Ever wanted that perfect desk for your work habits? Ever had that corner in your apartment that needed a table but you could never find something that fit? This instructable will lead you through the process of researching, designing, and building a table for your specific purposes. For your reference, I present the plans and process for my table, and you are certainly free to duplicate my table, but unlike most instructables, these specifics are intended as an example only, and the main purpose here is to learn to build furniture tailored to your personal needs.
This instructable is organized as follows:
Research and Design
We're building our own table, whether because we're tired of tables that aren't quite right, we have a space that no table on froogle will fit, or we just always wanted our very own kickass table that no one else has.
The premise here is that you'll be building from standard lumber from somewhere like Home Depot, that you might not have a garage, that you haven't built furniture before, and that you haven't worked with any wood longer than 12" before. All of these were true for me. The only requirement is maybe that you aren't afraid to deal with arithmetic in units of inches and 1/16-inches, and you enjoy thinking in 3D. If instead you want to work with recycled lumber, consult these excellent instructables here and here, but hopefully this instructable can still help you with planning.
In regards to time commitment, research and design took about the same amount of time as planning, while actual construction probably took only half of that. In my case I did the thinking and researching over a week, and then actually got the lumber and built everything over a weekend.
Step 1: Research and Design
The first step is to figure out what your requirements are: physically, functionally, and aesthetically.
Examine your intended space and see if there are any special "landforms" or other furniture you want take into consideration. Review tables in your life experience that you really loved. If you are building a desk, consider your work habits; if you are building a table, consider what you want to use it for.
It is helpful here to google images of various table types for inspiration. In particular, look at the types of super-expensive "custom-made" or designer tables, because they tend to have more creative solutions for different requirements; and yes, you are building a custom-made table (minus the super-expensive part)!
It is also particular helpful to find a bunch of different tables (friends', parents', Ikea, whatever) and sit at them to see how they feel. Consider miming the various activities you want to do at your new table; the point here is to make sure you also get a physical bodily sense of what you want.
So for example, my room has an awkward corner on the only side with the window; specifically, I have a radiator on the ground jutting out about 6" from the wall and a window sill above it jutting out about 3" from the wall. These physical requirements meant that my table legs needed to be further in from the edge of the table surface than 95% of the tables you can buy. Secondly, functionally I wanted a table that suits the type of work I do, which includes things like drawing, reading, xacto knifing paper, as well as significant laptop work. I also really missed the surface area and height of the art studio tables from my college days. Lastly, aesthetically I wanted a plank top, sort of in the style of rustic/tavern tables, and I was willing to trade off some surface levelness for this.
Do you want a shelf on the side? A shelves above? Do you want a foot rest? Do you want the height of a bar table where you can both stand and perch?
Once you have a pretty good idea of what you want, the next step is to figure out the precise dimensions and draw up a plan of the structure.