How to Build a Table
Building a table is a satisfying project that takes you to the roots of basic, do-it-yourself woodworking. In little time, you will have a beautiful table designed to your own specifications and needs.
Though a table has few components, it can be difficult to build a solid, wobble-free table with no visible fasteners. Simply screwing table legs to the table apron will result in a shaky table, since table legs nearly always need some type of extra bracing. In this project, you will fashion your own corner leg braces or you can purchase inexpensive surface-mount corner metal braces. Diagonal bracing means that you spend less time on feats of engineering and more time on styling the look of your table. In this project, you will produce a 30-inch by 48-inch veneer hardwood top table.
Tools and Supplies You Will Need
When woodworking, it is always best to have a full workshop that includes a drill press, table saw, hand drill, and miter saw. However, because this table is very basic, its design aims to keep the building process basic, too. This build only requires major power tools commonly found in most home shops: a cordless drill, a circular saw, and an electric miter saw.
- (8) 5/16th-inch lag screws and washers, each 1 1/2 inches long
- Electric miter saw
- Cordless drill with a full range of driver and drill bits
- Circular saw with a 60-teeth per inch or greater finish cut blade
- (3) One-by-threes, each 8 feet long
- (1) 4-foot by 4-foot sheet of 3/4-inch hardwood veneer-bond plywood
- (2) Two-by-twos, each 8 feet long
- 1-inch screws
- (4) 3-inch corner metal braces
- Impact wrench or set of manual ratchet wrenches
- Tape measure
- Speed Square
- Carpenter’s pencil
- Soft, old towel
- (4) Surface-mount metal corner braces for table aprons (optional)
Create the Table Top Base
Mark the 4-foot by 4-foot sheet of plywood to 48 inches by 30 inches. Mark the board so that the grain of the plywood runs lengthwise. Cut off the 18-inch strip with the circular saw and discard the waste or use it for other projects.
Cut the Table Legs
The standard height for table tops is around 30 inches. With the miter saw and the two 8-foot two-by-twos, cut four table legs to a 29-inch length.
Add Diagonal Edge to the Table Legs
Each of the table legs will need a diagonal face cut into the top 3 inches to 4 inches in order to receive the lag bolts. If you do happen to have a table saw, it is easiest to make the cut on this tool. However, this can also be done with the miter saw. Adjust the bevel angle of the saw to 45 degrees. Cut off a 45-degree slice, 1/2-inch wide, from the top of each of the legs. This is a tricky cut, so it is important to make several experimental cuts on scrap two-by-twos.
Mark the Table Leg and Apron Inset
Turn the veneer board over, on top of the soft towel, so that the better veneer side is facing down. With the T-square and the pencil, mark four lines along each of the four edges, one inch inward from the edges. Place each of the table legs at the insides of the four corners of this marked rectangle. If you like this inset, keep it as it is. However, you can change the apron inset, ranging from flush at the edges all of the way to about four inches inward.
Cut the Table Apron Materials
The four-sided table apron will extend from the inner side of one leg to the inner side of an adjacent leg. The apron serves to stabilize the table legs, hide fasteners, and provide visual appeal. Cut two one-by-threes to 46 inches and two more one-by-threes to 28 inches. If you varied the inset, adjust these lengths accordingly.
Mark the Corner Braces
This step applies if you opt for creating your own corner braces. Dry-fit one of the table legs on the back of the table top again, with two apron pieces touching each side. Be careful to place each item precisely along the pencil marks. Lay another one-by-three across the top of the 90-degree junction formed by the two table apron sides. Use the Speed Square to make sure that the brace is at a 45-degree angle. With the pencil, mark off the inner dimensions of the brace.
Mark and Cut the Corner Braces
On the miter saw, cut the one-by-three that you earlier marked. Repeat for the other three braces. If using surface-mount metal corner braces, omit this step.
Attach the Corner Braces to the Table Apron
Assemble the four legs with the four apron pieces between the legs. Put each of the four corner braces in the corners. For wood braces, drill two pilot holes on each side then attach each brace with four 1-inch screws. If using surface-mount metal corner braces, use the manufacturer-provided screws.
Drill two holes per leg for the lag bolts, each hole 1/4-inch in diameter. Be careful not to drill all of the way through the table leg. Fit washers onto the lag bolts, then turn them into place using the impact wrench or the manual ratchet wrenches.
Attach the Leg/Apron Assembly to the Table Top
Place the assembled legs and apron on the bottom of the table top. Use the pencil marks to center the assembly. Attach the assembly to the table top with the four corner braces, using the screws provided in the kit.
Finish the Table
With the table now built, you can finish the table in any manner you choose. Because of the fine hardwood veneer top, likely you will want to lightly sand it, then apply stain and sealant. If you purchased hardwood two-by-two legs, these also can be stained and sealed. If you chose lesser grade dimensional lumber, you may wish to paint the legs.
- Prevent splintering the veneer by cutting from the back side and by setting the circular saw depth so that only about 1/8-inch of the blade extends below the board.
- Cover the table top’s side plies with veneer edge banding. Or choose a plywood often called architecture-grade or euro style plywood. With more plies and few voids, this plywood’s edges are meant to be seen.
- Situating the table legs flush against the table top edges gives it a stockier, farmhouse table appearance. Insetting the legs adds shadow and depth, providing a more graceful look.
- Consider using chalk or milk paint for the legs to contrast with the rich wood of the table top.