Introduction: Oak & Glass Display Top End Table

About: It's said that to perfect a skill takes about 10,000 hours of work and study. If that's the case I've got around 9,000 hours to go. But, like they say, it's not the destination but the journey.

Sometimes an interesting idea for a woodworking project comes from an unexpected source. In this case, inspiration came from a very large dog who, after drinking from his bowl, would leaves puddles of water sitting on our family room table tops whenever his nose took him in that direction. Obviously, when his deeds went unnoticed the results were ugly water stains that degraded the finish of the tables and took time and effort to repair. The solution, pictured here, was to design a table that melded a simple, straightforward semi-craftsman style of woodworking with a contemporary (and dog proof) glass top.

Step 1: A Sliding Shelf Replaces a Traditional Drawer

Since I wanted to build something unique I decided to put a sliding shelf beneath the glass to allow easy access to whatever I chose to display, in this case some magazines and a universal remote.

Step 2: You Don't Need to Be a Pro to Build This Project

I've seen a lot of really creative, beautiful projects on the instructables website. However, whenever I see the words, planer, jointer and router I'm often discouraged from attempting a project myself since these are tools I don't own. This project,however, is for the 99% of us who have a moderate amount of skill and requires a pretty basic inventory of workshop tools.

Tools required:

- A decent table saw
- Power drill
- Finishing Sander
- A pocket hole jig and jig accessories (Kreg jig and Kreg clamps recommended)
- A decent collection of different size wood clamps

Step 3: Planning Your Project: Table Size, Materials Needed & Estimated Cost

End tables are generally 21" to 24" in height, with the other dimensions determined by the designer. I would suggest planning the size relative to the surrounding furniture, your individual needs or specific aesthetic preferences.

My wood of choice for furniture projects is red oak. I buy S4S (sanded and square on all four sides) because I don't have a planer or jointer to handle these tasks. S4S wood is sold by many home centers but is relatively expensive compared to lesser grades of material that require squaring the ends and creating a uniform thickness before the wood is suitable to use on a project, especially furniture making. So, if you decide to use this type of wood it is very important to thoroughly plan you project before buying your material. In doing so you will avoid waste, which will save you money.

As a general example, for this project I purchased four, 4"x4" pieces of red oak (four feet in length) for the table legs at a cost of around $100. However, after ripping the legs to the proper size ( 2 1/2" square) I had more than enough wood left to make all my rail and shelf trim. I used 2"x2" red oak for the rails (ripped to 1" wide) and oak plywood for the shelves. The total cost for material was around $150.00. I already had glass from an old glass and chrome end table. However, in the past I have bought used glass (tables) on Craigslist for other projects at really good prices. If you buy glass from a glass shop, buy it as thick as you can (around 3/8" to almost 1/2") and expect to pay around $125.00-150.00. It needs to be heavy so it won't move easily if bumped.

Step 4: Cut All Project Pieces Per Your Design Specs

Besides a drawing of your project it helps to have a parts list with dimensions of every piece you need.

After the pieces are cut, pocket holes need to be drilled in all the rails. By carefully planning the placement of your pocket holes most, if not all, won't show when the project is completed. However, for any holes that cannot be hidden, Kreg makes wood or plastic plugs as a finishing option.

If using S4S wood as previously mentioned, minimal sanding will be required. I look for any imperfections that need touching up and also like to smooth the edges of each board with gentle sanding.

Next stain and seal the project pieces prior to assembly. For this table I decided to use two different colors of stain, Golden Oak for the shelves and rail trim and Burgundy for the table legs and rails. I chose to use oil for the finish. An oil finish is fast, easy and offers great results. A complete line of oil finishes, many that will color and finish the wood in one step is available from the Watco company. An alternative finishing technique is to finish the vertical surfaces with oil and use a satin polyurethane on the horizontal surfaces.

Step 5: Begin Assembly Using Easy Pocket Hole Joinery Techniques

Begin assembling the table by building the left and right sides.

Mortise and Tenon joinery is a really cool woodworking technique that takes time, patience and, realistically, a drill press to create accurately placed mortises - Three things I didn't have when building this project!

The ease and simplicity of pocket hole joinery is illustrated in this series of pictures. The 1" x 1 1/2" rails were each drilled with two pocket holes at the ends of the rail. Determine the location of the joint and clamp wood spacers to the legs for precise positioning of the rails. Next, a Kreg pocket hole clamp secures the rail to the leg through one of the pocket holes. Once a screw is installed in the adjacent pocket hole the clamp can be removed so the second screw can complete the joint.

If you haven't got a drill press forget the mortise and tenon and give pocket hole joinery a try. You will be amazed how easy it is as well as the strength of the joint.

Step 6: Add the Rail Trim to the Finished Sides

This step is very straightforward. With a good quality wood glue, glue the accent trim (if you choose to use some) to the rails. Clamp together and allow adequate time for the glue to cure.

Note that the trim is set approximately 1/16" below the top of the rails to produce a design accent.

Step 7: Assemble Front and Rear Rails to the Left and Right Sides

As in step 5, use spacers to position the rails and attach them using the Kreg clamp and pocket hole screws.

This picture also shows two other design considerations:

1) The top side trim has wood blocks and a 1/4" oak backing to extend the 1 1/2" thickness of the rails to the bottom of the outside trim. This provides a mounting surface at the correct height to accept the exterior glides for the sliding shelf.

2) Shelf supports were added to the left and right bottom side rails for attaching the lower shelf with wood screws.

Step 8: Attach Lower Shelf and Trim to Front and Rear Rails

Screw the lower shelf to the rail supports shown in the photo in step 7.

Then glue and clamp the front and rear rail trim as you did in step 6.

Note the narrow upper front rail (picture 2) which strengthens the frame but is hidden from view by the sliding shelf.

Step 9: Build the Upper Sliding Shelf

The upper shelf consists of five pieces: the shelf, a 1 1/2" wide trim piece stained in the accent color, the shelf front with handle and two wood rails on the underside of the shelf to mount the partner glides.

- The shelf, cut slightly smaller than the opening allows for a uniform border on three sides to facilitate a smooth opening and closing action.

- The 1 1/2" wide trim piece, stained to match the color of rails forms a rectangular design on the top shelf matching the rail design of the lower shelf. A notch is cut in the center of the trim piece to allow easy attachment of the shelf handle. I felt that the basic craftsman style of the table would be accentuated using complementary yet contrasting stain colors.This contrast also calls attention to rails being slightly taller than the larger rail trim.

- The shelf front maintains the style of the rail trim with two kerf size grooves cut as accents into the shelf face. The pull handle was chosen because I liked the simplicity it conveyed, reflecting the craftsman styling of the table.

- 2 wooden shelf glide supports, shown with the interior glides attached, are glued to the underside of the shelf. They are offset from the edge of the shelf the exact thickness of the glide.

Assembly: Screw the trim piece to the shelf front, attach the pull handle and, finally, glue to the shelf to the face to complete the assembly. Finally screw the shelf glide rails to the underside of the shelf and attach the glides.

Step 10: Trim the Top of the Table Legs

The glass for the table rests on trim pieces that should be designed to suit the unique vision of the designer. I chose to use 2"x2" glass tiles that were left over from a bathroom remodel and surrounded them with a mitered 1/2" thick oak border. As seen in the picture below the top trim extends approximately 1/2" beyond the table legs on all sides. Below the top trim is a border of 1/4" thick oak which lends an interesting staggered look.

As previously mentioned, the glass should be at as thick as possible since the heavier the glass, the less chance it will move or shift if accidentally bumped.

Step 11: The Final Result

This table was a blast to build. While I'm thoroughly pleased with the look and style of the finished project, I know everyone is entitled to expressing their personal creativity in a manner that best suits them.

At the very least, I hope the construction details as explained here help you in creating your own vision of the perfect end table!

Step 12: Addendum # 1 - 6/25/12 - Display Top Coffee Table

I added these photos to illustrate the flexibility that a display top table offers. I recently built this coffee table as a sister piece to my oak and glass end table. The design is different but the construction principles are consistent with those explained in this instructable. The space between the glass top and the shelf makes it easy to reach anything stored on the shelf.

Step 13: Addendum #2 - 8/17/12 Display Top Sofa Table

This table completes the set and features a storage drawer to help keep the glass top clutter free. The space between the glass top and shelf is only 1 1/2" tall so access is more limited. Examples of personal items to display could include framed photos, sea shells, vacation souvenirs, depression glass, etc.

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