Introduction: Minimalist Table From Reclaimed Floor Boards

Having tried my hand at refinishing an old piece of furniture, I figured I might have a go at creating a piece from scratch.  I was in the market for a small kitchen table, and liked the minimalist look.  I had seen many examples (here, here, and here) of the type of table that I wanted but they were all really expensive, ranging from around $500 to over $2000.  This was just too far out of my budget range, especially because the hairpin legs I wanted to use could be had for a fairly reasonable price online.  After that it was simply finding some nice looking wood that would handle the minimalist design well.  I also really like the idea of using reclaimed wood for several reasons.  So I went to my favorite purveyor of used construction materials, Construction Junction, and was able to find some lovely old floor boards and reclaimed slats all for under $20 in lumber.

I am entering this instructable in the "I could make that" contest, so if you like what you see, please vote!

Step 1: Gathering Materials

At first the boards don't seem like much to look at... just dusty, worn, old floor boards.  But to me, they looked like a kitchen table.  I thought the grain was pretty and because they were old and seasoned, they weren't likely to warp or split.  Plus they already had a tongue-and-groove which made fitting them together especially convenient.

Ingredients for this Project:

-Reclaimed floor boards
-Reclaimed slats from a bed
-30in hairpin legs from http://hairpinlegsforless.com/
-1-1/2 inch woods screws
-Wood glue

Tools:

-Skillsaw
-Belt sander
-Orbital sander
-Screw gun
-Clamps
-Sand paper

Step 2: They Did Need a Little Work...

The floor boards had been well used, so to speak, and they needed  a little TLC.  There were a couple of cracks to glue and the old resin and glue that had held them together previously, needed to be scraped clean.

I also needed to scraped down part of the groove portion of the tongue-and-groove of the boards so that they would fit more snugly together.  A word of caution to anyone taking on a job that requires chisels... BUY NICE CHISELS! Trying to shave thin bits of wood off something in a precise manner using dull chisels is like trying to have good penmanship using a 4in paint brush held between your elbows...

Step 3: Assemble Boards Into Pre-table

After I cut the boards to the length I needed for the table, it was time to glue them together.  I made one last pass over the tongue and groove portions to get any dirt or sawdust off, and then applied glue into the groove.  I used a small piece of scrap to smooth the glue along the groove and try to coat it as evenly as possible.  Excess glue squishing out from the edges should be wiped up while its still wet, or you will hate yourself later on once it sets.

Step 4: Clamps

Clamping wood that isn't braced with anything other than the clamps can get a little dicey, so make sure that you use something flat and heavy to brace the boards so they don't curl up on you when you tighten down the clamps.  I just used some large boards I had left over from another project and then piled heavy things on top of the for added weight.

I realized after I started to tighten the clamps that small beads of glue were being squished out of the cracks.  This was a problem because there were large heavyduty boards lying perpendicular across the table and the last thing I needed was them glued in place.  The boards are not a hard wood and it would likely take huge gouges out of them to tear the boards free if they were glued to it.  So, as a preventative measure I put down strips of paper towel anywhere the boards were going to be laid as a barrier to prevent them being glued to my table.

Also, I ran out of heavy things to put on the table, so the dog had to help me out by weighing down the table...

Step 5: Inspection

At this point it is important to make sure everything is going in the right direction. I.e. no curling or gaps, if you have something to fix, now is the time to do it.

This stage passed wiener dog inspections.

Step 6: Squaring It All Off

I guess it's more like rectangling... that just doesn't roll off the tongue the same way.  With the clamps now removed and the boards joined into a single plane, it was time to make the cuts that would even up all the sides and make a nice clean, continuous edge on all four sides.

I knew I would be making this cut across all the boards after gluing them, so I wasn't too concerned about being super accurate when I first cut the boards to length.  However, this cut would be important, and so I used a straight-edge clamp as a guide to make sure my cut was neat.  I always recommend drawing a line (even when using a straight-edge clamp) where you are hoping to cut so you can make sure your cut is not somehow veering off course, plus it is psychologically gratifying to watch the line get eaten up by the saw.

Step 7:

Now that the edges are cleaned up its time for the finish sand.  I needed to even out a couple of the joints with the belt sander, but spent the majority of the time with the orbital.  Staring at 80 grit, then 120, and finally 220.  At this point it was time to add the bracing.

Step 8: Prepping the Bracing

I had found some sturdy old reclaimed wood, also at Construction Junction, for I think 50 cents a piece.  I'm not sure where or what they came from, but it looks like the slats off a bed, not totally sure on that one, but they were the right shape, size, and price.  They were old and a little ratty but all they needed was some sander lovin'.

They cleaned up quite nicely and because they were old reclaimed wood they were straight and dry.  One of the benefits of reclaimed wood, at least reclaimed wood that is well-seasoned, is that there is little chance of them warping or curling the table. This is especially important in my case since the table won't have a skirt, or really any other bracing besides these boards.

As you can see in the picture, not all of the boards were cut exactly the right length... I'm just not that talented with a skillsaw, and I don't have a proper chop saw.

Once they were cleaned up, I positioned them for gluing/screwing.  Since I would be using the corners of this bracing to affix the table legs, I made sure to line up the corners where I wanted the base of the legs to be mounted.

Step 9: Gluing the Bracing

Now that the bracing was cut to fit and sanded, it was time to glue and screw.

Step 10: Screwing the Bracing

Because of how thin both the floor boards and the bracing were, I needed to try and get a screw that gave me maximum bite into the floor boards without over-penetrating. The last thing I needed was a bunch of dimpling on the surface of my table from screws trying to push through. 

1-1/4 in screws were too short and 1-1/2 in screws came dangerously close to puncturing the top side of the table. I decided that the best way to make sure I was getting the most screw for my effort, was to nip the tips of the 1-1/2 inchers. When your board is only 3/4 of an inch thick to begin with, you want all the screw surface area you can get.

Step 11: Polyurethane

I had decided to forgo any stain, I liked the contrast in grain the way it was and had already tested the outcome on a piece of scrap and loved what it looked like after the polyurethane. So after a few passes with 220 and 320 grit sandpaper, I wiped it with a slightly (emphasis on slightly) damp cloth to remove and remaining sawdust or debris.

Application of polyurethane, for those who have never done it, is basically the same as stain.  Dip, and stroke... with the grain.  Cover completely, but don't over apply.  If you want more, add another coat later once the first has set.  Mind the edges, if it accumulates in droplets on the undersides of the edges it will harden into an impenetrable table pimple and your table will be forever ashamed of its complexion.

Step 12: Legs

I had looked everywhere for some nice hair pin legs that I could reclaim from something or get at a bargain somewhere, but hairpin legs are very hip now, apparently, and impossible to find at my normal reclaiming and reusing haunts. I would have tried my hand at fabricating them myself, but my need for hairpin legs didn't justify the expense of the tools required.

So I ordered these online from hairpinlegsforless.com and for $96 including shipping, they arrived the following week.  They would have been a little cheaper, but I ordered them a little longer than standard, as we are a tall household, and wanted to make the table fit better for the taller types.

Mounting them was very straight forward. They were well-made, consistent and properly measured, so I simply screwed them into the bracing at the corners. The table was level and solid, with all four legs even on the ground. I was personally pumped about this fact, as this was my first table and I kept having nightmarish visions of it ending up looking like a sad taco or something.

Step 13: TABLE!

I was very happy with the results and the overall learning experience.  It feels good to sit down at your table, an integral piece of furniture in most peoples lives, and remember every groove and line of grain because you remember fitting them together and imagining what it would finally look like.

The breakdown of the cost of the table its as follows:
lumber --  under $20
lovely hairpins legs from http://hairpinlegsforless.com/ -- $96 with shipping
Screws -- around $10
polyurethane -- around $10

Total cost = $136 + a hefty quantity of swear words

Not too shabby considering that's about $400 bucks under what the cheapest table I saw would have cost me.

The only things I would've changed about the experience would be the tools.  A chop saw would have made a lot of the cuts easier and more accurate.  Also... I can't emphasize this enough... if you are doing something that requires chisels, sell your car, trade your baseball cards, give away your cat, whatever you have to do, just get sharp chisels that hold their edge.

Thanks for reading! I welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Comments

author
MichaelM41 (author)2015-04-07

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Hairpinned Table
by wholman
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8.1K 229 9
The hairpin leg was designed by Henry Glass in 1941 for American Way furniture. A simple "V" of steel rod was connected to a flat "L" bracket, cocked at a slight angle. Hairpin legs produced maximal strength out of minimal material and were easy to make, both ideal qualities during wartime shortages. The visual language -- dematerialized and unadorned -- was picked up by a subsequent generation of designers. Tacked onto any handy flat surface, they've become a shorthand for mid-century modernism.
For this dining table, the hairpins are reversed, angling inwards to brace swept-back legs. Instead of a conventional boxed-out apron, the substructure is an elongated "X", making a slim, elongated profile. The top is made of wide laminated planks, with a chamfered edge and through-tenons in each corner. It seats 8 easily, and 12 in a pinch, but doesn't overwhelm the room.
I used reclaimed Douglas Fir, salvaged from the boiler room of a vacant building. The 12" hairpin legs came from a website (there are a couple specializing in hairpins) and cost about a dollar per inch. Consumables, like glue, lacquer, and resin, brought the total materials budget to about $100. It took between 70-80 hours to make.
Lacking my own shop, I was able to do a lot of the work at the Station North Tool Library, a non-profit public workshop that has open hours twice a week. These sorts of spaces are cropping up all over the world, and are perfect for nomadic makers like myself. They are also proof that you don't have to own all the fanciest woodworking equipment in the world to make your project.
You will need these tools:
- Table saw
- Thickness planer
- Jointer
- Circular saw
- Belt sander
- Orbital sander
- Jigsaw
- Drill/driver
- Mallet
- Router
- Tape measure
- Pencil
- Adjustable square
- Putty knives
- Chisel
- Block plane
You will need these materials:
- Around 45 linear feet of reclaimed 2x10 material or similar
- 4 12" hairpin legs
- 1-1/4" drywall screws
- Wood glue
- Two-part resin epoxy suitable for filling knots
STEP 1: MILLING
The lumber I found had sat in the boiler room of a semi-vacant building for about sixty years, judging by the dates on some of the lumber stamps. It was long planks, and I think it was probably used as scaffolding walk boards.
Underneath all that grime and heating oil was beautiful, streaky, reddish Douglas Fir. Whatever lumber you end up using the process is roughly the same. To clean it up, cut it into 8' lengths, then run it through the thickness planer until it is a uniform 1-1/4" thick.
Then use a table saw to cut 1/4" off one edge, flip the board, and do the other edge. Repeat, flipping each time, until they are a uniform 7" wide.
Note: this is not the classic proper method for producing square and straight boards, which involves many passes with a jointer. However, with factory milled lumber that is already surfaced (however years ago that may have been), dry, and relatively straight, I find this method to be much faster and just as effective.


Beautiful, sleek table. Gr8 job. R those plugs on the table top to cover the leg posts? If so, do the leg posts have to go right thru the table top? I'd rather go 3/4 in so you don't have to see 4 rectangular plugs on the surface. If not, plse disregard w my apologies. A gr8 looking table regardless.

author
EoRaptor013 (author)2013-10-14

A suggestion about the chisels: Even the finest chisels need to be honed before use. Get a moderately priced set from a woodworker's store, or on-line, and learn how to sharpen. It's not difficult, and doesn't need to be a precise as the on-line instructions might lead you to believe. Once you've learned how to sharpen, you'll never need to buy another set of chisels.

Also second the wax-paper. Put some between the glue-up and your weights, and/or clamps, and you'll never have to worry about gluing them together again.

author
uncle frogy (author)2013-10-12

I have some old oak floor boards that you gave me an idea of what to do with them.
Nice job. With those legs give it a clean modern look I might have eased over the top edges but that might not work so well with the hard edge minimal look.
I always worry about solid wood movement ever since I heard a small library table split its top when it started to shrink as it was drying out from getting damp. I see that you have fasteners in each board that should keep the joints even when they move sealing all sides can minimize the movement. The traditional solution is slotted holes in the stretchers or braces across the grain to allow for the top to move.
love that minimal look!
uncle frogy

author
Tazmjm69 (author)2013-10-06

The table turned out great, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who swears while building things!!

author
TorBoy9 (author)2013-10-06

This is a very nice table and well constructed. You might want to invest in a chop saw, as you stated, because the cuts are more accurate, especially with narrow wood. When you are gluing up and adding your clamps and heavy items on top you could use wax paper in between the clamp and the wood. Some clamps, especially black pipe clamps can leave marks on the wood due to the water in the glue. Wax paper helps prevent the glue from sticking to your clamps and heavy items.

Your table should last a very long time, and can be easily resurfaced at any time.

author
Branebot (author)TorBoy92013-10-06

Love the wax paper idea. That certainly would've worked better than the paper towels. Thanks for the tip!

author
Branebot (author)2013-10-06

Thanks for all the lovely comments and encouragement, folks. I really appreciate your feedback!

author
cwebsterlusk (author)2013-10-06

Instead of chisels why not use a hand plane or jointer? I know not everyone has these tools but a simple block plane would do this job (and MANY more) much better than chisels at about the same price.

author
ladybgood (author)2013-10-06

beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

author
dflare (author)2013-10-06

Beautiful results! Well done. :)

author
Geedox (author)2013-10-06

Fond Memories! Some 60 years ago my dad bougth about six four-piece sets of hairpin legs at a garage sale in San Tome, Venezuela! Four of the sets were coffee-table height and the other two standard table height! He built a small table just like yours as my desk and upon growing It ended as a hobby worktable. The top was decommisioned about 30 years ago, And I still keep all the legs!! The only mod he did to the legs was welding a large (about 2-1/2in) steel washer at the hairpin so rubber pads or rug/carpet protectors could be affixed! Good design doesn't die! I wish your work will hold up as much as my dad's did!!!!

author
lrtburkett (author)2013-10-03

I love the table and the dog! She looks like my own Bambers!

author
Wolfgar77 (author)2013-10-03

Thanks for the post. You've given me some great ideas!

author
jonneburger (author)2013-10-03

fav'd, good tutorial (for saving money) but how much is wiener dog in chihuahuas?

author
Branebot (author)jonneburger2013-10-03

I think the conversion to chihuahuas is 2.3, but someone will have to check my math on that one. So it should be rated for at least 23 chihuahuas (assuming average size).

author
jonneburger (author)Branebot2013-10-03

That seems about good. This goes to buildlist

author
Grunambulax (author)2013-10-03

I'm from PGH too. I love construction junction

author
bob3030 (author)2013-10-03

Very nice. I like that you used repurposed lumber. I also liked the idea of nipping the 1 1/2 inch screws to best fit your project. Thanks for posting.

author
audreyobscura (author)2013-10-02

wow, this came out great - what a good idea.

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Bio: I love making things out of discarded materials. When someone tells me something is "broken" I see it as, "it just doesn't know what ... More »
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