Breakdown Table




About: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.

The Breakdown Table is a nifty kitchen table that can lose its legs and get out of town in a hurry.  It's cheap to make, easy on the eyes, and lightweight -- in short, the perfect nomadic furniture project for the guerilla designer.  Painted a bright yellow, its sure to liven up whatever kitchen you may find yourself in.  Strong enough to support your breakfasts for years to come, it's also cheap enough to leave behind if you have to.  

You will need these materials:

Approx. 60" of 2" x 4"
Approx. 30" x 30" x 1-1/4" table top from old table or made from laminated plywood
Approx. 24" x 1" dia. wooden dowel or broomstick
8 2" drywall screws
8 #10 washers
Wood glue
Spray paint -- primer and topcoat
Polyurethane or similar

You will need these tools:

Circular saw
Chop saw
Drill and assorted bits
Speed square

Drill press

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Step 1: Legs!

The legs for this table are made out of plain ol' 2" x 4"s.  I salvaged mine out of a scrap pile.  You need two 2-bys that are about 32" long, which is generally short enough to scavenge.  Try dumpsters, alleys, pallets, and construction sites.  Worse come to worse, you can buy a piece of lumber at your local hardware store, and it shouldn't run more than three bucks.   You can even have 'em cut it for you . . .

Chop your raw material to 31-3/4" long at a 5o angle.  The angle cuts should be parallel to one another.  Connect the corner of one end with the corner of the other, striking a diagonal down the length of the piece.  Clamp to a table and cut lengthwise with a circular saw or a bandsaw.  I find a circular saw more amenable to straight cuts.  Run some 100 grit sandpaper over all the edges and cut faces. 

Next, lay out the notches that will connect leg and table top.  The exact dimensions are unimportant -- you just want to keep a meaty middle piece to seat firmly in the the depth of the table top.  I made mine 2-1/4" by 1-1/2", since that meshes nicely with the dimensions of a standard 2" x 4". 

The most important aspect of laying out the notches is that the horizontals are parallel to the top and bottom of the leg, i.e. at that 5o angle.  The vertical parts of the notches need to be at  90o angles to the horizontals.  All this geometry will ensure that the legs are angled but the table top is flat in the finished product.  So, measure down from the top of the leg 1-1/4" inches, or whatever the thickness of your tabletop is, and strike a horizontal.  Find the center of that line, then measure 3/4" to either side and pull a vertical.  Cut the notches out with a bandsaw or jigsaw.

Last, drill a hole the same diameter as your dowel stock that tangent to the bottom of your notches.  This will create the stabilizing bar along the underside of the table, keeping it from rocking side-to-side.  A drill press is helpful here, as those holes really need to go straight through the depth of the leg or else they'll end up crooked, and your table may list to one side.

Cut your dowels into 6" sections.  Mark a centerline, then measure 3/4" to each side of that line, smear the middle with glue, and tap into the holes in the legs.  Let dry. 

Sand and slap on a couple of coats of your favorite finish.  I put down three coats of a semi-gloss polyurethane, a good, durable, easy-wipe surface in an application that may see its fair share of spills.

Step 2: Toppin' Out

The table top measures 30" x 30", but 36" x 36" would work nicely as well -- or, if you're feeling a little crazy, a round top could work out ok as well.  I found mine -- it is a former school desk top, particle board with laminate top and masonite bottom, 1-1/4" thick, with a nice hard rubber edge.  If you can't salvage an old table or find something appropriate, laminate two sheets of 3-/4" plywood together.  Slather heavily and evenly with wood glue, then screw together up from the bottom with 1" or 1-1/4" drywall screws.

Connect the corners, creating an "X".  Measure along the "X", in from the corners, about 6".  Center a notch, the exact size of the projecting piece of your legs.  Label each notch and each leg, taking into account any small irregularities in dimension, so the table always fits together tightly later. 

I taped off my cuts so the laminate didn't chip, but that step isn't necessary if your top is just plain wood.  Drill two holes, then cut extremely carefully!  The notches need to fit very tightly for maximum stability.  Keep to the inside of your layout lines -- you can always enlarge the hole if its too tight, but you can never shrink it . . .

Paint your top with primer, then top coat, then some clear coat for protection.

To assemble, slot the legs in, then drill through the dowels and pop two screws per leg with a washer, which will make it easier to disassemble in the future.  Flip it over and relax . . . 

When ready to move on, take out the screws and ease the legs out of their slots, leaving five easy pieces!

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    7 Discussions

    hi, as there doesnt seem to be a response here- 2 ways spring to mind use a morticer which is like a drill press with a square chisel which has a drill inside it (google it) alternatively they are quite large so mark the rectangles on where you want them drill a whole in each corner within the edges of your rectangle use a drill bit big enough to fit a jigsaw blade down the finished hole. then cut your square hole. hope this helps.

    PS Wholman, another great ible!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent!  I'm particularly enamored with your intro shot.  Absolutely perfect.

    And I should make a bunch of these for stools/misc tables/nightstands.