Easy Table for Woodworking Beginners
This table is my first attempt at woodworking and now I am hooked. There’s something extremely satisfying about building a piece of furniture by hand that fits perfectly in your home. That said, I’ve got a long way to go before I’d build a chair or anything else that needs to be structurally sound enough to hold a person.
Time: 3 hours
- Wood – I used two 2″ x 2″ x 8′ pine boards, one 1″ x 10″ x 4′ board and two 1″ x 4″ x 4′ boards
- Wood Glue – I used Gorilla Glue
- (Optional) wood filler
- Sand Paper
- Pre-stain conditioner
- Plan ahead! I completely false started on this project. Originally I was thinking I wanted to build a table using the same technique as this interlocking bench. It took me two trips to Home Depot to realize that I would have needed clamps and way too much wood.
- When buying wood – labels don’t always reflect actual dimensions. The 2″ x 2″ x 96″ boards I bought actually measured 1.375″ x 1.375″ x 96″ and I ended up having to shorten both side panels to accommodate them.
- Sand thoroughly starting with a low-grit sandpaper prior to staining. When I started staining the wood there was still a ton of glue leftover.
Step 1. Identify the problem
For me I had the following problems I was hoping to solve:
- Wasted space near our living room doorway
- A need for a convenient place to store diapers and baby toys which was high enough to be out of reach for the little guy
- A heater vent protruding from the wall which meant that a standard 4-leg table could not be pushed up against the wall
- No skills or experience with woodworking so I needed something extremely simple
Step 2. Measure and plan
I knew that the space I had was 38″ x 9″ with a vent protruding from the wall about 3″ on the lower left hand side. I eventually came up with a very simple table design using two legs as the base and a 38″ x 9″ table top. I’m a huge nerd very analytical and visual so I needed to see this come together before I got started. I mapped it out in excel with the dimensions I was envisioning to get an idea of what I was aiming for.
I actually skewed the legs a little bit towards the front of the table rather than centering them so that the back of the left leg does not bump into the vent. The tabletop protrudes 1″ over the base in the front and 2″ in the back. This was not ideal for stability but it was necessary to ensure the table fit perfectly into a small space.
The dimensions ended up being 33″ x 38″ once completed. A typical counter top is around 30″ high so I wouldn’t recommend going much higher. The dimensions can easily be customized to fit whatever space you’re aiming for.
Step 3: Cut and Prep the Wood (or better yet have someone do it for you!)
I went to Home Depot with my measurements and asked them to cut the wood for me. I completely rethought this project after my first trip to Home Depot. Much to my embarrassment the same guy was there to help me cut the wood a second time after I scrapped my original plan. I needed the following:
- Six 1.375″ x 1.375″ x 32″. For these I had them cut two 1.375″ x 1.375″ x 96″ boards into thirds. These were going to be the legs so I needed them to be perfectly even. Once I had all six I asked my new friend at Home Depot to line them up and cut them a second time together so that the dimensions were identical.
- Two 1″ x 4″ x 35″ and two 1″ x 4″ x 6″ cut from two 1″ x 4″ x 4′ boards
- One 1″ x 9″ x 38″ cut from a 1″ x 10″ x 4′ board
Next, I sanded the sides of the wood to make sure there was nothing sharp or uneven. I also rounded the corners of the tabletop slightly with sandpaper.
Step 4: Build the legs
I laid three of the 2×2 boards side-by-side and marked with pencil on tape where I wanted to drill. The holes needed to be at the exact same level because I was planning to use them to attach the legs to one another. I repeated this step for the other three 2×2 boards as well so that each of the six had a hole drilled through the top.
Next I stuck a layer of glue over a side of one board that had a hole drilled into it. I quickly piled another board on top of it and connected them with a 2″ wood screw. Then I flipped the whole thing over and did the same thing on the other side with the third board to complete one of the legs. I repeated the same steps to make the other leg and left them to dry overnight.
I don’t own clamps so I had to improvise by leaving the toolkit on top of the side of the legs that wasn’t connected with screws to help hold them together while the glue dried.
If you want a simpler alternative you could just use a single 2″ x 6″ board for each leg.
Step 5: Build the frame
I attached the 1″ x 4″ x 35″ boards to the top sides of the legs using wood glue and 2″ wood screws. Much to my amazement the whole thing stood up on its own. I made sure the side of the feet where the boards were connected with screws were on the bottom. That way I didn’t have to worry about criss-crossing screws when the frame was attached to the top.
I added 1″ x 4″ x 6″ boards to the sides by drilling from the inside of the table frame. This part made no difference structurally but it made the whole thing look more like real furniture and less like something I made.
Step 6: Attach the table top
I actually positioned the table where I wanted it to go in the living room while I drilled the holes to make sure it fit the space. I attached the tabletop unevenly with about a 1″ overhang in the front and a 2″ overhang in the back so that the back legs didn’t hit the vent.
(Optional) Step 7: Hide the screws
I used wood filler to cover up the visible screws. This was a lot easier than I expected. I let it dry for a few minutes and then sanded it down so that the whole surface was even. Now I’m a little too excited to go around fixing all the random dents in my house with wood filler.
Step 8: Sand and stain the wood
I sanded the table and then applied a pre-stain conditioner and two coats of dark walnut stain. I should have spent a lot more time sanding because there were huge streaks where the wood glue prevented the stain from soaking in. After going through about 7 sheets of sandpaper and a hundred disposable gloves I pretty much covered up the areas where the stain didn’t penetrate the wood initially.
Here’s the finished table. It stands up on its own and fits the space perfectly so I’m calling this one a success. Although it’s relatively stable I will likely be anchoring it because it would be pretty easy for our little crawler to move it or knock it over.
More to Come
While I was staining the table I stained the frame of the photo above the table to match. I wrote a post about how I took the photo of a Duluth, MN sunrise and am planning another post on how I went about framing it.