Build a Table From Old Barn Board




About: My girlfriend and I run a company called Deville's Workshop in Toronto, Canada. We build weird props for film and television and love this website - such a great resource for inspiration and discussion!

Hey alla y'all, I'm going to show you how I built a barn board table. I'm entering my table in the I COULD MAKE THAT contest, so if you like it please vote for it (hint hint - click in the upper right corner!!)! The design is based off a table I saw at a store for $800 - here - and I thought I could make it with the same dimensions using free materials around the shop.

Usually I build props and set pieces for the film industry and don't often get to try my hand at "real" carpentry, so everything I'm outlining here is a mix of me making up things up and otherwise reading tips from wood-working magazines. If you spot me doing things in a totally bass akwards way, please let me know your thoughts in the comment section - I always want to learn better ways to do things! ALSO: if anyone knows an easy way to rotate photos within the Instructables site I'd love the head's up!

So... I got a pile of old barn board under a tarp in a pile behind the train tracks near my place; I was really excited about how aged and beat up they were. However, they ranged in thickness from about 2" to almost 4" so I had to plane them down to get an even thickness. Unfortunately, by the time I shaved each piece down to uniform thickness the planks were nearly 1 1/2" thick - I almost could have just used standard 2x12 stock :-P  OK, here's how I made this table:

Step 1: Welding the Base

The base is welded from 3/4" x 3/4" mild steel and then painted matte black. I didn't have a photo of this process so I just grabbed a generic welding photo from online!

Step 2: Make the Planks

The first step was to check the wood for nails and splits and rotted pockets. Then, once that's sorted, I cut the 12' long boards down to 56" in length (I wanted my final table to be 50" long so I added 3" to each end, this way I could cut all the joined pieces evenly later). I then ran them through the table saw to shave off any broken edges, knowing that I would still have to joint them later to achieve a clean 90 degree edge.

Step 3: Plane the Boards

I ran the board through a 13" thickness planer. I don't have a wide jointer for the initial run and was thinking that in the future I could make some kind of MDF 'sled" that the boards could attach to for their initial run, thus permitting the planer to shave off a uniform level without being subjected to twists in the wood. Next time!

Step 4: Jointer the Edges

My gal Tina is pressing the planed surface of the board flush to the guide rail on the jointer; we are hoping that this technique will assist in keeping the edges 90 degrees.

Step 5: Clamping and Gluing

Now that the surfaces are planed and squared up I've slopped on a hefty amount of carpenter's glue and clamped the boards together. I was going to biscuit join them but my neighbour (a carpenter) told me not to bother; he said with the glue I'm using and the surface area I'm clamping the boards will break before the glue seam ever does.

Step 6: Staining and Top Coating

I'm using a Minwax stain and the wood is soaking it up like a sponge. But only in some areas; knots and other dense areas of grain are staying really shiny and glossy. Grrrr... I want an even coat!!!!

Also, now that the stain is on it seems to bring out what almost look like burn marks in the surface???

The urethane top coat is doing the same thing; it's sucking up in some areas and others are staying shiny. Kinda frustrating. I'll wait 8 hours then sand it and wipe it off and then try another top coat.

All in all I'm not sure that I'm as happy with the stain and top coat. I normally use water-based stains and seem to have better luck with them. Any tips and advice here would be appreciated!

Step 7: Finished!

After several topcoats and a few days of drying I'm ready to call this finished!





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    12 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 6

    A good tip for getting an even stain coat - especially on softwood or reclaimed wood. Before you stain, lay down a coat of 1lb cut dewaxed shellac. You can mix it yourself if you have the flakes, but it is commercially sold as a product called SealCoat by Zinsser. This is a 2lb cut, so you need to thin it a bit with denatured alcohol. I use this before I apply a finish or stain to any softwood, or blotch prone hardwoods like maple and (especially) cherry. It HAS to be dewaxed though. The regular waxed shellac will not accept a top coat over it.

    Dewaxed shellac is comparable over or under any finish. Waterborne, oil based, stain, top coat, etc.  There are a few other benefits also

    1. Blocks odor. Reclaimed wood can be stinky
    2. No fumes and very safe/environmentally friendly. I actually like the way it smells
    3. In addition to putting a coat down before you stain, but one down after you stain. When you apply your finish, the shellac will prevent you from sanding through your top coat and removing color (this is called a sanding sealer). 
    4. It actually makes a really nice finish! I use shellac quite a bit in my work.

    Really cool table!

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Hey Joe, thanks so much! I dug around the Lowes/Home Deeps staining sections when I was starting this project and didn't get much feedback from the employees so I just ran with what I knew. I kind of want to try this again now that I know this!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    No problem! Finishing is kind of my thing. There are so many myths and misinformation out there it becomes difficult to find what you need and do what you want. Grab a can of that sealcoat and some denatured alcohol. It will make your life a lot easier.


    4 years ago on Step 6

    Minwax makes a pre-stain sealer. Eliminates blotches.30

    Turned out pretty.

    Though I believe you would say "joint the edge" not "jointer the edge".


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Really nice!!!
    a couple quick thoughts. if you have a bandsaw, I think it would be nice if the lower shelf were thinner than the top. you can do it with the planer but it would take forever and probable kill the blades.
    Although I'm perfectly fine with the way the edges turned out, it may add something if you only jointed the glue edges and left the outside edges rough.
    tip: although its not an issue with such thick boards, normally when your clamping a lot of boards together you want to alternate the clamps between the bottom and the top. this will keep the glue-up from bowing.
    Nice Job!!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, basically you need to seal the wood before you stain it to stop the uneven take-up of the stain, something like this:

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! I wish I had known about this before starting the project. I've not yet encountered a pre-seal treatment - I always assumed that would block the stain from taking. Thanks for this!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice table Dazu. I like the metal frame too. I don't weld, but it is something that I'd like to learn for furniture making. You can use cyanoacrylic glue to make soft and rotting wood rock hard. Wood turners use it when they hit a soft spot on a turning and it has the advantage of drying very quickly. They use the liquid version, not the gel so that it will penetrate the soft wood. If you look up "repairing rotted wood" you will probably find info and look at wood turning supplies as well. You want to be able to buy a large enough quantity for a reasonable price. The little bottles are too small and expensive.


    5 years ago

    I've heard that wood conditioner does well but I haven't tried it yet


    5 years ago on Introduction

    The tips on getting an even stain coat are appreciated, but I think the uneven appearance makes the table grab you attention. I would have to see both version side by side to see which one I'd like the best.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Hey Bruce, yeah, it was interesting to see the grain suddenly get a new face - kind of a surprise too! It was very plain pine before the stain went on!