Picture of Parsons Table
This table, designed in the '20s, is generally attributed to Jean-Michel Frank, a French designer and decorator associated with Parsons School of Design in New York City. But the Parsons table, as we call it today, has become an American classic not because of a cultured lineage, but simply because its timeless charm fits just about anywhere. It is, in fact, the essence of tableness--a distillation of primary components rendered in seamless flat planes, parallel lines and right angles. Our version is scaled to serve as a coffee table, but the simple construction details make it easy to build one of any size. To accentuate the geometric nature of the piece, we applied a paint finish that covers the woodgrain and joint lines.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
Parsons tables have square, parallel-sided legs that support a thick top. We created the illusion of a heavy top by setting its edges flush with the 3/4-in.-thick rails. Poplar is a good choice for the legs and rails because it's easy to work and takes paint well. Solid wood on the top, though, would create problems as it shrank and expanded with humidity changes, so we switched to stable medium-density fiberboard (MDF).

Because the table is painted, you could build it entirely of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), but you'd get a table that's twice as heavy as the poplar version. A lighter panel choice is plywood, but its edges are not as uniform as MDF and it requires more filing and sanding.

A table saw is the fastest and most accurate tool for ripping the leg and rail pieces, but a portable circular saw with an edge guide will work. A power miter saw is the tool of choice for the rail miters, and you'll use a router to trim the top flush to the rails.

Other Essentials:
Portable drill
Random-orbit sander
Try square

Hardware and Supplies
1 1/4-in. finishing nails
1 1/2-in. finshing nails
Wood glue
Wood filler
120- and 220-grit sandpaper
caplug3 years ago
Everything I need to know to make this table is here. Great instructable.
zomfibame3 years ago
I've been noticing a number of posts on this site lately where people keep asking things like "can't you just buy this?" ... yes you could. but then all you would have learned is how to buy yet another 'Made in China' product. If YOU make it, then you have learned something, usually something that will apply elsewhere in life. and it's also like growing your own veggies... after all is said n' done, it probably would be cheaper/easier to simply buy veggies from the store, but then you have NO idea what was or was not done to get those veggies to that point. so making it yourself can be better, if not at least more rewarding n' fun than simply buying one from the store. ;-) . on a lil' side note, many years ago I took classes at that school, never knew there was a relation to the table... I'd always figured it had something to do with a modern twist on the mission style furniture or somethin'. I figured it had to do with a Parson from the church, thanks for the info.
lemonie8 years ago
Can you not buy these things fron IKEA?
loy266 lemonie5 years ago
those are 5.00 at IKEA
ARVash lemonie8 years ago
heh, of all the questions, Can you buy it? I'm pretty sure you can buy most of the things on instructables. :P
Magnusn lemonie8 years ago
Yes. I have 3 :)
krowii6 years ago
Original instructions and sketches here: http://www.popularmechanics.com/home_journal/workshop/2846191.html if anyone is still interested in building one of these.
books+time8 years ago
These sketches are very hard to read! They could use a quick darkening.
HamO8 years ago
Very well done, clear, good illustrations and interesting. Always wondered why they are call "Parsons" tables. Thanks for sharing.