Introduction: Cheap, Easy, Low-waste Trestle Table Plans

About: Craftsman of fortune. Less is more, and simpler is better.

Build an attractive trestle table for about $100.00, in an hour and a half, using common materials, and minimum number of tools. It is suitable for dining or as a work table. It can can be set up or taken apart in a minute or two, using no tools, and stores compactly.

There are several holes to drill, but absolute precision isn't necessary, and a hand-held drill will work fine.

This version is 30" high, 36" wide, and 80" long. It seats 6 comfortably, and 8 in a pinch. It is also easily re-sized. If you would like material dimensions for other finished sizes, just leave a comment or PM me. Comments and ratings are more than welcome.

For a similar shelving unit, click here.
For a similar platform bed, click here.

As a professional carpenter, furniture maker, and designer/builder, I see a lot of home carpentry projects that are grossly overbuilt and over-engineered. One of the goals of this Instructable is to avoid the unnecessary overbuilding that I frequently see on this site, and that I see every day working in the residential construction industry. Many of the building methods we (in the US) use today are horribly wasteful despite the advances that have been made in materials science and structural engineering, because most people in the residential building industry, from architects and engineers to carpenters, are mired in tradition, doing things a certain way "because that is how it has always been done", rather than consulting the best available science, or even questioning their own assumptions about "the right way to do it". I don't intend to knock tradition, either. Many of the tricks, techniques, and tools that I use daily are definitely "old-school", but seem to have been forgotten.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


Skillsaw, handsaw miter box, or power miter saw
Tape measure
Drill (drill motor)
1/8" (#10) countersinking bit, or just an 1/8" bit
1/2" drill bit
Screwdriver (hand or power)
Square (if you are using a Skillsaw)
Optional: Jigsaw or bandsaw


(1) 10' 2 x 4
(2) 8' 2 x 6
(24) 3"  #10 wood screws
18"  1/2" dowel
(4) screw-on rubber furniture feet
(1) 3'-0" x 6'-8" x 1-3/8"  flush, solid-core door slab
A small amount of wood glue, or just regular white glue.

A note on screws: I am a professional carpenter and furniture maker, and I make things easier on myself by NEVER using Phillips head screws. The Phillips head was designed to "cam out" at a fairly low torque for assembly line work before the advent of adjustable torque limiting drill/drivers. I use only Robertson square drive or Torx head screws, and save myself a lot of time and frustration.

Solid-core door slabs of this size are sometimes normal "stock" items at the lumberyard, but you may have to order it. Make sure that you specify very clearly that you want "an un-bored, un-mortised flush door slab, with no jamb". You can even order a pre-finished slab for a few bucks more, and save yourself some work. Different species of wood are available. I used plain old birch.

The 2x material can be of any species, but take a few extra minutes to pick straight and attractive boards.

The finish on the table is optional, and up to you. I spent about $50.00 on stain, varnish, and sandpaper. The top is simply varnished (3 coats), the trestles are Minwax Ebony, and the stretcher is Minwax English Chestnut (with 2 coats of varnish). I used Sherwin-Williams satin Oil-based varnish, but a wipe-on polyurethane would be easier, as would a spray lacquer like Deft. Sand the bare wood with 120-grit paper, no finer, and follow the instructions supplied by the manufacturer of whatever finish you choose. If you choose to finish the table, you should clearcoat every surface of each piece, but you only have to stain the surfaces that show.

Step 2: Cutting Tips


A bevel is an angled cut which is perpendicular to the wider face of the board but at an angle across the narrower edge of the board.

A miter is an angled cut which is perpendicular to the narrower edge of the board but at an angle across the wider face of the board.

To set your saw to a bevel, first cut a piece of scrap to the desired angle, and then use the scrap to set the bevel. If you don't have a way to determine the initial angle (in this case 10 degrees) draw a rectangle that is 2" x 11-3/8" and connect the corners.

When cutting dowels or other small stock with a power miter saw, place a piece of scrap behind the stock being cut to support and "catch" the cut-off piece.

Step 3: Measure, Measure, Mark and Cut

Refer to the PDF for an illustrated cut list.

From the 2 x 4 cut:

(2) 30" lengths
(2) 24" lengths

Add a 1/2" chamfer to the ends. Measure back 1/2" from the ends, and make a 45 degree cut, "clipping" the corner off of the board. Refer to the photo, it will be much clearer.

From the 2 x 6s cut:

(4) 2'-2" pieces, with a 10 degree bevel on each end. The bevels should be parallel to       each other, forming a parallelogram when viewed from edge of the board. The measurement is made from a long point to a short point.

(1) 5'-0" piece, with a 10 degree miter on each end, forming a trapezoid when viewed from the face of the board. The 5' is measured from long point to long point.

(1) 8 5/8" piece, square cut. Because perfect alignment of this piece is unlikely, you should aggressively "ease" the cut ends with a bit of sandpaper.

From the dowel cut:

(4) 2 3/8" pieces
(7) 7/8" pieces


On the bottom edge of the 5' 2 x 6, cut a decorative profile. My table has a 4' wide arc that is 1-13/16" tall. A curve this shallow can be cut with a Skilsaw, if the blade depth is set to exactly 1-1/2". Other options are shown in the PDFs. Check out my Instructable on laying out curves.

Step 4: Drill the 2 X 4s

On the unchamfered face of each 30" piece, mark 9-3/4", 11-1/2", 13-1/4", 16-3/4" 18-1/2", and 20-1/4" then mark the centers (1-3/4" from the edge). See the 1st photo. Drill 1/8" pilot holes in these locations.

On the unchamfered face of each 24" piece, mark 1-3/4", 6-3/4", 8-1/2", 10-1/4", 13-3/4", 15-1/2", 17-1/4, and 22-1/4", then mark the centers. See the 2nd photo. Drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes at the two outermost locations. Use a piece of tape to mark the depth of the hole on your 1/2" bit. Drill 1/8" pilot holes in the other six locations.

Step 5: Drill 2 X 6s

Align two of the 2 x 6s face to face so that they look like an arrow when viewed from the edge. See the 1st photo. Hooking the tape on one of the long (tail of the arrow ends) mark 13-1/8" and 19-1/8". Transfer these marks across the edge, and then mark the centers. See the 2nd photo. Drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes at these locations. Repeat these steps with the other pair of 2 x 6s.

On one end of the shortest 2 x 6, mark the absolute center. O the other end, mark 1-1/4" in from each edge, and then mark the centers. Drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes in these locations. See 3rd and 4th photos. You may want a clamp or an extra set of hands while drilling these holes.

On the top, long edge of the 5' 2 x 6 mark 28-1/2" and 31-1/2" measuring from the long point. Mark the centers and drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes at those locations. See the 5th photo.

Step 6: Drill the Door Slab

Measure in 16" from the ends of the door, and 7-3/4" in from the edges, making marks at the four intersections. Make a mark in the dead center of the door, 1'-6" from the edges and 3'-4" from the ends, forming a quincunx. I love that word. Drill 1/2" diameter, 1/2" deep holes in these five locations. Again, check the photos.

If you are going to sand, stain, finish, or paint your table, now is the time to do it.

Step 7: Assemble Trestles

It is good to have a helper for this part, but it can be done solo (I did).

On the chamfered face of the 30" 2 x 4 make a mark 1'-2-1/4" from the end. Draw a line 1" from the edge, parallel to it. On dark material, it is helpful to use a piece of tape to indicate the line, as pencil is hard to see. See 1st photo. Using screws, attach one of the bevelled 2 x 6s to the 2 x 4, keeping the pointed "toe" of the bevel on the 1" line. The edge should be on the other mark. The 1/2" holes should be towards the center, and away from the 2 x 4.

Apply a small amount of glue to one end of two of the 2-3/8" dowels and place them in the holes in the 2 x 6. Place a small amount of glue in the 1/2" holes in the matching 2 x 6, and attach it to the 2 x 4, using scrap 2x material to maintain 1-1/2"  of separation between the 2 x 6s. See the 2nd and 3rd photos.

"Cap" the assembly with a 24" 2 x 4, but make your layout mark at 11-1/4".

Attach two of the rubber feet to the longer 2 x 4, as far "outboard" as you can. See photo 5.

Repeat the whole process, making two trestles.

Glue 7/8" dowels into all three holes in the 8-5/8" 2 x 6.

Step 8: Final Set-up

Place the long 2 x 6 through the trestles, between the 2 x 6s and dowels. Position the trestles 4" from the long point of the 2 x 6. See photo. Place the short 2 x 6 on top of the long 2 x 6. Put 7/8" dowels, unglued, in the four holes in the shorter 2 x 4. Place the slab on top of the assembly and adjust the legs and top until the dowels match up with the holes.

Enjoy! Please post pictures of your efforts.

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