Introduction: 6 Mistakes Not to Make Building a Farmhouse Table

About: Making (and breaking) projects in my shop every 2 weeks (or so)

It's been two years since I built my very first farmhouse table. At the time I was getting into woodworking and did my best to follow along with the great plans you can find online.

Recently I built a few farmhouse tables for my friends. Here are the 6 biggest mistakes I made and how I changed them.


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Step 1: Mistake 1: Crooked Table Top Edges

One of the biggest things I underestimated when I first got into woodworking was the importance of having square and flat wood.

I mean when you buy construction grade pine from the big box store it should be perfect right?


Oh so wrong. There is an entire art and science to getting your stock ready for construction. For this build I used the following process:

  1. Using a jointer to joint the top surface of the board.
  2. Using the flat surface as a reference against the fence of the jointer to get a straight and square edge.
  3. Using a planer to flatten the bottom surface of the board.
  4. Using either a jointer or table saw to flatten and square the remaining edge.

What if you don't have a jointer and/or a table saw?

At the very least I would cut off the rounded edges you typically find on construction grade pine lumber. This helps to reduce the gaps between the boards.

Step 2: Mistake 2: Not Using Wood Glue

This was the BIGGEST mistake I made.

I built the first table by just using pocket holes. Nothing wrong with pocket holes but I didn't add any glue to the joints. So no our dining room table has the added feature of shaking while we eat.

For this build, I used wooden dowels to help align the boards on the table top and then used Titebond 2 wood glue in all the joints.

Fun fact: Wood glue creates a joint that is stronger than the wood itself. So if you have applied glue correctly, then the wood will split and break before the joints fail!

Step 3: Mistake 3: Not Taking Account Grain Direction

Wood movement was another concept that I hadn't even heard during my first farmhouse table build.

You want to alternate the cup direction of the wood on the table top. To do this figure out which direction the rings on the end grain of the wood are rotating. By alternating these the table top will have a harder time cupping during seasonal changes.

Step 4: Mistake 4: Attaching Breadboards the Wrong Way

Just like the tabletop, I added breadboards to the ends of the table with pocket screws. Breadboards are another measure to help with the seasonal change in the size of the wood. As the wood expands along the width of the board, the breadboards allow for the movement while still keeping the end of the table flush.

I explained it wrong in the video, for a great explanation be sure and check out this article by Wood Magazine:

The actual construction consists of:

  1. Using a router to create a tenon on the table edges.
  2. Using a table saw to create a mortise in the breadboards
  3. Drilling holes through the table top and breadboard for wooden dowels.
  4. Gluing the center of the breadboard and installing the wooden pins.
  5. Cutting the wooden pins flush to the tabletop.

Step 5: Mistake 5: Not Flattening the Table Top

In the first tabletop build, I lightly sanded the table top. For this build, I used a combination of a hand plane and belt sander to not only get the surface smooth but also flat!

Step 6: Mistake 6: Using Wood Filler Instead of Wooden Plugs

I joined the base together was 4.5 in lag screws. In the previous build, I filled the holes with wood filler. This time I cut out wooden plugs and glued them into place. By using the same wood to fill as the supports, I was able to get a more consistent stain and finish color.

Speaking of stain and finish, I used:

  • 1 Coat of Minwax Dark Walnut
  • 3 Coats of General Finish Arm-R-Seal

Sanding up to 220 grit between each coat!

Step 7: That's It!

I'm by no means an expert, but these are some of the biggest lessons I've learned since building my first farmhouse table. I'd love to know what additional tips you have found from your experience building. Let me know if the comments below!


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