What's more, the legs are removable so the entire thing packs away compactly — you can stuff it in a closet. If you ever need to set up a formal dining table for ten, you just toss the thing in the back of your car and go.
The construction of the table is based on telescoping rails built from a series of hardwood blocks. This is the most interesting and challenging part of the project.
Note: the astute reader may notice occasional differences between the drawings and the photographs. Where there are differences, the drawings should taken as the canonical source. The photos are of a prototype, and the design has been refined since it was built.
The attached Sketchup files include complete designs for the table. The second file is the details of the rail construction.
This file is entered in the furniture design contest; I appreciate your vote.
Step 1: Required skills, tools, and materials.
Eye and ear protection.
At the very least you'll need a table saw, drill, and router table. A power sander and drill press are highly recommended and a biscuit joiner would also come in handy. For the router, you need a dovetail bit, a 5/16" or 3/8" straight bit, and a larger straight bit capable of cutting 3/4" deep, plus any decorative bits you desire for the edges.
A sharp chisel.
A ratchet wrench, extension, and 3/8" deep socket.
Plus the usual straight edges, screwdrivers, clamps and so forth.
Two sheets of ¾" plywood, one side good (I recommend oak).
Hardwood of the same type sufficient to make a ½"x¾" border around the entire table: two 8' lengths, two 4' lengths, and two 2' lengths. If you can't get 8' lengths, don't despair; you'll just need eight 19" lengths.
Hardwood sufficient to make 20 16"x2¼x1¼ blocks. Poplar is good; birch or maple is even better.
Six table legs, 2½" x 2½" at the top, 28" high (more or less, depending on how tall you want your table to be). You can make these or mail-order them, which is what I did. Just search for "wood table legs" and a number of vendors will pop up. Larger table legs will work just fine, but don't go smaller than 2½" x 2½".
Two table leg brackets. Just search for "table leg bracket" and a number of vendors will pop up.
Four ¼"x2½" hanger bolts (available at any hardware store). These are two-ended bolts that have wood screw threads on one end and machine threads on the other. These are screwed into wooden objects and leave protruding threads to allow things to be bolted on.
Four ¼" wing nuts and four washers.
Two 3/8"x3" hanger bolts.
two 3/8" hex nuts and two washers.
Glue, screws, stain, varnish