Introduction: Scrap Table

Picture of Scrap Table

There's a lot of wood out in the world free for the taking -- in dumpsters, back alleys, vacant lots, abandoned buildings, recycling yards, and architectural salvage centers.  Most wood, if free from rot, is just as strong, durable, and good to use as new wood, once you sand off the weathering. This table was made from all salvaged wood -- both dimensional lumber and plywood, mostly taken from decaying buildings in and around Hale County, Alabama.  It was commissioned by the good folks at PieLab (, an initiative of Project M (  PieLab is a pie shop, design center, teaching resource, and business incubator in Greensboro, Alabama.

There are many methods for laminating wood -- this project focuses on a down-and-dirty method for those of us who do not own a lot of pipe clamps and other heavy duty hardware for wrestling with wild wood.  It is about ten feet long by thirty inches wide, sitting about thirty inches off the ground.  If you can salvage the wood, the other materials aren't too expensive: five threaded rods, about four bucks each; nuts, washers, and screws; a gallon or so of wood glue; sandpaper; and polyurethane.  All told, it was less than one hundred dollars.

As far as tools, you'll need a table saw, a circular saw, a power drill/impact driver, hand plane, mallet, some drill bits, and a belt sander.

This isn't the quickest project in the world, but with a little help from my friends, it only took a few weekends.

While I did the design, I am indebted to the following individuals who did most of the labor:

Ryan LeCluyse  (thanks also for many of the photos throughout, includ. the first three)
Dan Gavin
Breanne Kostyk
Megan Deal
Nick Wickersham
Rosie Dixon
Nick Kirkpatrick

Step 1: Trestles

Picture of Trestles

The basic design for this table is a trestle scheme: using two parallel load-bearing structures with slanted legs to support the top.   To lay out the trestles, and to get the feet of the legs to hit the floor evenly so the whole thing sits level, lay out a baseline (a big piece of wood or a straight line in the pavement will do), and a second piece of wood at ninety degrees to the baseline.

Measure up from the baseline 30-32 inches.  This will be the top of the table.  Pull a straight line across at that measurement -- either in chalk or with a piece of wood -- that is parallel to the baseline.  The dimensions of your table may vary, but I measured about two feet in from each end of the second line, representing the top of the table.  

Now that you have this geometric layout, pick some wood for the legs.  I went with 2" x 6" cedar scraps we dug out of the pile.  I measured a rough length for them, four feet or so, then ran a line from opposite corner to opposite corner.  Using a circular saw and a a steady hand, cut the legs, each essentially a long, sharp triangle.  You'll need eight in all.

Lay the legs with the fat end on two-foot mark on the line representing the top of the table, and pull the other end so that it hits the baseline.  What you want is the feet to be in line with the end of the table top, which will give a nice visual rake to the legs while providing maximum stability.  Scribe lines on the legs and use the circular saw to cut them flush.  You can scribe just one and use that as a master to trace onto all the others.

We used eight foot yellow pine 2" x 8"s for the trestles themselves.  Cut a taper into each end as shown in the photos, running from about 2" down to where the legs hit.  Screw and glue the legs onto the trestles in opposing pairs.  Use at least four screws with enough length to go through the trestle and into the other leg for maximum strength.

Step 2: Lamination

Picture of Lamination

Normally, laminating a lot of timber together is done with powerful bar or pipe clamps and a lot of glue.  However, those clamps are expensive, and you need a big, perfectly level workbench to get things to align right.  In the absence of these tools, we used a slightly less rigorous but no less strong method using screws and threaded rods.

The first step is to prepare your lumber.  We cut it to random widths, meaning the bottom was going to be irregular, as seen in the introduction photos.  You can use the table saw to cut to consistent widths, if so desired.  You can use any kind of wood, plywood, dimensional, hardwood, softwood, whatever you think might be aesthetically interesting.

Once you've ripped up a big pile of wood, run some 60-80 grit sandpaper over both sides to remove loose dirt, paint, and grit, which will inhibit the glue bond.  Then, starting with one trestle or the other, paint the wood with regular yellow wood glue (thinned with a little water), then put it on the trestle and screw it to the 2" x 8" with drywall or wood screws.  Space them close enough so a little glue squeezes out from the seams, and there are no pockets or gaps along the length.  Build the wood up and around the ends of the legs, locking them into place and preventing them from kicking out when loaded.

Continue on in this way, staggering seams and varying the wood so no pieces that are alike end up directly next to one another.

This method has its weaknesses; namely, the thing will tend to sag, bow, and cup over time since there are no connectors that go all the way through the table top.  To solve this problem, mark out five holes; one in the center, one through each of the sets of legs, and one at each end.  Depending on the length of your drill bit, drill down every few layers with a 5/8" drill bit.  It's hard to get them perfectly straight; however, I don't know that a drill press and drilling holes in each piece first would be easier, because all the lining up would be a nightmare.  You can see the pencil lines used to lay out those holes in some of these pictures.

Step 3: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

Once you have two halves of roughly the same width with 5/8" holes throughout, it's time to finish bracing the legs, stand 'er up, and plug the whole thing together.

Feed the threaded rods through one side at least.  Stand up the two halves, with people holding each side for stability.  Chuck the threaded rods right into your drill and power them forward through the five holes you made in the last step.  If the holes aren't exactly straight, the drill method will screw them through pretty reliably.  Smear a whole lot of glue on the two pieces where the halves come together, and use nuts and fender washers to tighten the whole thing together.  If the middle is meeting imperfectly, you can also throw some truck tie-down ratchet straps around the whole thing to clamp it better.

For  the legs, drill a 5/8" or slightly smaller hole about two or three inches up from the bottom of each leg.  Feed a 1/2" threaded rod through, putting fender washers between the legs and on the out side.  Crank the nuts down to pinch the legs together.  Use the inner nuts to push the legs out as well, splaying them slightly for a wider stance.  By pinching and splaying the legs, you're pre-stressing them into a more stable position.  It is also nice visually to pinch the two legs together, because it creates a compound taper -- a taper in two directions.

Now that it's standing and stable, there's just some finishing and cleaning up to do.


Step 4: Finishin'

Picture of Finishin'

Plane down the table top with an old-fashioned hand plane to smooth out the ridges.  Add cap pieces on the long sides with countersink hole drilled in them to accept the nit and washer on the threaded rods.  We picked pieces with paint or other interesting things to give the edges some visual interest.  Glue and screw them; we also used the truck ratchet straps to clamp them.

Set up a fence with clamps and a bar of wood to run a circular saw against and trim off the ends.  You can see we cut through a screw or two; try to avoid this.  Sand down with a belt sander, starting with an aggressive 80 grit or so to take down any more really high spots.  Move to 100, then 120 grit.

We filled all other imperfections with regular vinyl wall spackle.  The white was a nice contrast.  You could use wood putty, or just let them be.  Sand out the spackle with 100 and 120 again, them slap a couple coats of polyurethane on and you're done.  A coat of furniture wax isn't a bad idea, especially if it's going to receive heavy use. 


wagler (author)2010-04-09

So here's my version - an 8 ft dining room table. Production photos can be found here:

zoomies (author)2010-02-08

Here's my coffee table version. Not quite done applying polyurethane. Thanks for the idea.

Andreas2307 (author)2010-01-24

I loved your instructable so much I made a coffee table! Not finished yet. Used all the scrap wood I could find! South Africa is scant with wood.

Thanks Again!

JustusStadslab made it! (author)2017-02-20

Awesome idea! Thanks for sharing. I had to make one by myself... Here some pics.

RenatoS54 (author)2017-01-09

Thanks for idea! :)

The result: :)

Thursoman made it! (author)2016-08-09

here's my version slightly different but took the idea from the steps above didn't want the exposed steel beams so I put a facia type end over the wood and fixed them with some dowling so there would be no screw on show

Also did want the metal rod at the bottom so put a wooden bar across the two legs

Managed to make mine from a single double glazed window pallet finished with Danish oil

Thanks for the help!

wholman (author)Thursoman2016-08-15

@thursoman looks awesome! Hope you enjoy it for many years to come. I have updated and improved instructions in my book Guerilla Furniture Design as well.

KimberlyM121 (author)2016-06-26

Hi! I’m an editor for and am writing to request permission to use one of your photos from your table tutorial in an upcoming post. We would like to feature it in a round up and would include a backlink and clear credit to you.

Please let me know if this would work for you. Thanks for your consideration!


bugabooblog (@)

wholman (author)KimberlyM1212016-06-29

Thanks for reaching out about my Instructable for the Scrap Table. I emailed you at the address posted but it kicked back to me.

The Scrap Table is featured in my book, Guerilla Furniture Design, in much better detail with measured drawings and hi-res photos. I'd like to talk to you about featuring the book on your blog. Email me directly at william.c.holman at

SergeE (author)2016-05-25

Could you build the long frame beams into the table itself by laminating them along with the other pieces ? The legs could then bolt on/off as needed when moving ...

denise981 (author)2016-05-24

Beautiful!! Well done!

n3rdcore made it! (author)2016-03-23

I got overly excited about this project and ended up using really nice woods. I've got Cherry, Black Walnut, Pecky Cypress, and Birch. The legs and sides are Walnut which came out beautifully.

It ended up being 8' x 3' x 31" and the legs were set at 30 degree angles.

The only hard part was getting those dowel rods all the way through. I didn't listen to the instructions and tried to drill through the whole table. It took a series of attempts and bits to get it right.

After I sanded the whole thing I applied Teak oil which really brought out the colors.

Here's an IMGUR ALBUM of my entire process!


wholman (author)n3rdcore2016-03-25

Wow! That came out beautiful, great job.

g0dswilll (author)2014-02-21

Here's my big'un. 8' x 4.5'... Decided to go against the threaded rod at the bottom. My "wings" are heavy enough to cause the legs to pinch inward, so I only needed a brace to keep the legs from pinching in. That brace sits "out of view" much higher between the legs. Seats 12 comfortably, 2 on each end and 4 on each side. Thanks again for the great instructable!

seanderson07 (author)g0dswilll2016-01-17

I'm looking to build this table with similar dimensions. Would you mind sharing how you did the brace? I'm new to woodworking and want to make sure my table is sturdy/stable. Thanks!

wholman (author)g0dswilll2014-02-21

Wow. That came out gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.

asherstore made it! (author)2015-12-24

I used the method from this 'ible to make a counter for the window of my café. Thanks for the tips!

NAVNi (author)2015-10-31

This table inspired me so much I had to make my own version:

Phase one is already done, in the future I will be looking into cutting this up in to smaller pieces and make it an extendable table and put some more fancy feet underneath.

Thanks for the inspiration!!!!!

agilbull (author)2012-10-08

Great Idea just made a bench like that. I used wood screws instead of threaded shaft and metal for the legs.

here are some pics I did

thanks again

SIRJAMES09 (author)agilbull2014-08-08



I would kill to have a lamp like that! Not literally "KILL", but....that lamp is so cool!!!

BTW, The table is ice too. :P

agilbull (author)SIRJAMES092015-10-23

Sorry, I didn't see your message! I build this lamp with an old eletric heater.

Like that

It is easy to find it in France.


hosfeld (author)2015-10-05

How did you make the countersunk holes for the washers where the threaded rods are connected?

CharlineCaisse (author)2015-07-28

beautiful furniture!

sir_eric78 made it! (author)2015-06-21

Here is mine. I would say to for sure piece out your table and mark the lines for your rods before you start gluing. If you have access to a table planer I would run the boards through first to straighten and square them up. I had some warped boards that ended up needing wood putty. I think it could have been avoided if I had planed the boards first.

wholman (author)sir_eric782015-06-21

That turned out gorgeous!

BartholomewH (author)2015-06-16

Dope furniture assembly man! I love when people take unused parts and put those to use! Beautiful looking piece of furniture you've assembled! Faved!

aaronhall9 (author)2015-04-27

Nicely done.. Awsum

richardsharmen (author)2015-04-23

Very impressive.. Really good

daddywoofdawg (author)2015-04-05

And I'm still unsure about the tabletop,Do you glue the top, to the top of the 2x8(trestle) or glue to the sides of the 2x8 (you would see the trestle board from the top)when you're building the top?

kungfusalvi (author)2015-01-25

from ecija thank you

ivan_dec (author)2015-01-11

Thanks for posting this idea! It was my first diy project, here's my version. I used very ordinary ikea legs to give it a slimmer look. I might look for somewhat more unique legs in the future but for now I am pretty happy with the result. Thanks again!

wholman (author)ivan_dec2015-01-12

Looks fantastic with those modern chairs. Great job!

opdich made it! (author)2015-01-05

We scaled it down and added hairpin legs to make it more of a breakfast table. I love the concept and it came out great.

More on my blog:

pikeucf (author)2013-01-30

I've been eyeing this project for a while now and finally dove into it. I love the idea and the simplicity of it by using reclaimed wood. I found some free pallets on craigslist and hauled them back to the garage. The first step in my attempt was the most time consuming... pulling out hundreds upon hundreds of nails! After disassembling all the pallets and removing all the nails, I had an awesome selection of several different kinds of wood; Cedar, Pine, Red Oak and Yellow Poplar. Like most of the folks that have attempted this project, I too, had a little problem with the table warping a little. I think it has to do with the size of the long bolts that thread the table, lining up the drill holes, and also how tight you crank down the bolts. Since mine table was only 5ft long, I was able to loosen the bolts a little and bend into shape a little. It’s not perfect but definitely better than what it looked like after I removed the “tie-down-straps”. Also, I wanted to leave the natural look of the wood and not add any slacker or poly, just natural butcher block oil. I point this out because I also copied your idea of using the white wall spackle and though it turned out nice, I don't think the spackle and the oil work well together, (just FYI for anyone that heads down the same path). All in all, the table turned out great and now resides in our kitchen ripe and ready for some pancakes & syrup, Newspaper, and coffee! Thank you for posting this instruc"table"!! All photos I took on this project can be found here...>

dustin_little (author)pikeucf2014-10-20

What are the dimensions of your table? I wanted to build a bar top height one for the basement and I want it 8 feet long with about 22 inches in depth but I am afraid it will not be stable if it is 42 inches high. Any advice will help thanks.

jasonruhl (author)dustin_little2014-12-14

I don't have experience with this specific project but from my work experience, stability of the bar top you are describing is going to depend on a few specific things:

- Rigidity of the legs

For a 42" high table I might run a 'spine' block in the centre of each leg; screwed from the 'inside' leg. This makes each leg into a continuous vertical I-beam, giving it more resistance to bending

- Leg bracing

At the base of the legs I would definitely do the same as Wholman and use threaded rod all the way across to tie 2 sets of legs together

- Weight of the top

The thinner you can make the top; the lighter it will be. You want the centre of gravity as low as possible; so more weight on the bottom; less on the top. Since I don't know how to make the bottom heavier.... lightening the top is the next best thing. When drilling through for the threaded rods; I would drill some additional holes on the inner boards (where they will be hidden) to lighten it as much as possible

- Flatness of the surface on which it sits

If it's in a basement then I'm assuming it is on a concrete floor; but maybe there is carpet between the concrete and the table leg. If so; you want to make each leg base as big as possible so it has a nice large surface area in contact with the floor; this may mean again filling between the 2 sides of each leg with a solid piece that runs along the base of each foot.

myrrh009 (author)2014-08-30

I was inspired to make this from wholman in furniture on The top portion is from two pallets (heat treated of
course for safety not the chemical treated) and the legs are from some
30 year old scrap pine 1x10's I ripped down to the width of the pallet
slats used on top. I What I did different was I used the first
trellis and leg portion as a jig to drill holes in each board
individually for the threaded rod and they lined up perfectly! I did
not pinch the end of the legs together because they are only 17" high
and thought they might break if I did that. I instead doubled them up
for proper thickness and strength. I used a belt sander to then
flush everything out on the top and two sides opposite of the threaded
rods and left the bottom unfinished and irregular on purpose. This table
is overbuilt and super strong! I used "Fixall" multipurpose filler
in the gaps. I used only boiled linseed oil and then a product with
bee's wax and linseed oil for the final finish and it turned out quite
nice! Other than that, I followed the same process in making this as
wholman did making his "scrap table" .

wholman (author)myrrh0092014-09-03

Great job! Looks like it'll last for generations.

domenic3 (author)2014-09-02

Very nice piece !!!

zieak (author)2009-12-14

Thanks for the inspiration... I just finished my version:

David_M_I (author)zieak2011-11-04

I just read this post and was thinking about using the same table legs! I know it has been a couple of years but how stable was the table over time? thx D

zieak (author)David_M_I2012-08-10

It is still holding up! I am careful moving it around though - the table top is so heavy that they could tweak pretty easily otherwise.

SIRJAMES09 (author)zieak2014-08-08

Just a thought, not trying to tell you what/how to do anything....

What about doubling the thickness of the legs?

Or maybe even 4x4's for legs?

6x6 would be over kill, but the weight they could hold....

Again, just another one of my hairbrained thoughts.... :)

MLM247 (author)2014-07-16

Scrap but with style and not just pallets. Well done. Hope to share some of my scrap butcher blocks soon. Mike, Austin

summerinhawaii (author)2014-07-04

I love recycling, your creation is perfection!
Thanks for sharing :)

smledgerwood (author)2014-07-03

Gorgeous. Love the end grain variation.

doodlecraft (author)2014-07-02

Awesome, totally incredible! :)

tahaercan (author)2014-05-27

Thank you for your sharing.

Lindie (author)2014-05-08

That table is beautiful!!!

Easystreet2271 (author)2013-07-31

Thanks for doing this... I made a coffee table version without the metal rods or trestles. Here are some pics. More detail can be found in the gallery:

About This Instructable




Bio: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.
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