’d buy a table in the next little while.

24 Tuck Oden October 28, 2011 at 10:10 am

All –

Thanks for your kind comments! It’s really nice to see how many folks out there appreciate my little table.

And thank you also for the criticisms. I knew this would happen, because – like I said – I’m not a professional woodworker. I took the classes in High School, but that was nearly a decade ago. There are certain things I’m just not aware of (as far as tools, procedures, etc.). However, other things (that I’m sure are in Kaleo’s list) are just a matter of finances. I don’t have the money for a nice $3,000 cabinet saw or an extra $100 just for a new set of dadoes to cut the notches, so I figured out how to cut the notches with a standard table saw blade. A lot of what I do with wood is trial and error – just solving problems along the way and finding ways to do what needs to be done without blowing a ton of cash on one-time-use tools/jigs/etc.

That being said, what I tried to do here is show you what YOU can do – those of you with a few tools, a little know-how and some time to kill. And for those of you with years of woodworking experience and a private shop full of high-quality tools, you don’t need any advice from me. Thanks again brothers!

Yours in Manliness,
Tuck

25 Evan M October 28, 2011 at 10:45 am

I may just have missed it but how are the and rails attached to the legs? I don’t see any lag screws attaching them.

Great article btw.

26 Robert October 28, 2011 at 11:18 am

I’ve just told my wife I am taking a week off next month to do this project. I’ve had this in the back of my mind for about a year — good motivation and a great read! I love AOM!

27 Tuck Oden October 28, 2011 at 11:18 am

Evan –

The ends rails are connected to the legs with pocket-hole screws on the inside. They’re also connected to the top with brackets.

28 Dan October 28, 2011 at 11:28 am

I also applaud your work Tuck. There will always be criticism, and I apologize for adding to it. I’ve been involved with woodworking for a couple years now and have learned that there are many, many different ways to achieve the same ends. Different strokes for different folks. One thing not mentioned, however, is the movement of the wood. This type of soft wood will shrink and swell across the grain with seasonal humidity changes, and with the top being of substantial width, it may pull at those metal fasteners fixing it in place. They’ll probably hold for a couple of seasons, but may start to pull out or even cup the table top. There are methods in which you notch the rails, allowing the metal fasteners to “float” in the notches, securing the top down while allowing for expansion. Just some food for thought, you made a wonderful table and I’d hate to see it succumb to the effects of time.

29 Baron October 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

@ George P.H. You asked about a finish that would preserve more of the natural color of the wood. The short answer is to use a water-based finish. The long answer is not to do it.
On this table project made out of pine, using a finish that does not impart a slight amber color to the surface might make it look a little strange. We are used to seeing that in antiques as well as new furniture. You are right about polyurethane making the color of wood look different compared to unfinished or wetted wood. Even an oil finish will darken / amber the wood a bit. Pine furniture naturally ages to produce an amber color. The time frame is on the order of years. If you expect to stain the wood, you should do a test piece including the final finish and any waxing as Tuck has suggested. If you do not test your finish schedule on a test piece, you WILL be testing it on the final piece. If, after staining, you do not want to change the stained color upon finishing, use a water-based finish. Finally, you could always add a tiny bit of amber color to a water-based finish but you may as well used polyurethane at that point. For this table, I would have taken steps to minimize the blotching that normally occurs when pine is stained, use a satin or matte film finish, and then waxed with a medium or dark wax. A high gloss finish on this piece would look out of place. A satin or matte film finish would save me the time spent on rubbing out the final finish.

@Tuck Oden Great project! I love projects that do not require using the latest laser-guided, micrometer adjusted piece of equipment to produce functional and aesthetically pleasing furniture.
You stated using the table saw to clean up the “notches” after removing most of the wood by moving the wood left to right on the blade. I have only used a chisel for this purpose. How safe is it to use a table saw for this task? Would you have to use both the rip fence and the crosscut fence simultaneously?

30 theUnpaidBill October 28, 2011 at 11:59 am

Looks great, but how much does it weigh? I think I got a hernia just looking at the pictures. :-)

With a little resizing I think this would make a great workbench, but I’d probably add a particle board top on top of the 1×12′s to make it smooth, and easily replaceable.

31 actionjksn October 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm

That’s a nice DIY table. I am actually a professional finish carpenter, and I have a nice little expert tip for cutting multiple pieces of wood the same exact same length. If you’re cutting on a radial arm saw or an electric miter saw, you can use a stop block. If you’re using a miter saw on a bench use a clamp to put a scrap block of wood the proper distance from your saw blade so that you bump your boards that you’re cutting up against the block of wood, so that every piece of wood you bump up against the stop block and cut, they will be exactly the same length. This can be done while working off saw horses too. You just run a length of 2×4 on its edge inline and parallel with the fence of your saw. Then clamp your stop block to the 2×4 that you mounted parallel with your fence. I’m sure there are pics and videos online showing what I’m talking about. This technique would work perfectly for the 4 boards running the length of the table top as well as the two on the ends and obviously the legs as well. If you get all the top pieces cut exactly the same length, it makes it a lot easier to get the joints tight and square. This stop block system is also great for cutting a bunch of spindles for the railing of a deck. It’s great because it allows you to cut a hundred or more pieces the exact same length without measuring every piece. Because you only have to measure a total of one time. I have even placed my miter saw at a strategic distance from a wall and bumped my boards up against the wall, it worked but that’s kind of a hillbilly way of doing it.
PS, Those Kreg Jigs are the bomb!

32 Korey October 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Awesome post…I love it…beastly, manly building of things to eat meat on! Great job!

33 Aaron October 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Great looking table!

34 Bill October 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I just moved into a new place and still need a coffee table for my living room. This is exactly what I needed to see!

35 Evan M October 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for the reply. Now that I know they’re there I can see them pretty easily in the first staining pic.

36 Mattie October 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I’ve been thinking about building a monster bookshelf for my new house, after reading this article, I am pumped!

37 Joseph October 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Tuck, this is awesome, for a DIY table, that thing is incredible. Thanks for sharing. I’ve noticed in my own experience that there are always critics, even when you spend time and effort to share something for FREE.

Anyways, great job, the table looks awesome. If I hadn’t just inherited one, I’d be building this table this weekend.

38 Rob October 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm

That looks great!
A family heirloom is my great-grandmother’s Walnut and Redwood table. It is a beast of a dining room table and the shine is like a mirror. The thing is work of utility an art, it is almost antediluvian in age. It had 3 leaves that fit inside it for storage. The original table goes out about 14 x 6 ft. with the leaves attached. For a huge Thanksgiving, my Dad made extensions to go on either end to make it a total of 22 x 6 ft. The thing barely fit diagonally in the house. The process of making the ends was very similar to this. We used pine, so they won’t last, but man, was a THAT a thanksgiving! Man, I really hope I get that table, but I’d settle for her cast-iron pots of over 100 years. Thems good cooking.

39 BYC October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Freaking awesome dude, the definition of manliness.

40 k2000k October 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Fantastic article. I would love to see more of these. I saw some old wood cutting tools in my old mans garage, and considering I’m finally financially independent enough to live without any aid on my own I was thinking of attempting some projects like this. I honestly think a woodworking article should be at least a monthly thing if not weekly. After talking to my grandparents who lived throug the depression I’ve come to the conclusion that develop handiskills is vital to manhood and I’d love to read more about wood working.

41 THETOMCAT October 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm

hahaha no way, I was reading this post and I was like damn I need a table but I dont have the time to build one because I just bought a motorcyclye and that will be my new winter project. a 1982 Suzuki gs650 gl. and what do you know I scroll down and see my bike!! trippy.

what year is that? and make a post on fixin up motorcycles. I’m going to document my project. this will be the first bike I actually tear apart and put back together.

42 Tuck Oden October 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Tomcat –

That’s the exact same bike! ’82 GS650 GL. I love it. Ride it four times a day!
I’d love to keep contributing, but I think I’d struggle to come up with a project each month. I pretty much only build stuff when the weather is decent, and in Oklahoma that means September-November and March-May.

43 Matt October 28, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Nicely done and a good write-up to demonstrate that you CAN make good stuff in a simple manner. I started out building a dining room table one summer for that year’s Thanksgiving, but go so sidetracked that it wasn’t done until a year later (and barely on time).

My biggest comment is that you don’t even need the power tools described here to accomplish this project. A pair of well-sharpened saws (both a cross-cut and rip) and a decent eye would do fine, along with a brace (old-style hand-drill). These are most readily available at flea-markets and garage sales for minimal dollars (realize that some old tools are hugely valuable and there is an active collectors market, so some things may appear to be WAY overpriced).

One huge advantage to working without tailed-apprentices is the lack of noise! You can actually listen to music or hear yourself think. I’ve done a bit of hand-tool only furniture-making and find it pretty stress-reducing. Plus, the cats used to love to bat at the wood shavings as they floated from my hand plane.

Again Tuck – nice article – a rather manly endeavor (furnish your own home) and timely with the holidays coming up. Thanks Brett for posting it.

<Matt

44 actionjksn October 28, 2011 at 8:39 pm

To the guy who wants a natural looking finish. Use “Tung Oil” This is the original hand rubbed finish. It’s been used for probably a couple hundred years at least. It has a soft natural satin like sheen and is very durable You just apply it with a soft cloth according to the instructions on the can. It is also very easy to redo later on if it starts looking bad. It’s also a very beautiful finish weather it’s rustic or nicer stuff. I have been using it since I was 15 years old back in the 70′s Yeah I know I’m old.

45 miles October 29, 2011 at 6:10 am

beautiful, when i move out, im building this exactly! nice job

46 Paul C October 29, 2011 at 9:18 am

Just wanted to say, again, how I love this website and this article was brilliant, loved it so much I have just booked myself onto a basic DIY woodworking course at my local college.
I do have some (very little) experience in woodworking from school, unfortunaley even here in the UK proper manly skills are in serious decline and I am part of the generation which have seen a dramatic decline in skills, knowledge and opportunaties to get involved in these activities. However, I have been wanting to get into woodworking for years, so after i get my basics down cannot wait to start my own projects.
Also hoping to convert my shed into a workshop type space instead of a place just storing my mower and other assorted garden tools and use my shed in the true traditional British shed use.

Cannot wait for the next post!!!!!!

47 Jeffrey Guterman October 29, 2011 at 11:44 am

When I first saw the link to this article, I thought it was about setting the table, not constructing the table itself. I don’t aspire to be that kind of man.

48 Jean-Kristof October 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Excellent article. Thank you very much for posting it! I also like to embark myself in projects of that kind. Nothings better than using something that we made from our own hands… and nothings more manly ;-) Great article

49 Anthony Gallo October 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Hi Tuck, You have really inspired me. One question though. How do the leaves attach to the table?

50 Farnarkel October 29, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Wow! Looks really gorgeous and a real stunner – oh the table doesn’t look too bad either ;-)

51 Corey October 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

Between this and the canoe paddle, I can’t wait to have shavings on the floor of my garage.

52 Rule October 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Did you “crown” the wood during layout of the tabletop?
Are they all in same direction or was each one opposite? Or does it matter?

53 Eddie in INDY October 31, 2011 at 10:00 am

My favorite Post so far…..

54 Dish October 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Rule,
It matters. as the wood dries out and ages it will warp slightly, by alternating the end grain it will keep the overall table top flatter for longer. if you look at the end grain you’ll see part of the original tree rings, if I remember correctly from my cabniet building classes they’ll want to cup with that grain. so if you have em like UUU you end up with a wave table but if you go unun each one will put pressure on the next and keep it so.
I did a year and a half of carpentery classes and spent 2 1/2 years in the trade

55 Kent October 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm

If drawing up plans scares you off from woodworking I would like to recommend a site for free plans – http://ana-white.com/. She designs pieces similar to West Elm, Pottery Barn, etc. So far I have used her plans for a daybed for my daughter, loft bed for my son and a modern patio furniture set for my wife. Saved a fortune and look like a wood working god.

56 Rule October 31, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Thanks Dish. 1 more question Why did you decide to screw the top? Why not biscuits and glue or pegs and glue? Or why not add glue when you used the screws?

57 Don October 31, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Great guide. I’d like to use it to make myself a large desk/workspace. Do you think the same dimensions should be used, or should a desk be slightly lower for typing purposes?

58 david October 31, 2011 at 5:49 pm

For what’s worth, a 2×2 is not just half of a 2×4. Keep in mind that the dimensions of dimensional (2x) lumber are not stated in inches; generally, subtract 0.5″ from each dimension. Thus a 2×4 is actually 1.4″ x 3.5″. But that might vary from 1/8″ to 1/4″ in any direction. Wow. And when you get to 10x lumber, subtract 3/4″. Thus a 2×10 is actually 1.5″x9.25″. If you get all your sticks out of the same bundle, more than likely it will all be consistent and you won’t have any problems. If you want a really great look from cheapy lumber, plane everything first in a portable planer to flatten it and get rid of the rounded edges. Final product will look even better.

59 Moeregaard November 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm

This is an excellent article! In an age where being unable to use one’s hands has become epidemic (and, sadly, admired in some circles), this will hopefully encourage guys who’ve never built anything to actually create something useful. I was one of the lucky ones, in that my parents encouraged us to build and repair just about everything. At 50 years of age, and after countless projects, I still never tire of seeing the result of a lot of late nights and weekends in my garage. Latest project has been a full kitchen remodel with cabinets I built myself. Thanks for posting this!

60 Paul November 1, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Where the hell did you find untreated 4×4′s? Any time I’ve tried to find them, people laugh at me like they don’t exist. I end up gluing 1×4′s together& & it’s a real pain.

61 John November 3, 2011 at 8:34 pm

At this old houseTom Silva gives a step by step design for a nice Dinging Room Table. http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/how-to/intro/0,,20438427,00.html

62 ED November 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Well done Mr. Oden, both the table and the article.

63 Brandon W. November 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Great article! My wife and I had planned on buying a custom harvest table last year that was going to cost an arm and a leg. Unfortunately the money had to go elsewhere so I think I’ll try my hand at this ad a gift for Christmas.

Out of curiosity would it be detrimental to the stability of the table if you eliminated the lower crossbeams and the footrest? I already know that the wife would prefer it without and it would be one less thing for the rugrats to trip over.

Thanks in advance for the assistance.

Brandon

64 Brandon W. November 4, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Great article! My wife and I had planned on buying a custom harvest table last year that was going to cost an arm and a leg. Unfortunately the money had to go elsewhere so I think I’ll try my hand at this ad a gift for Christmas.

Out of curiosity would it be detrimental to the stability of the table if you eliminated the lower crossbeams and the footrest?

Thanks in advance for the assistance.

Brandon

65 Brandon W. November 4, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Great article!

Out of curiosity would it be detrimental to the stability of the table if you eliminated the lower crossbeams and the footrest?

Thanks in advance for the assistance.

Brandon

66 Brandon W. November 5, 2011 at 7:45 am

Great article! Thanks for posting it.

Out of curiosity would it be detrimental to the stability of the table if you left out the footrest and crossbeams?

Thanks,
Brandon

67 Brandon W. November 5, 2011 at 7:48 am

I apologize for the quadruple posting….I kept getting an error message when i was trying to post from my iPod so I switched to the laptop without realizing that the comments actually had worked…..

68 Craig November 5, 2011 at 7:55 pm

This was a very enjoyable article Tuck, excellent work.

69 david November 7, 2011 at 12:21 am

You may be able to find all the wood you need at the dump, and, in addition to saving money, it will be seasoned so it won’t shrink as it dries, and you may not need to distress it.

70 Rob November 8, 2011 at 11:24 am

This is awesome! Those power tools look really expensive though, you must do a lot of woodworking to justify having those?? Out of my reach for now : (

71 Jeremy November 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm

When I’ve tried finding 2″x12″x12′ (or 10′ or 8′) I find they almost always have ends that are splitting. Any suggestions on where to go to find decent quality pieces in that size?

72 Evan R November 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm

@Rob. Yes, power tools are expensive, but when you are saving 60% – 80% on furniture, it doesn’t really take that many projects before you start saving money.

73 Grant November 11, 2011 at 12:35 am

This is awesome! I really enjoyed reading this article! I think AOM should have a home Improv improvement section in it! I LOVE finding new tips and tricks to make something from scratch! Thanks for posting this! :D

74 Chris November 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I actually built a table following this article as a guide. It took two days to complete, one to buy the materials and one full day to put it together. I’m really a novice when it comes to this kind of work but was able to follow this article (didn’t even draw my own plans) and didn’t really have any trouble. I didn’t even have a table saw, just used a handheld circular saw to make the joints. The actual materials (I had to buy a miter saw and a pocket jig set) cost me just at $150 so not too bad for a table that will last a lifetime. We’ve had friends over and everyone thinks I’m a woodworking god now. My kids had a great time distressing the table top and with the finish it looks 100 years old. The only changes I would have made to the process is I only needed the pocket hole jig drill bit, driver bit and guide but was talked into buying a whole complicated set with clamps and everything that I didn’t need. The other thing was that i only needed 2 4×4′s instead of 3 but ended up using the third for the lengthwise center brace. Also, to address an earlier question, I could only find treated 4×4′s but since they are only for the legs and then have a stain/finish I figured they would be safe. I hope that doesn’t come back to bite me.

75 Jonathan Fisher November 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Set the clutch on your drill to keep from breaking your wrists! It also prevents you from ripping the head of the screws off…

76 Mike November 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm

The Toyota truck is the only problem with this article.
A GMC would be more “manly.”
Also the Japanese motorcycle in the garage is a slight problem.
An Indian would be more “manly.”
Remember, everything needs to be “manly.”

77 Tuck Oden November 16, 2011 at 10:18 am

Chris -
I’m just so damn proud that you attacked this – and did it with fewer tools and probably more ingenuity. Way to go, brother!

Mike –
Nice try.

78 Bill November 18, 2011 at 11:32 am

Tuck,

I just finished a pair of coffee tables for my apartment and they look great! Thanks for taking the time to put this article together. The knowledge you shared was informative and inspirational– I won’t be able to make purchases from Ikea anymore.

I’m thinking of tackling a bookshelf next.

-Bill

79 Jake Farnsworth November 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm

One great thing about woodworking is that you can make things as simple or as sophisticated as you want to make them. As you proceed to build things you can see better ways of solving problems that you didn’t see at the beginning. Your skill improves as you build more projects. You see the fruits of your labors and feel the pride of having created something useful that you can use every day.

80 Andrew from Canada September 27, 2012 at 10:08 am

Tuck! Not sure if you’re still checking these comments, but found this article while looking for table designs about 2 weeks ago. Love it. Built it. Modifications include a 4×4 notched beam for the footrest, and slightly reduced width. Great instructions on the notching, and yes, it was a great feeling having all the chips break off so easily! Very cool. Thanks again for the post – you could build a barn on this beast. – Andrew (Waterloo, ON)

81 Nicole October 18, 2012 at 10:15 am

Can’t wait to build our own! My finace and I just moved into our new home and were looking all over for a dining room table. I wanted one that was big enough to have both our families over for dinner and he wanted one that wasn’t going to make us broke. We also are doing an antique Italian theme throughout our house, so when i saw this website it was perfect! Thank you so much for posting this! It works so well with us also budgeting for our wedding.
Can you explain the leaves though?

Nicole

82 Jake October 20, 2012 at 1:01 am

Your table is a masterpiece. Almost exactly what I’m looking for. But was there an issue of shrinkage?
I once replaced a glass table top with 3-2x10s (I was going for a rustic look). I held the boards together by gluing and screwing perpendicular strips of 1×6 to the bottom side. After a few months, the 2x10s shrunk, and there was a good 1/4″ gap between them. It looked like a picnic table.

83 Phil November 3, 2012 at 8:15 am

Great article. I’m adapting your design for a coffee table, i.e., with shorter legs and a larger, square top with a second panel below joined to the legs. I’ll be dispensing with the cross beam though. Can anyone foresee any stability problems with this approach?

84 Lloyd November 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Is it possible to make the table without the footrest? I’m wanting to build a 6′ x 3′ table with benches.

85 Tsering November 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Dear Tuck

I am going build a dining table fallowing your wonderful arctic, but i have one question, how do joined 2×8 in the ends. Pocket-Hole Screws?

your follower

Tsering

86 Jonathan November 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

Many thanks coming your way. I decided to follow your lead and build a table similar to this one for hosting Thanksgiving this year, and it turned out amazing. Everyone loved it.

My table was a bit bigger and was customized for my dining room. The footrest was a 2×6 instead of a 2×4 and I attached it with lag screws. My only concern came with the pilot holes for the first set of 3/8in. lag screws which originally didn’t hold, so I had to upgrade to 1/2in. screws to fit the pilot holes. Then I used the correct size of 9/32in. pilot for the 3/8in. screws. All in all, it was a massive success and I’m on to building a matching buffet in the near future. Thanks again.

87 Esteban November 30, 2012 at 9:52 am

Love it. Great work. Suggestion: To protect your floor, you might glue a square of rubber material to the bottom of the legs, sort of like a rubber gasket that won’t scratch the floor. You can use an old car floor mat or something similar.

88 Paul December 5, 2012 at 11:38 am

Great table by the way! Just a quick question, I might have missed it but how did you attach the leaves for the table? Thanks.

89 Todd December 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Made the table, did biscuits and glue instead of the pocket screws for the top, and it turned out amazingly well. Would love to upload photos, but not sure how to do that on comments. Thanks for the solid plan!!

90 Jennifer December 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I’m here because I started off on Ana White’s website looking at her Farmhouse Table plan, but her plan did not allow for comfotable space for seating on the ends so I came here by recommendation. LOVE this table, you did a fantastic job!

91 Rick December 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm

After finding this post I actually followed Tuck’s plans and built my table (mine’s about a foot longer and fits six comfortably on the sides). Here’s some of the issues I ran into:

1. It is practically impossible to find untreated 4x4s these days. Lowes and Home Depot told me it would be a special order. Same with my local lumberyard. Thankfully the stain covered everything. It’s also hard to find 2x12s that are straight. Make sure you dig through the pile.

2. When you attach the end pieces of the table the pocket hole screws will try to bend the wood up or down depending on which side you start the screws on. Have someone stand on it.

3. The stain will actually paint the lag bolts brown. Either wipe off or leave it for brown bolts.

4. Make sure you use the polyurethane very sparingly and sand in between coats for a smooth finish.

As I am a glutton for punishment I decided that such a nice, rustic table needed bench seats made in the same style. What I didn’t realize that “same style” basically meant creating two more tables, just smaller. All the cuts were the same! I’ve taken pictures as I worked and will post to a separate article after the holidays.

92 Chris December 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I actually finished building this table in a few weeks with a full time job. It was an easy table to make and looks great. I did it by myself and used a circular saw, drill, screwdriver (for the slots for the legs) and I hand sanded the entire thing. I couldn’t find all of the wood in one type except PT, so I build the entire thing out of that. Obviously it was incredibly heavy but I don’t think much is going to damage that table. Great table and an easy build…now everyone else is wanting me to build them one haha.

93 Sam March 11, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I’ve been looking at this design for a few years now and just didn’t have the space for it until recently. My friends and I built it over a weekend and it took two more days for staining and the poly coats. My wife loves the new table and is really looking forward to doing the chairs.

94 Caitlin March 29, 2013 at 11:44 am

GORGEOUS!!!
I decided I’m going to make a kitchen table because I hate everything I see out there. If I’m making it much smaller and no leaves, do you think I can skip the notching step and just attach the legs? My husband’s deployed to Afghanistan and I’m looking for a craft project, but the notching worries me…..
THANKS!

95 Chuck April 7, 2013 at 11:33 am

I built the table, no leaves, along with chewing up the table top I also used a torch to burn it a little. Gun stock stain hand wax and polish, . Took it one more step and built a matching bench for one side. Looks great in my kitchen.

96 Nate April 24, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I build the table with my dad following this plan with only minor changes. It looks great and I get a lot of compliments on it. Thanks!

97 Adam May 11, 2013 at 1:57 pm

The only thing I have found wrong with the drawings are the measurements for the 2x8s on the tabletop. You had the 2x12s measured at 11 inches wide when in reality they should be 11.5. The total width of the table is 46 inches, not 44. Keep an eye out on details like that or you’ll have to use a table saw to cut off an extra inch the length of the 2×12 like I did!

Overall, good table though.

98 Patrick May 14, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I modified the plans to build a standing height desk. This was a practice run for the table I still hope to build for my porch. Pictures of the final build at the link.

99 George June 27, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Nice looking, HD table. I like to use 50% Minwax stain with 50% Tung Oil….

100 Pat July 29, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Hey Tuck,
First off, your table is a tribute to men. Second, I am trying to build a table with leaves and Im wondering how you attached the leaves to your table. In the picture it looks like you attached them on the end, but is there enough support from the legs to hold the over hanging leaves? Let me know what you did.
Thanks Brother

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