Build Your Own: Affordable Modern Dining & Gaming Table

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Introduction: Build Your Own: Affordable Modern Dining & Gaming Table

Looking for a quarantine project to seriously upgrade your space?

Love the modern look, but don't want to spend several thousand dollars on a new dining table?

Tired of trying to play board games on a table that's too small?

I'm Todd Medema. I studied woodworking at Carnegie Mellon, and over quarantine, I've completed more than a dozen pieces of furniture.

Today, I'll be showing you how to use some clever tricks to build an amazing dining table in just a few hours, for under one thousand dollars!

Only a few wood tools are required. If you don't have a metals shop, you can buy the legs from Etsy - but if you do, we'll be able to have even more fun :)

Supplies

Before ordering, decide on your table's length, width and height. These instructions work for any table up to 8' long and 4' wide. I made my table 40"x80" to fit 8 people and large board games.

Wood

  • Supplies
  • Tools
    • Measuring tape
    • Pencil
    • Sharp thing (box cutter, razor blade, etc)
    • Table saw
    • Clamps (at least two wider than the shorter dimension of the table)
    • Sander (orbital sander or hand sanding block)
    • Clothing iron
    • Paint brush or lint-free cloth
    • Optional: Router with round-over bit (I used 1/8" diameter for a sharp modern look)

Metal

  • If you don't have metalworking capabilities, you can buy completed legs from Etsy for ~$290
  • If you do, you can build them yourself for only $199:
  • Supplies
    • Metal (I bought 4x 2'3.5"x2"x1"x11GA and 8x 1'10"x2"x1"x11GA steel tube from MetalsDepot, $190)
      • If you don't have a horizontal bandsaw and are planning on hand miter sawing, you might consider getting a slightly thinner gauge
    • Metal paint (I bought Rust-oleum primer and Rust-oleum Black Satin spray paint from Home Depot, $9)
      • Optional: If you have powder coating capabilities, do that for even better results
  • Tools
    • Metal saw (horizontal bandsaw is best, but hand miter sawing will also work)
    • Welder (anything that can do steel - TIG, MIG or Flux Core)
    • Drill and metal drill bit(s) big enough to fit your desired screws
    • Optional: Bench or angle grinder

Step 1: Wood Surface

Pre-pandemic dining tables might have had solid wood tops, but since lumber prices have doubled in the past year, that's an excess most of us can't afford.

Instead, we're going to be using a trick I learned in school: a composite layer of beautiful, durable, re-finishable hardwood on top, with a layer of plywood beneath to increase thickness and structural strength.

Then, we'll finish off the edges with a roll of edge tape to make it look like a single, beautiful slab of wood.

Part 1: Planning

Lay out your nice wood planks. Bask in their beauty, and get excited for the table they're about to become!

Looking at them, decide where each will go and their final orientation. Use this as a chance to remove the least beautiful sections of each board.

Once you've decided, use your pencil to mark their final orientation and the material you'll be removing to achieve your desired length and width.

Part 2: Cutting

Show that wood who's boss! It's time to cut the planks and plywood down to size.

Tips

  • For the long-side cuts, I recommend an assistant or using a circular saw.
  • Save the scraps from cutting for now, you may find them useful during the glue up.

Part 3: Glue Up

Before gluing, it's always a good idea to do a dry fit. Lay your plywood on the ground or sawhorses, and place the planks on top of it to make sure everything fits snuggly when lightly clamped in place. Don't worry if you have to trim the plywood or planks a little to get the fit just right - the more precise you are now, the better the final product will be.

Once you're happy with the fit, it's time to glue! Apply glue liberally to the bottom of the planks, then place the plywood on top of them. Once they're all in place, use your clamps to lightly secure them. Then, put a TON of heavy stuff on the top.

Tips

  • Use your long cutting scraps to help with alignment and applying even clamping pressure
  • Put your weights on the surface carefully, you don't want to dent it!
  • See the picture for recommended gluing pattern - zigzags across the whole area, but not getting too close to the edge (no closer than 1cm / 0.5") to avoid squeeze out

Part 4: Cat Break

And now we wait. Cat break!

(At least an hour, but overnight is best)

Part 5: Clean Up

If the plywood and plank edges don't line up after gluing, you can follow up with a circular saw, router + flush trimming bit, or hand plane. You'll want your edges to be as flush as possible for the edge tape to bond properly.

Now is also a good time to rough sand to remove any ridges or unevenness (make sure to do outdoors or wear a dust mask!)

Part 6: Edge Tape

If you've never used it before, edge tape is super easy. Just set your Iron to cotton, hold the tape along the edge (an assistant is useful) and heat it with the iron until it sticks.

Once the edge tape is secured, trim off the excess with a sharp thing (such as a razor blade or box knife).

Tips:

  • Have your assistant hold the other end of the tape straight and taunt to avoid ironing in bumps
  • Do a second pass with your assistant applying ~10 seconds of pressure behind you with a flat piece of scrap wood
  • Wiggle the iron and pressure up and down to secure it along the edges
  • Spend extra time on the corners
  • Trim in two passes: a rough pass to remove most of the material, then a more precise pass. If you try to remove it all in one cut, it'll come off in large chunks and may result in unsightly gaps

Part 7: Beveling

If you like your tables sharp, ignore this step.

For the rest of us with mortal flesh, there are two ways to round your table:

  1. If you have (or buy, they're about $100) a router, using a round-over bit will give you the best and fastest results
  2. Otherwise, you can hand sand your edges and corners, getting the rough shape with 60-80 grit, and then doing a second pass with 100-120 grit to clean it up

Tips:

  • You can round your top edges a LOT (1/8"+), since the edge tape will blend perfectly with the real wood
  • You can only round the corners and bottom edges a LITTLE (light hand sanding), since too much rounding would reveal the plywood beneath

Part 8: Sanding

Now that the surface is rough sanded and beveled, go back and sand it all the way to 220 grit.

Part 9: Applying the Finish

You can use any wood finish you'd like. I generally use Rubio Monocoat for its low VOC content, but wanted something a little clearer and more durable for the table, so I decided to try Osmo Polyx - and I'm quite pleased with the result! Both of these finishes are quite forgiving in application (vs something like Triple Thick Polyurethane, which will show bubbles at the slightest suggestion of dust), but you're welcome to use whatever finish you're comfortable with.

Tips:

  • Running your air filtration at max, clean your shop then wait at least an hour before applying finish to give dust time to settle
  • Just before applying the finish, wipe your table down with Tack Cloth ($3) to remove any last dust

Step 2: Metal Legs

Once you're done with the woodworking, it's time to make the legs! (or, hey, make the legs before the surface - nobody's judging)

Part 1: Plan & Cut

I ordered two different lengths of metal:

  • The 4 longer lengths are the vertical supports. Double check that they're all the same length (to within 1/16"). If they are, no cutting is needed. They're designed to go all the way from the floor to the table surface for maximum structural support.
  • The 8 shorter lengths are the inner parts of the legs - each of these will need one 45° cut.

So, let's get them cut!

Tips

  • Any time you're trying something new (such as a 45° cut), it's a good idea to practice on a piece of scrap first
  • Save the scraps, they're great for practice and test welds

Part 2: Weld

With our pieces cut, it's time to weld them into the final shape.

Order of operations is important here, so that you don't end up with a weird shape that's difficult to support and clamp. I ended up making U shapes with the longer pieces and two shorter pieces, and then welding both 45°s together. But, this depends on your space and clamps, so it's worth doing a dry run.

Tips

  • Each time you come back to the machine, doing a quick test weld before starting on the real piece will help you avoid costly mistakes
  • This 90

    °

    clamp is a life-saver for right-angle welds, and only $16

Part 3: Optional: Grind welds to clean up

You can clean up your welds as much or as little as you'd like. I didn't clean the TIG welds and it looks great - but if you're a perfectionist or used messier Flux Core, you may want to do at least a little grinding to make it easier for the paint to get everywhere.

Part 4: Drill screw holes

I drilled 4 evenly-spaced holes along the top of each leg for screws.

Part 5: Clean & Paint

Let's make our welded legs look nice:

  1. Clean with soap, water, and scrubbing
  2. Rinse with water
  3. Let dry
  4. Apply primer spray paint
  5. Apply final coat
  6. Let dry overnight

Tips

  • Clean and paint your parts in close succession to prevent rust from forming
  • When spray painting, don't rush it! 3-4 light coats always comes out better than 1-2 heavy coats, and only costs you a few extra minutes in dry time

Step 3: Assemble and Enjoy!

Once you've built your surface and legs, all you have to do is screw them together. I recommend doing this in the room it'll live in (with 1-2 assistants), since it's quite heavy once the legs are attached.

  1. Flip the surface upside down onto towels or carpet (to prevent scratching)
  2. Mark out desired leg locations with your measuring tape and pencil (make sure to leave enough space for your desired number of chairs)
  3. Use wood screws to attach legs to the surface
  4. Optional: Apply furniture feet
  5. Flip the whole assembly upright
  6. Enjoy!
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    3 Comments

    0
    NirL
    NirL

    1 year ago

    Looks great, thanks for sharing!
    I'd love to see some more pictures of that lamp too!!

    0
    bunnydeath
    bunnydeath

    Reply 1 year ago

    I second on that lamp. My brain is working overtime on it!

    0
    jessyratfink
    jessyratfink

    1 year ago

    That is lovely! Great job :)