Introduction: How to Build a Medieval Dining Room Set
While visiting a lumber yard recently my wife and her sister fell in love with a large rustic table that they slap together with old spare weathered boards. It was an expensive work bench in my opinion and not very sturdy at that. I said give me a few days and I'll make one and for the same cost I managed to make an even bigger table complete with benches and end chairs. The whole project took less than 2 weeks from designing it in 3D to actually assembling and finishing it with varnish and clavos (medieval screw heads). Final cost was somewhere around $600 - $650 (USD).
Step 1: Designing It in 3D.
I first designed an esthetic look that I wanted in a 3D program I'm familiar with called Maya. Keeping in mind I planned on using basic lumber and the various sizes readily available. Also adjusting for real world measurements, i.e. a 2"x4" is actually more like 1.5"x 3.5" and a 2"x12" is really closer to 1.5"x11" and so on. So in Maya I created an Alpha ruler texture that I can move around to more accurately measure my cuts to avoid any measurement mishaps.
Step 2: Picking the Wood and All the Materials.
I used standard construction pine as it was easily available and cheaper than exotic woods. Going for a rough rustic look so won't need to be to slick or pretty. A cruder look is desired...but to a point.
Wood needed for the table :
5 - 2"x12"x10'
2 - 4"x4"x8'
2 - 2"x8"x8'
6 - 2"x4"8'
Wood need to create 4 benches:
1 - 2"x12"x10'
6 - 2"x4"x8'
Wood for 2 end chairs :
1 - 2"x12"x12'
1 - 2"x8"x8'
Please visit my website page for a larger diagram image :
Step 3: Table Top
Tack the 3 - 2"x4"x42" braces 19" from the end under the 4 table top boards using 2" nails. This is simply to hold the braces in place to flip it over in one piece and ensuring proper placement of the brace before screwing from the surface. Remember to drill pilot holes before drill the wood screws. That helps to pull the boards together and lessen the stress screwing thru the top board. No need to counter sink your screws...they'll get covered up with clavos anyway.
Step 4: Leg Construction
Cut and sand pieces needed for the legs. Most of the 45 degree angled cuts were done with a Miter saw, although a standard circular saw can do the job but you might need additional cutting on the reverse sides of 4"x4"s as the blade death may not completely cut through the thickness. I highly recommend a table top belt sander. Great tool to sand straight surfaces or to round out edges prior to using a hand sander for finer smoothing. Assemble the legs standing straight up to ensure the base foot platforms are level. The 4"x4" and 2"x4" braces will hold the legs in place. It's very easy to assemble just be sure to apply sufficient pressure holding it when drilling in the screws to avoid gaps. Apply some carpenters glue before screwing if you can. Keep in mind to strategically place screws knowing they will be covered up with visible "Clavos" later to enhance that medieval look.
Step 5: Test Assembly for Sanding
Once the legs were assembled I put it all together without screwing the top to the legs so I could sand the table top boards even further. I sanded the hell-out-of-it and made sure the table top corners were very rounded and soft. Nobody likes to walk into a sharp table edge. Due to the size and weight it's best to assemble all the components in the destined dining area. The table top alone I'm guessing weighs about 200lbs and being 44" wide it might not go thru most doorways. So plan ahead and assemble it in it's final spot. Some advice from experience...probably best to stain and varnish in it's components in the workshop or outdoors. I stained and varnish indoors and the fumes proved annoying. Also if you can stain the top boards prior to assembly it would make it easy to stain between the cracks beforehand.
Step 6: Final Table Assembly and Benches
Some additional muscle help would be good to assemble the table pieces and base braces. Unfortunately I was alone at the time to put it all together and that wasn't so easy. But I managed by using my back while on my knees and lifted the table top as I slid in the legs and cross braces. into place for final screws.Best to screw in the base "T" brace together from underneath prior to interlocking it with the legs for more horizontal strength so that the bottom brace doesn't sag. The T brace is designed to give the table more stability and to also be used as a foot rest. I'd also recommend using glue here prior to screwing for more strength. Unfortunately I forgot to glue the T brace together and I fear over time the bottom board may pull away from it's screws. But then again maybe it won't. After assembling the table I created one bench to test and all went well so I made the other 3. The benches are pretty straight forward to assemble. I started with mounting the end pieces to their foot bases and then turned them up-side-down to screw in the cross brace so that it would be level as a support for the top bench boards. Flip it over again and screw in the bottom brace resting on top of the foot bases. Again strategically place your screws knowing they will be covered up with visible clavos. In most cases I used 3" wood screws and 6" for screwing 4"x4"s or going thru the side of 2"x4"s such as securing the legs to the table braces. You can use smaller 2" or 2.5" screws on surface boards like the bench top or seat top boards. Not necessary as the legs or the bases will be sturdy enough.
Step 7: Designing End Chairs
After the table and benches were assembled I went back into Maya to finalize a design for the end chairs in 3D. I tried several designs to include arm rests but it simply wasn't working due to crudeness of the overall design and the raw material I was using. So I decided to drop the arm rests and just go simple with a high back rest. The cloverleaf and half moon cuts were achieved with a Jigsaw, rounded and smoothed with the belt-sander and palm-sander. Assembly was quite easy starting with mounting the back rest to it's foot base. When assembling cross-brace for the legs place a smaller 2"x4" underneath for spacing. I wish I had taken more assembly pics but again it's pretty straight forward...nothing fancy, just strategically place your screws for clavos so they all get covered up and again I'd recommend building it straight up and checking the legs and back rest with a level before doing pilot holes for the final screws. If you intend on making cushions clavos are not needed on the seat surface that will be covered. Once the chairs were assembled I applied the darkest wood stain available and then varnished with a semi mat finish. Be sure to lightly sand the final varnish coat before applying the clavos or you'll have to sand around them which would suck... so I experienced and learned from.
Step 8: Clavos
Finally...it's Clavos time. Woohoo! I had no idea what these were even called when I included them in my 3D concept. Just knew I wanted that raw primitive Medieval look. So I looked into all kinds of screw ends or screw caps. Eventually I found them online and discovered a huge variety is available. I was lucky enough to find mine in Baja...much cheaper! Although I needed approximately 220 clavos to cover all visible screw heads... in the end I could only obtain 105 of the 1" and supplemented with 45 of the 1.25". Which happily worked out just fine...used the larger ones for the table top mostly and the smaller ones for the benches and chairs.I had never used Clavos before so this was gonna be a learning process.They're not too complicated...but here are a few tips based on my experience. Best to pre-drill a starter hole and place it next to the screw head side that would most balance out the distance from each other in proportion to the esthetics of the board width. I.e. It doesn't matter...but in most cases the clavos pin is welded slightly off center and maybe also be bent on an angle. The trick is to place your clavos in the starter hole and rotate the cap till it overlaps the screw head. Hammer it in with a rubber mallet and don't worry about the cap it'll level out as it meets the surface. Although some clavos also have a sharper cap edges designed to eat into the wood. I'd be careful with hammering those in on an angle with soft wood...might splinter the wood.
Step 9: Upholstering Leather End Chair Cushions.
Upholtery time for the end chairs. I got a nice piece of black leather hide and built wooden platforms to fit over the chairs held into place with the back rest. Cut some foam to fit and spray glued it down and then covered them with cotton batting then stapled. Once the leather was all stapled down I added smaller clavos or pins along the edge for decoration.
Step 10: Medieval Accessories.
After the table,benches and chairs were done...I felt a need to make a few accessories like a Medieval Lazy-Susan and 1 smaller bench in the event you might be short 1 seat for that unexpected surprise guest.