Introduction: Cheap, Easy, Low-waste Trestle Table Plans

Picture of Cheap, Easy, Low-waste Trestle Table Plans

Build an attractive trestle table for about $100.00, in an hour and a half, using common materials, and minimum number of tools. It is suitable for dining or as a work table. It can can be set up or taken apart in a minute or two, using no tools, and stores compactly.

There are several holes to drill, but absolute precision isn't necessary, and a hand-held drill will work fine.

This version is 30" high, 36" wide, and 80" long. It seats 6 comfortably, and 8 in a pinch. It is also easily re-sized. If you would like material dimensions for other finished sizes, just leave a comment or PM me. Comments and ratings are more than welcome.

For a similar shelving unit, click here.
For a similar platform bed, click here.

As a professional carpenter, furniture maker, and designer/builder, I see a lot of home carpentry projects that are grossly overbuilt and over-engineered. One of the goals of this Instructable is to avoid the unnecessary overbuilding that I frequently see on this site, and that I see every day working in the residential construction industry. Many of the building methods we (in the US) use today are horribly wasteful despite the advances that have been made in materials science and structural engineering, because most people in the residential building industry, from architects and engineers to carpenters, are mired in tradition, doing things a certain way "because that is how it has always been done", rather than consulting the best available science, or even questioning their own assumptions about "the right way to do it". I don't intend to knock tradition, either. Many of the tricks, techniques, and tools that I use daily are definitely "old-school", but seem to have been forgotten.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials


Skillsaw, handsaw miter box, or power miter saw
Tape measure
Drill (drill motor)
1/8" (#10) countersinking bit, or just an 1/8" bit
1/2" drill bit
Screwdriver (hand or power)
Square (if you are using a Skillsaw)
Optional: Jigsaw or bandsaw


(1) 10' 2 x 4
(2) 8' 2 x 6
(24) 3"  #10 wood screws
18"  1/2" dowel
(4) screw-on rubber furniture feet
(1) 3'-0" x 6'-8" x 1-3/8"  flush, solid-core door slab
A small amount of wood glue, or just regular white glue.

A note on screws: I am a professional carpenter and furniture maker, and I make things easier on myself by NEVER using Phillips head screws. The Phillips head was designed to "cam out" at a fairly low torque for assembly line work before the advent of adjustable torque limiting drill/drivers. I use only Robertson square drive or Torx head screws, and save myself a lot of time and frustration.

Solid-core door slabs of this size are sometimes normal "stock" items at the lumberyard, but you may have to order it. Make sure that you specify very clearly that you want "an un-bored, un-mortised flush door slab, with no jamb". You can even order a pre-finished slab for a few bucks more, and save yourself some work. Different species of wood are available. I used plain old birch.

The 2x material can be of any species, but take a few extra minutes to pick straight and attractive boards.

The finish on the table is optional, and up to you. I spent about $50.00 on stain, varnish, and sandpaper. The top is simply varnished (3 coats), the trestles are Minwax Ebony, and the stretcher is Minwax English Chestnut (with 2 coats of varnish). I used Sherwin-Williams satin Oil-based varnish, but a wipe-on polyurethane would be easier, as would a spray lacquer like Deft. Sand the bare wood with 120-grit paper, no finer, and follow the instructions supplied by the manufacturer of whatever finish you choose. If you choose to finish the table, you should clearcoat every surface of each piece, but you only have to stain the surfaces that show.

Step 2: Cutting Tips

Picture of Cutting Tips


A bevel is an angled cut which is perpendicular to the wider face of the board but at an angle across the narrower edge of the board.

A miter is an angled cut which is perpendicular to the narrower edge of the board but at an angle across the wider face of the board.

To set your saw to a bevel, first cut a piece of scrap to the desired angle, and then use the scrap to set the bevel. If you don't have a way to determine the initial angle (in this case 10 degrees) draw a rectangle that is 2" x 11-3/8" and connect the corners.

When cutting dowels or other small stock with a power miter saw, place a piece of scrap behind the stock being cut to support and "catch" the cut-off piece.

Step 3: Measure, Measure, Mark and Cut

Picture of Measure, Measure, Mark and Cut

Refer to the PDF for an illustrated cut list.

From the 2 x 4 cut:

(2) 30" lengths
(2) 24" lengths

Add a 1/2" chamfer to the ends. Measure back 1/2" from the ends, and make a 45 degree cut, "clipping" the corner off of the board. Refer to the photo, it will be much clearer.

From the 2 x 6s cut:

(4) 2'-2" pieces, with a 10 degree bevel on each end. The bevels should be parallel to       each other, forming a parallelogram when viewed from edge of the board. The measurement is made from a long point to a short point.

(1) 5'-0" piece, with a 10 degree miter on each end, forming a trapezoid when viewed from the face of the board. The 5' is measured from long point to long point.

(1) 8 5/8" piece, square cut. Because perfect alignment of this piece is unlikely, you should aggressively "ease" the cut ends with a bit of sandpaper.

From the dowel cut:

(4) 2 3/8" pieces
(7) 7/8" pieces


On the bottom edge of the 5' 2 x 6, cut a decorative profile. My table has a 4' wide arc that is 1-13/16" tall. A curve this shallow can be cut with a Skilsaw, if the blade depth is set to exactly 1-1/2". Other options are shown in the PDFs. Check out my Instructable on laying out curves.

Step 4: Drill the 2 X 4s

Picture of Drill the 2 X 4s

On the unchamfered face of each 30" piece, mark 9-3/4", 11-1/2", 13-1/4", 16-3/4" 18-1/2", and 20-1/4" then mark the centers (1-3/4" from the edge). See the 1st photo. Drill 1/8" pilot holes in these locations.

On the unchamfered face of each 24" piece, mark 1-3/4", 6-3/4", 8-1/2", 10-1/4", 13-3/4", 15-1/2", 17-1/4, and 22-1/4", then mark the centers. See the 2nd photo. Drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes at the two outermost locations. Use a piece of tape to mark the depth of the hole on your 1/2" bit. Drill 1/8" pilot holes in the other six locations.

Step 5: Drill 2 X 6s

Picture of Drill 2 X 6s

Align two of the 2 x 6s face to face so that they look like an arrow when viewed from the edge. See the 1st photo. Hooking the tape on one of the long (tail of the arrow ends) mark 13-1/8" and 19-1/8". Transfer these marks across the edge, and then mark the centers. See the 2nd photo. Drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes at these locations. Repeat these steps with the other pair of 2 x 6s.

On one end of the shortest 2 x 6, mark the absolute center. O the other end, mark 1-1/4" in from each edge, and then mark the centers. Drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes in these locations. See 3rd and 4th photos. You may want a clamp or an extra set of hands while drilling these holes.

On the top, long edge of the 5' 2 x 6 mark 28-1/2" and 31-1/2" measuring from the long point. Mark the centers and drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes at those locations. See the 5th photo.

Step 6: Drill the Door Slab

Picture of Drill the Door Slab

Measure in 16" from the ends of the door, and 7-3/4" in from the edges, making marks at the four intersections. Make a mark in the dead center of the door, 1'-6" from the edges and 3'-4" from the ends, forming a quincunx. I love that word. Drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes in these five locations. Again, check the photos.

If you are going to sand, stain, finish, or paint your table, now is the time to do it.

Step 7: Assemble Trestles

Picture of Assemble Trestles

It is good to have a helper for this part, but it can be done solo (I did).

On the chamfered face of the 30" 2 x 4 make a mark 1'-2-1/4" from the end. Draw a line 1" from the edge, parallel to it. On dark material, it is helpful to use a piece of tape to indicate the line, as pencil is hard to see. See 1st photo. Using screws, attach one of the bevelled 2 x 6s to the 2 x 4, keeping the pointed "toe" of the bevel on the 1" line. The edge should be on the other mark. The 1/2" holes should be towards the center, and away from the 2 x 4.

Apply a small amount of glue to one end of two of the 2-3/8" dowels and place them in the holes in the 2 x 6. Place a small amount of glue in the 1/2" holes in the matching 2 x 6, and attach it to the 2 x 4, using scrap 2x material to maintain 1-1/2"  of separation between the 2 x 6s. See the 2nd and 3rd photos.

"Cap" the assembly with a 24" 2 x 4, but make your layout mark at 11-1/4".

Attach two of the rubber feet to the longer 2 x 4, as far "outboard" as you can. See photo 5.

Repeat the whole process, making two trestles.

Glue 7/8" dowels into all three holes in the 8-5/8" 2 x 6.

Step 8: Final Set-up

Picture of Final Set-up

Place the long 2 x 6 through the trestles, between the 2 x 6s and dowels. Position the trestles 4" from the long point of the 2 x 6. See photo. Place the short 2 x 6 on top of the long 2 x 6. Put 7/8" dowels, unglued, in the four holes in the shorter 2 x 4. Place the slab on top of the assembly and adjust the legs and top until the dowels match up with the holes.

Enjoy! Please post pictures of your efforts.


mhendrickson (author)2011-01-29

Just completed the table and it looks great. Needed for my home office. Used similar stains to yours minus the decorative cut out on the stretcher. My skills not ready for that. Still a great table. Thanks Aeray!
Pics attached including one of table in pieces minus tabletop:

aeray (author)mhendrickson2011-01-29

Looks great! Thanks for the pics.

bnolsen (author)2010-12-27

Would something like this be solid enough to use as a dining table? Using a solid core door is pretty awesome here!

aeray (author)bnolsen2010-12-28

We'll be using it as a worktable, but, yes, it is entirely appropriate, and sized to be, a dining table.

The solid core door is the easiest, most affordable tabletop I can think of.

CementTruck (author)2010-12-25

Beautiful! Looks reminiscent of Japanese/Frank LLoyd Wright inspired design. My all time favorite.

What did you use for the stain on the trestles? I'm building a dining room table and matching buffet and I want to have a dark brown stain, and I want barely any grain showing as I am using cheap lumber.

aeray (author)CementTruck2010-12-25

This is cheap lumber as well. White Fir. I used Minwax Ebony for the trestles, and Minwax English Chestnut for the stretcher.

KevinC197 (author)2016-02-17

Is it possible to make it miniature size? I would like the top to be 34x32 inches.

ayork9815 (author)2016-01-30

I can't get this system to download the PDF plans. Can you email them to thanks - looks like a great table. I am going to make it higher for a stand up desk in my office.

TomP54 (author)2015-12-09

Is it ok to use door slab with a solid particle core or is a lumber core required?

aeray (author)TomP542015-12-09

A composite core is fine.

sjeffries66 (author)2014-03-16

We love the look of the table. My wife has actually agreed to giving me uninterrupted time in my workshop to build it. You mentioned that you could send adjusted measurements. I am interested in smaller table. Could it be modified for a 36" wide x 48" long table? Could two 12" drop leaf sides be added to the 48" length to make it 72"? What would be the changes for a 36" x 48" table?

Thanks in advance, Scott

aeray (author)sjeffries662014-03-16

The proportions start to look weird when it gets that small, but there are some options. As for the drop leaf, that is a whole 'nother beast. The simplest, cheapest, best looking option may be to simply have two tabletops: one at 48" and one at 72". Door slabs are pretty cheap, and changing it would be a simple as lifting one off and setting the other on. Send me a PM with your email address and I can send you a few dimensioned PDF drawings to look at.

JohnS216 (author)aeray2015-09-09

This is fantastic! I too would like to make it in 48" L to fit between the breakfast nook I built. Do you happen to still have the demensional drawings you mentioned here?

sjeffries66 (author)aeray2014-03-17

I am going to substitute the door top with some old oak church pews that I resurfaced and joined. I look forward to your guidance on dimensions for smaller top.

Thanks again,

Thelowlow (author)2015-08-23

I would like to make the same table with a door slab that is 32" wide, same length. Can you please provide measurements?

Thelowlow (author)Thelowlow 2015-08-23

I guess everything would be the same except the dowel holes on the table right?

aeray (author)Thelowlow 2015-08-23


BartholomewH (author)2015-06-14

Looks great!

DixieG1 (author)2015-06-08

This is great! Have you made plans for a table that could fit 8-10, and up to 12?

aeray (author)DixieG12015-06-08

We've had 10 at this one before, but it is a little tight. The plans for a bigger one are the same, just use a longer door, and lengthen the stretcher. For example: order an 8' tall door slab. This is 16" longer than the one in this Instructable. Make the stretcher 16" longer as well. Everything else is the same.

AudreyCMcNabb (author)2015-03-12

Can you get these doors for the top in 8ft? I would need about an 8ft long table. Would I just extend the center piece of wood another 1.5 ft? Or do other changes need to be made to extend the length?

aeray (author)AudreyCMcNabb2015-03-31

Yep. Just ask your lumberyard. The only change is making the spreader 1' 4" longer (16").

EB-DIY made it! (author)2014-08-08

Really liked the simplicity of the design - had been looking for a trestle plan to use for the blue pine slab top I was making... works for me - and the wife likes it!

Thanks for the detailed description -

aeray (author)EB-DIY2014-12-04

de nada. Thanks for the photos.

lisabarnes (author)2014-12-02

can you give me the material dimensions for a 36 wide and 72 long table? thanks!

aeray (author)lisabarnes2014-12-02

Almost everything is the same: just order a 72" door, and subtract 6" from the stretcher length. That's it!

newmey made it! (author)2014-04-29

Finished my smaller version this past weekend. I found a 32" solid core door for $8 that was slightly blemished. I ended up having to cut it down narrower and banding the edges with some pine to make it work in the narrow breakfast nook. The top is 30" X 53".

aeray (author)newmey2014-04-29

Looks good. Thanks for the photo. Did you make the benches, too?

newmey (author)aeray2014-04-29

No, they were originally booths in a now closed pub.

califazen made it! (author)2014-02-16

I had a little trouble (measure with care) but because this is a very forgiving design, an adjustment (and an invisible shim) and its just fine. I put it to work right after the third coat of clear-coat was dry, to support my old Singer 301A. Next, a couple benches for it. I did the bed, earlier, and it was a snap. Thanks for these thoughtful plans.

aeray (author)califazen2014-03-11

Thanks for the photo!

mbmoore503 (author)2014-03-10

Beautiful table! I want to scale it down to 30"-32" wide and 6' long. Can you advise me? Thanks

aeray (author)mbmoore5032014-03-10

Reduce the length of the four horizontal trestle pieces by whatever the difference between the existing tabletop width is and the width you decide on i.e. 30" width = 36" original - 30" for yours = subtract 6" from the given lengths of the trestle pieces. Similarly, for a 6' long table, subtract 8" from the stretcher length.

Order a door of the corresponding size, for this example, a "2-6, 6-0" door.

Dolfan13 (author)2014-02-16

I love this design, but was wondering your thoughts on using cedar planks for the table top. I have a cedar TNG ceiling on my back porch and was looking to match the ceiling. Any advice would be very much appreciated.

aeray (author)Dolfan132014-02-16

Google "breadboard tabletop" for an idea of the proper way to do it. Remember, though, that cedar is very very soft. A better option would be to find a  door

like this

but in wood, not fiberglass.

tallnproud (author)2014-01-19

I just finished (well, almost finished... needs a couple coats of polycrylic) putting together the table, and I am very happy with the results. My wife wanted wider than 36" for the tabletop, so I used a 4' x 6' slab of 3/4" birch plywood with a support frame on the underside (see picture). Per your advice, I also drove in four screws to increase the stability and security. Overall, it was more difficult than assembling the bed frames (of which I've now made three), but it was definitely manageable. Your instructions are easy to follow, and the pictures always cleared up any questions that I had.

Thanks for posting these, and I can't wait to see if/when you post the instructions for the chair.

aeray (author)tallnproud2014-01-19

​thanks for the photos, it looks good. It is definitely a bit more advanced than the bed or the bookshelves, but I tried to keep it manageable. If the plywood top gives you any trouble, you can get a door slab in that size, but it will be more expensive than what I listed. But, depending on climate and specific type of plywood, you may not have any problems. The additional screws will also help with that.

tallnproud (author)2014-01-09

I'm building this table for use in my dining room, but I concerns about the stability. I have a two and four year old who will likely run around, hang on, bump into, and (in many other manners) abuse the table. I'm worried that since it's only kept in place with the unglued dowels, that they might loose the table top from the legs and hurt themselves or others. Can you speak to its sturdiness and/or offer advice to make it more stable. I don't mind losing the ability to easily disassemble in favor of greater stability.

aeray (author)tallnproud2014-01-10

It should be fine. Ours has been abused by a five-year old, and takes two adults to lift the top off. A single 2-1/2" screw up through each of the upper crosspieces into the underside of the tabletop should provide a little reassurance though.

finnigan16 (author)2013-10-29

This is a beautiful job, and very perspicuous instructions! Do you have any plans of adding on instructable for chairs that could match?

aeray (author)finnigan162013-10-29

Excellent vocabulary. I have thought about chairs for it; chairs are kind of the Holy Grail of furniture making. It is also surprisingly difficult to design and build one that is comfortable and durable. Add in my goals for this series (cheap, low-waste, easy, common materials, minimal tools and skills required) and the task becomes fairly daunting. I do have a few ideas, though, and hundreds of sketches...

vjdoro (author)2013-10-01

I love the look of this table and would like to someday make one to replace what I have, but for now I need to make a Physical Therapy exam table for my daughter who is in PT school and needs an appropriate height surface for practice. I like the trestle idea for storage of the table when not in use. The top surface I was thinking foam padding and covered with vinyl rather than the solid core door. My question is what is the load bearing ability of this trestle table, and how stable is it from side to side. I need to make a table that is stable for offloading of the practice victim, namely me, and other assorted family members. I did consider the platform bed design. I have completed 2 of those beds a queen and a twin. the twin size which is about the size needed for the exam table, wasn't as stable when a my son was sitting on the edge, (he could if he tried make the bed start to tip.) Also I can't think of how to make it storage friendly. Any ideas that you'd be willing to share? Thanks ahead of time, still love my platform bed, still very sturdy and love the storage underneath, thanks for your designs.

aeray (author)vjdoro2013-10-01

I don't think my design would be appropriate for that use, in part because the top isn't secured. I'd be more inclined to try a solid core door (with padding, etc.) on 1" or 1-1/4" pipe legs, attached using floor flanges like these:

vjdoro (author)aeray2013-10-01

Ok thanks for the advise, I'll look into the floor flanges, thanks for the reply.

saidig (author)2013-03-26

This looks great!!! I did your bookcase and so many people love it. I keep showing them your instructions :)

I am looking to make a stand up desk. I work from home so the desk needs to be sturdy enough to carry both of my iMacs which together are 51lbs and little stuff here and there. Would this table be sturdy enough?

Also taken you up in your offer and if you think this would be a sturdy enough desk, what would be the material dimensions for a desk 39" high, 65" long and 30" wide (if leaving it 36" wide makes it easier I don't mind, I know at Home Depot you can special order any size door).


DavidAlex (author)2012-10-09

Do you think this tabletop from Ikea would work?

fethiye (author)2012-09-06

Do you think this construction would support a maple butcher block. Definitely not the most cost effective table top but durable. Right now I cannot access the information of how heavy such a block would be but definitely heavier than any other wood options out there.

aeray (author)fethiye2012-09-06

Easily. Hard maple (most often used for cutting boards/butcher blocks) weighs a little less than 4 pounds per board foot. The door I used weighs 65# (2.36# per board foot) but the supporting structure will hold far more than that. I weigh 250# and have stood on top of this table several times.

RandomTroll (author)2012-06-04

This reminds me of the home-carpenter projects in popular magazines of the '50s and '60s that told you how to turn a door into a coffee table. They were so common 'Mad' magazine spoofed them with an article explaining how to turn a coffee table into door.

fatmansgarage (author)2012-02-05

Rather than chairs, a bench can be built using modified dimensions from this inst as well. In addition, I know it's an extra step, but for purely decorative purposes..1x1/4" decorative strip stained to match the trestle finish could be added to the finished edges of the table for contrast, giving it a further custom look for about $3.00 and an hour or so more of your time. Awesome Instructable series you have going here.

About This Instructable




Bio: Craftsman of fortune. Less is more, and simpler is better.
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