Introduction: The "Work From Home" Solid Oak & Pine Kitchen Table
With the recent lockdown, and the future ones that seem to be inevitable, I found myself working from home for almost 6 months. Week in and week out, I'd sit at my kitchen table in the same place everyday with the same makeshift set up for my laptop and monitor. Cramped for space, with nothing at hand and papers and cables strewn all over.
In a similar manner to my recent Garden Overhaul Instructable, I began to realise that, pandemic withstanding, I should have a tidy and organised workplace to get stuff done from home. And after disposing of the old kitchen table, now was the time to build it.
For this project you will approximately need:
- 3 (300mm x 2400mm 27mm) Oak Boards
- An Assortment of Screws and Bolts From 10mm to 70m
- 6 Drawer Handles
- Various Sized Brackets
- 4 Barrel Hinges
- Aluminium Angle
- Sheets of 6mm Hardboard
- 1 (6mm x 2400mm x 6mm) Length of Pine Dowel
- 2 (35mm x 2400mm x 35mm) Lengths of Pine Dowel
- 1 (15mm x 2400mm x 15mm) Length of Stripwood Pine
- 5 (92mm x 2400mm x 15mm) Boards of Stripwood Pine
- 5 (92mm x 2400mm x 24mm) Boards of Stripwood Pine
- 1 (300mm x 1500mm x 18mm) Sheet of Butchers Block Pine
- 1 (400mm x 2400mm x 18mm) Sheet of Butchers Block Pine
- 4 (44mm x 44mm x 2400mm) Lengths of Stripwood Pine
The toolsused for this project were:
- A Router With a Diverse Bit Set
- A Hand Drill
- A Tenon Saw
- A Planer
- A Palm Sander
- A Set of Chisels
- A Mitre Saw
Step 1: The Design
If you've read my previous Instructable, you'll know my preference for hand drawn plans. Before the previous table was removed I took measurements of its dimensions. I didn't want the new table to take up any more space than the old one had. Dimensions of 99cm by 180cm were what I decided, with a leg length of 71cm.
I wanted to reduce the amount of clutter, wiring and space my work took up. I looked at what had been creating the most clutter before on my old table and noticed 3 major issues:
- Paperwork, books and stationary
- My portable monitor
- The laptop and all the cables connected to it
With the issues identified, I set out to create practical solutions for them; some of which can be seen in the design and some which will feature later.
To organise the stacks of books and stationary, I would replace the back left leg with a set of 3 drawers. This would later evolve to a set of 6 drawers and replaced both back legs and span to the other side of the table. Originally the design featured a bureau extension to the desk space, but this was left out of the final build with accommodations so it could be added later.
I've always been a lover of more screen space, and multiple monitors are a must. Switching to a high spec laptop last year and moving from a tower made me switch to a portable monitor that could be run from the laptop. Ironically, as the setup has become more sedentary, the features of the otherwise excellent monitor become a hindrance. Its stand is rather large and simultaneously acts as a protective carrying case, taking up space and lacking the adjustability of a normal monitor mount. Instead, I planned to fit a gas piston monitor arm with a plate that the monitor could sit into, as it doesn't feature any standard monitor mounts.
Finally, the Laptop itself was taking up too much table space. I preferred to type from a wireless ergonomic keyboard and mouse, making the track pad and keyboard on the laptop wastes of table space. In the designs I planned a sunken shelf with a hatch into which the laptop could be places. Cables and outputs could then be wired to hubs which come through the table.
Step 2: Acquiring the Wood and Gluing the Tabletop
As the title suggests, I used solid oak boards for this project. It was difficult to find the right size and quality of oak from standard DIY retailers, so I instead went directly to a local sawmill. I find, whilst the wood might not have as much finishing, the quality, price and sizes are much better.
I got 3, 240cm long, 30cm wide, 2.7cm thick boards of square edged oak. To achieve the 99cm width, and make other features of the table easier to integrate, I purchased some 44mm x 44mm pine timber that would frame the middle board and provide a decorative accent.
I compared the boards of oak against each other in order to find the straightest, least warped sections of board that complimented each other, which Is why I had purchased lengths so much longer than I needed. I numbered each board and marked where they lined up. As much excess as was workable was removed from each board using a router before they were lined up with the pine timber to mark out biscuit joints. It was at this point that the 50cm Laptop window was cut out of the middle board and put aside for planeing.
6mm Biscuit joints were cut using the router, and oak biscuits were made to join all the boards and timber. The tabletop was glued with a strong wood adhesive and clamped together for the night.
Step 3: Squaring the Tabletop
When the tabletop was released from the clamps it had significant bowing across its width. The square pine timber and the careful countering of warped sections of the other boards had removed the worst of the bowing from the length.
To secure the table and counter the warping, I fixed struts of the 44mm square pine timber across the tabletop. What was important now was that the table has its final dimensions marked out clearly so I knew the space I was working with. The most important feature of the tabletop was the laptop window. Once I had measured to ensure that it was square, I could use it as the reference point to mark out the rest of the table so the final excess could be trimmed later once it had been flattened.
I measured 30cm from the edge of the window to mark the bottom of the table, and then from this mark I measured 180cm to the other end to mark the front of the table. I went back to add 2.7cm to the bottom of the table, as at the time I was still intending to make the bureau and the board for the extension would have hung on the side of the drawers under this newly created lip.
I cut 4 struts out of the pine, each had a 50 degree mitred edge so they sloped back away from the tabletop. 3 of them were 85cm long and one was 80cm long, again to accommodate the original bureau. I cut tracks for them in the inlaid pine timber using a flat dovetail saw. One strut was placed in the centre of where the drawers would be, one was placed framing the right hand side of the laptop window to act as the joint for the shelf, another was placed 10cm in from the front edge of the table and the final strut was centred between the 2 previous ones.
They were secured in place after the table had been clamped flat using 9 screws, 6 4.5mm x 60mm screws and 3 10mm x 70mm screws and wood glue.
Finally with the tabletop flat, the last of the excess was cut off using the router.
Note: Its best to use a long known square edge to run the router against when making long flat cuts
Step 4: Fitting the Laptop Hatch
Before the tabletop could be sanded, the laptop hatch needed to be fitted to that it could be blended into the tabletop. As I previously mentioned, the hatch section was put aside for planeing. To fit into the planer it has to be cut in 2 before being reduced in thickness from 2.7cm to 1.5cm. It was then joined back together with a biscuit join just as the tabletop was.
The board will rest on a pair of aluminium angle runners that span the width of the hatch. With a depth of 1.5cm on the inside of the angle they make a perfect seam on the tabletop. They were cut to length and drilled with 5 countersunk holes before being fitted to the tabletop. They would stay in position now all the way through sanding and finishing to make a seamless joint between the metal and wood. Having them in place also makes the next step easier.
The hatch was to be fitted to the pine accent of the table top with 4 invisible barrel hinges. The hinges are quite difficult to fit, especially when trying to work with the slight warping of the hatch board. I marked them out to the same depth on both the hatch board and the pine and drilled holes to just enough depth to seat the hinge.
The hinges use both an expanding clamp and a countersunk screw to hold themselves in place. In the soft pine this pushes the hinge out of line to a noticeable degree but they stay fast in the more solid oak, this had to be taken into account before drilling the holes. Once in place, an extra guide hole was drilled for the securing screw and a countersunk brass machine bolt was screwed into place.
Step 5: Sanding
With the laptop window finished it was time to sand the entire tabletop. I used a large belt sander and started on a heavy 80 grit belt, using its ability to quickly clear material to remove some of the remaining curvature of the individual boards of the tabletop. I then switched to a 120 belt to get close to a finished surface, making sure to sweep the sander at a 45 degree angle to the boards.
I finished the top with a palm sander and a 240 grit pad. I used the same palm sander and a vibrasaw to clean up the underside of the table and difficult to reach places. I gave the top a final pass with a wire wool pad.
After this was finished I test fitted my laptop and cut the holes for a rising power strip and a USB hub.
Step 6: Finishing the Tabletop
The tabletop was finished with an oil based satin gold polyurethane varnish applied as 2 coats, one thinned down 3:1 with white spirit and one undiluted coat. Whilst oil based polyurethane varnishes are much more expensive than their water based counterparts, oil based varnishes provide a deep, rich finish that you just wont get with a water based varnish.
Step 7: Set of Drawers
For the next step I set out to make the set of drawers, modifying my original design so that they would be 90cm deep and have 3 drawers accessible from both sides. I cut 12 supports at 26.4cm wide out of 92mm by 15mm finishing pine, the same pine that would eventually make up the draws themselves. I cut 2 90cm boards for sides from a 18mm by 400mm butchers block pine sheet and a 90cm long base from a 300mm x 18mm sheet.
I drilled 2 dowel holes into each strut 2cm in from each side. I marked out and drilled the corresponding dowel holes on the 400mm side sheets so that, once the 300mm base sheet was fitted, there would be 6 sets of runners for drawers, with the front runner finished flush with the front of the frame, and a stand off void from the tabletop where the bureau was going to be. I had decided not to do the bureau at this time and just cover the gap with a false front.
I glued and clamped the frame together, letting the dowels from the supports come through the boards. Once it dried I cut the dowels flush, then sanded and filled any splits. I finished the runners by gluing square 15mm strips between each support for the drawers to run on.
The base board was screwed and glued in place and used to help square up the frame further.
Step 8: Making the Cross Leg
The cross leg was made by laminating 3 layers of 92mm by 25mm pine. 6 pieces of 75cm pine were cut for this. In the first half of the leg, the middle lamination had a 92mm section removed so that the middle layer of the second half of the leg could pass through it. The outside layers of the second half would have 92mm sections removed so that the opposing outside layers could pass through continuously. When finished and glued together the cross was near seamless and solid.
To gain the height to make it a 71cm high table leg, a header and a footer were made out of 3 more layers. The outside layers of every corner of the cross were cut and chiselled off parallel to the ground and the tabletop so that the point formed by the middle layer of the leg would slot into a groove cut out of the middle layer of the header/footer. The cross slotted and glued perfectly into place in the header and footer.
Once complete 2 25mm thick feet were glued to the bottom to gain the final few cm of height.
Step 9: Attaching the Legs
With the cross leg built I went about attaching it to the table top. I wanted both the drawers and the leg to be fairly easy to remove so that I could move the table later. I first measured and centralised the leg on the inside edge of the first strut. I then marked where the pine accents passed through it below.
I then cut and chiselled the channels out of the leg. I did the same for the set of drawers at the other end after making the far side of the drawers 2.7cm from the end of the table and the inner side flush with the laptop window. I cut the grooves out of the legs and drawers, instead of the accents this time as I did with the struts, as it will make it easier to locate them in future. Neither the drawers or the leg were glued to the table, instead I used metal brackets of 2 sises for the leg and screwed 4 wooden mounts 15mm inside void of the set of drawers.
Once everything was in place I measured the exact height of the leg and then calculated how much height I needed to add to the set of drawers. I drilled 4 35mm indents into the base of the drawers and cut lengths of 35mm dowel to make legs of the correct height. They were glued in place and held straight whilst they set by cable tying them to 2 aerosol cans. Its a simple trick as the cans are perfectly straight and the dowel is held parallel in the groove between the cans.
What I forgot to take pictures of, but was done before everything was dismantled for sanding and varnishing, was that a 400mm wide shelf was fitted from the window strut to the set of drawers. A piece of 15mm square pine was attached to the side of the drawers for it to rest on. This would form the platform that the Laptop could sit on when the table was finished.
I also drilled and glued a 35mm dowel through the centre of the leg cross to form a support that attached to a wooden plate screwed to the set of drawers bellow the laptop shelf. Once dry and sanded, the leg with the pole attached and the set of drawers with the shelf removed were varnished in the same manner as the tabletop.
Step 10: Making and Fitting the Drawers
The drawers were made in a similar manner to the supports of their frame. Front and back pieces of 26cm and side pieces of 39cm were cut out of 92mm by 15mm pine. 6mm dowel holes were drilled in the ends of the side pieces in the same was as the frame supports, and corresponding holes were drilled in the front and back pieces. For 6 drawers you need 12 fronts/backs and 12 sides, with 48 lengths of dowel to assemble them.
Before they were assembled, each piece was run through a jig so the router could cut a 6mm groove towards the bottom of the inside to hold the hardboard bases of each drawer. I cut hardboard to size from various sheet I had lying around and glued them into place before fitting the back of each drawer.
Like the side of the frame, I cut and sanded the dowels flush with the face and backs of each drawer.
Using a hand plane and the palm sander, I fitted and matched each drawer to a set of runners; removing material and sanding them until they moved smoothly. I numbered each drawer and runner together in the frame before sanding and varnishing them.
I later fitted each drawer with a 16cm black handle.
Step 11: Final Assembly and Final Thoughts
After transporting the table from the workshop to my house, I assembled it with some help in the kitchen/dining room area. This is also where I fitted the rising power strip, the gas piston monitor arm and the USB hub. I matched the table with a jute rug, a nice set of vintage pine chairs and stools, and real slate tile place mats. I also ran power to the table, under the rug and a trip strip, to a 2 gang port for the laptop charger and the power strip.
As you can see I made a plate for my monitor on the monitor arm out of a section of the 400mm pine and a strip of pine moulding.
I am beyond pleased how the project turned out, and having used the table now for over a month I can say it was well worth the investment in time and money to make this set up. But it was not as easy to make as I had planned.
The project took about 4 and a half weeks, 6 full days a week, to make. And that was about a week and a half longer than I had planned. I also had a budget of around £350 which ballooned to around £500 by the end. Much of the extra cost came from a lack of foresight in the design and, quite frankly, my own hubris. you may have noticed that I did not draw up any specific legs in the initial design, as I had mistakenly believed that this would be the easiest, cheapest and simplest part of the table to make. I was absolutely wrong, and even after making a full set of drawers, making a strong and nice looking leg was the most expensive and difficult part. The tabletop which I had presumed would be hard, was surprisingly easy.
Anyway, thanks for reading my Instructable and I hope this inspires you to make your own furniture in future. Make something for yourself, support your local wood suppliers and build the furniture that works for you; not just what you can buy at IKEA.