Instructables
Picture of Cheap, easy, low-waste trestle table plans
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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.

 
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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:
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aeray (author)  mhendrickson3 years ago
Looks great! Thanks for the pics.
bnolsen3 years ago
Would something like this be solid enough to use as a dining table? Using a solid core door is pretty awesome here!
aeray (author)  bnolsen3 years ago
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.
CementTruck3 years ago
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)  CementTruck3 years ago
This is cheap lumber as well. White Fir. I used Minwax Ebony for the trestles, and Minwax English Chestnut for the stretcher.
EB-DIY made it!14 days ago

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 -

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newmey made it!3 months ago

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".

nook table.jpg
aeray (author)  newmey3 months ago
Looks good. Thanks for the photo. Did you make the benches, too?
newmey aeray3 months ago
No, they were originally booths in a now closed pub.
sjeffries665 months ago

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)  sjeffries665 months ago
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.
sjeffries66 aeray5 months ago
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,
Scott
sjeffries66@hotmail.com
califazen made it!6 months ago

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.

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aeray (author)  califazen5 months ago
Thanks for the photo!
mbmoore5035 months ago

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

aeray (author)  mbmoore5035 months ago
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.
Dolfan136 months ago

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)  Dolfan136 months ago
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.
tallnproud7 months ago

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.

Table (3).jpgTable (1).jpgTable (2).jpg
aeray (author)  tallnproud7 months ago
​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.
tallnproud7 months ago

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)  tallnproud7 months ago
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.
finnigan169 months ago
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)  finnigan169 months ago
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...
vjdoro10 months ago
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)  vjdoro10 months ago
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: http://t.homedepot.com/p/1-in-Black-Malleable-Iron-Threaded-Floor-Flange-521-605HN/100179931
vjdoro aeray10 months ago
Ok thanks for the advise, I'll look into the floor flanges, thanks for the reply.
saidig1 year ago
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).

Thanks!
DavidAlex1 year ago
Do you think this tabletop from Ikea would work? http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50106773/
fethiye1 year ago
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)  fethiye1 year ago
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.
RandomTroll2 years ago
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.
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.
aeray (author)  fatmansgarage2 years ago
Thanks! I considered the edge-banding, and would have added it if it was just for me, but it is difficult to make a good flush fit with the table top without first ripping a thin strip off of the door slab (all of the way around) to get rid of the slight round over. With the goal of only using simple common cheap tools, I omitted it.
orksecurity2 years ago
I definitely like the "less is more" aesthetic you've been maintaining for this series. There is a time and place for Fine Woodwork (which I do want to improve my skills on, now that I have space for a small workshop)... but there's also a time and place for woodwork that is Just Fine. And good design is applicable to both.

The "foot" of the trestle is a bit less than elegant, to my eye -- but immensely practical; unlike fancier designs, it's unlikely to interfere when you're trying to squeeze more chairs around the table.
kshadhavar3 years ago
My experience building things is very limited but I think i am going to attempt this. I will be needing a worktable soon and this looks about perfect for my needs. However, 80 inches is a bit long for my space. 60 inches would fit perfect. What kind of modifications would I need to make to shorten it?
aeray (author)  kshadhavar3 years ago
Buy a shorter door and make the stretcher 20" shorter.
yfisher3 years ago
Where did you purchase your door?
yfisher yfisher3 years ago
We found out we can order a door from Home Depot. Did you cut your door down to make it only 30 inches wide. You state your table is 30 inches wide but you call for a 36 inch door...are we missing something? Thanks!
aeray (author)  yfisher3 years ago
The door isn't cut down. It is 36" wide, but in carpenter-speak a standard-height 36" wide door is called out as "three-oh, six-eight". A 5' wide by 3' tall window would be called out "five-oh, three-oh".
aeray (author)  yfisher3 years ago
At my local Pro-Build store, but any decent lumberyard should be able to order one for you.
dreaves3 years ago
Is this step missing instructions to fasten the bevel of the second 2x6 to the chamfered 2x4 with 3-inch screws? Also, when adding the "cap" of the shorter 2x4, I'm assuming that the short side of the beveled 2x6 aligns with the 1-inch line parallel to the edge. Is that right?

(This is the first place that the instructions have been less than 100% clear to me. Excellent descriptions and photos.)
aeray (author)  dreaves3 years ago
It is a bit unclear, but it's there: "... the matching 2 x 6, and attach it to the 2 x 4, using scrap 2x material to..." As to which edge of the 2x6 to align to the line, it doesn't really matter. Technically, the line should be just shy of an inch from the edge, because the goal is to center the 2x6 on the 2x4, and the cut end of the 2x6 is slightly wider than 1-1/2" because it is cut on an angle. The tolerances for this project don't need to be that tight though, because fit here isn't that importand and the off-the-shelf lumber has more variance than that on it's own.
Truehart3 years ago
Can you give a price breakdown? It doesn't have to be exact, just ballpark. I'm mainly interested in how much you paid for a solid core door.
aeray (author)  Truehart3 years ago
Door 88.00
2 x 4 3.55
2 x 6s 8.46
Dowel 2.59

quiviran3 years ago
Yet another use for the ever popular hollow-core door. Good one! Much prettier than anything I've ever managed.

Could you possibly add another picture of the table broken down as if preparing to move? Thanks.
aeray (author)  quiviran3 years ago
Another user, mhendrickson, has posted pictures of her table in the "broken down" mode, see above.
quiviran aeray3 years ago
Thanks for the tip about the picture.

This deserves the name "nomadic furniture" but is more beautiful than most in that category. With appropriate scaling of the component parts, and the ability to produce different sized tops, this design could be desk, dining table, end table, coffee table or tv stand. It would be way overbuilt for most uses, but pretty to look at and easy to transport.
aeray (author)  quiviran3 years ago
Thanks, glad you like it.
aeray (author)  quiviran3 years ago
1) This is a solid core door.

2) I'm traveling right now, but I'll post one when I get back. It looks like two trestles, a top, and a stretcher.
quiviran aeray3 years ago
It helps when I read the instructions. Solid core indeed. Thanks for the added pix when you get a chance.
astrong03 years ago
epic table :)
aeray (author)  astrong03 years ago
Build one and post some pics. Less epic than you think.
astrong0 aeray3 years ago
Oh? How so, if I may ask.
aeray (author)  astrong03 years ago
It's cheap and only takes an hour and a half to build. I built a table a few years ago that took two weeks to finish and was sold for many thousands of dollars.
astrong0 aeray3 years ago
Was it made of the same materials?
aeray (author)  astrong03 years ago
No. It was built of a 4" thick black walnut slab, steel, and two types of stone, and took 3 guys to move.
astrong0 aeray3 years ago
still epic though.
astrong0 aeray3 years ago
Ah, that would make more sense for the price.
jdege3 years ago
If it were me, I'd not do so much measuring.

Case in point: you're using measurement to locate the dowel holes along the edges of the 2x6's. If the dowels are to fit, these holes need to be precisely located. I'd only measure to locate the holes along one of each of the pairs of 2x6's, then I'd use dowel centers to transfer the locations to the other.

Ditto for the holes in the 2x4's that are supposed to match the dowel holes in the ends of the 2x6's. I'd use measurement to locate the center of each 2x6, drill the hole, and then use a dowel center to transfer the location to the matching 2x4.

I find I make fewer errors, the less measurement I do.
aeray (author)  jdege3 years ago
Yep, but dowel centers are another (not very common) tool. I'm trying to keep it easy for folks, using common tools and materials.

The dowel holes in the 2 x 4s line up with the holes in the tabletop, not with the 2 x 6s. There are no holes in the ends of the 2 x 6s.
jdege aeray3 years ago
It's not just dowel centers. You need all four of the legs cut to exactly the same length. That can be done by measure each carefully, and cutting each very carefully, but that usually goes wrong. What works better is to clamp them together and cut them all at once (if you're using a circ saw), or to use a stop block (if you're using a table saw or a miter saw).

Measurement is the source of errors. I avoid it when possible. But then your i'ble is about the design, not about the construction techniques, so perhaps my digression is inappropriate.

Are you sure about the holes in the ends of the 2x6's? Photos 3 and 5 of step 5 look like you're drilling holes in the ends of 2x6's, and you have to have some mechanical joinery between the vertical 2x6's and the horizontal 2x4s.

I do have one question about the design, though. How is the long horizontal stretcher fastened to the vertical legs? Some of your stretcher designs have notches, but some do not. How do you transfer horizontal pressure against the legs into tension on the stretcher?
aeray (author)  jdege3 years ago
I actually did, and do, use stops or marks on my cutting table, but I do not know what type of saw people will choose to use, so I leave it to them to figure out.

There are holes in the ends of the "center post", but the 2 x 4s are connected to the 2 x 6 uprights with screws.

The stretcher slips between the upright 2 x 6s, and between the cross-dowels, but just barely, and only when the two components are nearly perpendicular. When the trestles are angled, the dowels cam against the top and bottom of the stretcher, locking it in place. When the top and center post are installed they keep the trestles from moving back towards perpendicular.

The stretchers illustrated have no notches, merely decorative cutouts. Ditto for the actual stretcher.
jdege aeray3 years ago
So, a horizontal force against the end of the table transfers into a rotating force on the trestles around the joint between the trestles and the top. Which on the near trestle transfers into a compressive pressure by the cross dowels into the stretcher.

Which means when my 240 pound nephew falls against it, during an in-house game of touch football, it's not likely to collapse. Which would be a good thing.
aeray (author)  jdege3 years ago
I weigh about that much, and I gave it a pretty good slam to test it out. Obviously, it wiggled a little, but the harder you push, the tighter the dowels get. I imagine that if you pushed hard enough, either the dowels or the material surrounding them would blow out, but it's a table, after all, not a blocking dummy ;)
Dr. Pepper3 years ago
georgeous! amazing! great job!
aeray (author)  Dr. Pepper3 years ago
Thanks!