Having dabbled around with various woodworking projects over the past few years (i.e. hammering nails into random pieces of wood), I decided to get a bit more serious and try to make a small table for my apartment dining room that I wouldn't be completely embarrassed to eat at. It was a pretty fun project with a few fun twists, I believe this is well within the realm of capability for even the most novice builder.
I played around with Autodesk Fusion (definitely download it if you haven't, it's free for hobbyists!) to get a rough design and dimensions. I decided to make a square top roughly 3ft x 3ft and then make the cuts to turn it into an octagon. The base would be pretty chunky and I would do some simple bending to class it up just a touch. Lets get started :)
Step 1: Assemble the Materials
I found a guy on craigslist who was giving away a bunch of old lumber that had been used as spacers on a flatbed hauling trailers. I grabbed some 4" x 6" x 8' untreated pine posts and a mixed assortment of smaller hardwood boards (mostly 2" x 3.5" x 8'). I tried to avoid those that had the worst cupping or bowing but this was free lumber off craigslist so they weren't perfect haha.
Tools & Supplies:
Ryobi Table Saw (https://amzn.to/2udnoju)
Ryobi Drill (https://amzn.to/2ugNDFD)
-Circular saws are super useful. If you plan on working with thick pieces of lumber or really putting it through its paces, spend the money and get a quality saw that will last. I love this dewalt one, has held up extremely well for me).
Dewalt Orbital Sander (https://amzn.to/2ugafpP)
Sandpaper (60 - 320 grit) (Buy as many different grits as you want) I suggest getting the 50 packs, it is far more cost effective in the long run.
Dewalt Router (https://amzn.to/2N5XZ2j)
(plunge base for the router is better but you can easily get away without it, https://amzn.to/2L4Abyd)
Planing (surfacing) Router Bit (https://amzn.to/2N5YDwL)
Assorted Drill Bits (https://amzn.to/2ufOrLc
(I suggest buying a set with a bunch of sizes, never hurts to have extra drill bits)
Wood Glue (https://amzn.to/2JgXRdK)
Lag Bolts (https://amzn.to/2L17wdH)
-I love this brand, it is important to get the right length depending on the table top. 4.5" worked well for me.
Right Angle (Speed Square) (https://amzn.to/2meiD50)
Some other method of finding angles and drawing straight lines, lots of creative ways haha
Some Hand Chisels (https://amzn.to/2NMbNA8)
-These have worked well and are pretty reasonably priced. Just keep them sharp!
Lots of Clamps
Whatever stains/finishes you would prefer, I used a wood treatment for the pine, Minwax Prestain Wood Conditioner (https://amzn.to/2L19j2p), and then stained it with Minwax Gel Stain (Red Elm) (https://amzn.to/2ufnR4Q).
I sealed it all with Minwax Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane - Semi Gloss (https://amzn.to/2ue50XO)
Step 2: The Table Top
Unfortunately I didn't take that many pictures of this part of the process but I will do my best to describe it.
- I used my table saw to cut the various hardwood beams down to a hair over 3ft long. There are lots of great instructables on how to make a cross cut sled for your table saw, that is how I built mine. Definitely worth having.
-Once they were cut to length, I ripped them down to 3 inches in width. This is where a jointer would come in handy and help you to get a really nice fit between all of the boards. Unfortunately I didn't have one so I just did the best I could. I took off about a 1/4" of an inch from each side of the board to get them down to 3".
- This would also be the spot to run them through your planer and get them to the thickness you wanted (as well as nice and flat); however, I did not have a planer so, oh well.
- Lay the boards out on the table in the pattern you want them to have. Some people like to try to match grains, others want contrast, be creative! My boards were a mix of different species so I tried to mix things around and not put all of one kind right next to each other.
-Ok here is where we assemble the top. Take the first two boards in your table and clamp them together as much as you can. More clamps = better. Then take your drill and drill a hole through the first into the second. I then used a larger bit size to make an opening for the bolt head to sit in, recessing it just a bit (see drawing).
Now, unclamp the boards and spread some glue on both of the faces to be joined together.
- Now clamp them all up again making sure the drilled holes line up.
- Take your lag bolt and use your drill to drive it home into the hole you previously drilled. I like using the lag bolts with flat heads since they are pretty low profile. Up to you though.
- Note: Honestly, if you made really good edges for gluing you don't really need to put the bolts in. However, I figured better safe than sorry so I tacked them in. Totally up to you.
-Once your glue dries you can repeat this process for the rest of the top. Just make sure to stagger where you are putting the bolts in so that you do not accidentally drive one into the other, see my hand drawing.
-I choose to switch the direction of the lag bolts on one side, this was so that it would match the opposite side with the bolt head being visible. Not sure if that makes sense but check out the drawing. Again, the bolts aren't necessary if you do a good job gluing up.
-Hopefully now you have a big solid table top!
Step 3: Cutting Table Top to Shape
-So now you should have this big square/rectangular shaped slab of beams, depending on the dimensions you went with. I wanted to make the table an octagon shape, so I figured out the interior angles I needed (135 degrees) and used my speed square to mark them out.
- I then took my circular saw and zipped down the lines, creating my octagon.
WARNING: Make sure you know where your lag bolts are (if you used them). You don't want to destroy a blade by cutting into them.
Step 4: Flattening the Table Top
So if you used a planer previously, then you can probably skip this step. However, I was poor and didn't have one. Since these beams were pretty old and beat up I really needed to flatten the table if I ever planned to eat at it.
I decided to build a router sled and buy a surfacing router bit. If you google router sled you will find a bunch of plans. I used the design that Nick Offerman (of Parks & Rec fame, he's a crazy good carpenter it turns out) thought up just on a bit smaller scale.
I built my sled out of some scrap plywood, it worked well enough.
Long story short, you use a sled that your router sits on to successively remove material from one side of the table top. Once one side is flat you flip it over and remove material from the other side until you reach the desired thickness.
This is a laborious, time consuming process, especially if you are removing alot of material. Also it makes a mess. Also it is not good to breath in the wood dust. Wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area.
WARNING: Routers are dangers. Be careful. They will easily take off fingers and other appendages. Exercise alot of caution.
Step 5: The Base
Hopefully you have something looking like a table top by now. Time to build the base.
I originally had dreams of elaborate, fancy designs but decided I should learn to crawl before walking. So I settled for making a simple base out of the pine beams that was semi-rustic looking. I tried to use this as an opportunity to practice some skills like cutting mortise and tenon joints as well as bending wood.
-Figure out what dimensions you need your base to be, this all depends on how large you make your top.
-I choose to make the base 30" wide on the floor and 24" wide where it connects to the table.
-I then sat in a couple chairs to figure out how tall I wanted the table to be. Accounting for my table top thickness (~2"), I cut a post 28" long. This will make my table 30" tall which is about normal for a dining room table.
-I cut appropriate size legs that I would connect into the bottom of the base using mortise and tenon joints. There are a ton of different ways to join these beams. Google joinery and go to town! I decided to just cut a mortise into the center pillar and a tenon on each of the legs. I used the same technique to attach the legs on the top of the base.
-Cutting mortise and tenon joints is an art, one I have not mastered. But it is an important skill to learn so definitely give it a shot. The key is to go slowly and measure alot. Alot... You can use a router and the appropriate bit to help sometimes, I choose not to do that here and instead used a chisel and hammer.
Make sure to cut things slowly, keep the angles clean, and mark/number all the parts so you keep track of what goes where.
Note: Be careful with chisels. They are very sharp. I have cut myself numerous times for not being careful enough.
Step 6: Gluing Up the Base
With everything cut now you just have to glue things up.
Luckily this is all nice right angles, I choose to do two opposing legs at a time. Spread some glue on both faces and in the mortise, then hammer the tenon in. You want the tenon tight but not so much that you need to wail on the leg until your denting the wood. Sometimes put a block of scrap wood in between the hammer and the piece, that way you don't hurt the piece you care about.
Clamp everything really good. and let it dry.
Step 7: Curving Slats
I wanted to try to bend wood and do fancy slats. Originally I wanted to do some helix/spiral thing. But I quickly realized that would be a ton of work. So I decide to do more simple curving slats.
I took a coat hanger and bent it into the shape I wanted and rough fit it to the table to get an idea of dimensions. Then I used my table saw to rip some scrap white oak I had down to 1/8" thick slats. They were about 3 ft long I think. I took three slats, rough sanded them, and then spread glue on all the faces making contact with each other.
You should lightly clamp them together at this point to keep it from falling apart.
I then went to the base and slowly bent the laminate of slats into position. I then clamped it in place. Once you are sure it isn't going to move, add as many clamps as you can to make sure you get nice seams between the oak pieces with no gaps.
Note: I did this while the glue was still wet. If you wait for it to dry you won't be able to bend it into the shape you want. I think 1/8" thick is the thickest you could get away with. The thinner you make them the more you can bend them. Google laminating wood, tons of info out there.
Once the glue had dried I was able to remove the bent piece and do my sanding.
Step 8: Finishing Steps
Whew almost done!
Now is the fun part, Sanding!
Start with a low grit, probably 60 or 80 and sand everything. Don't press to hard, just let the sander do the work. Orbital sanders are awesome, definitely get one if possible.
I sanded, 60 grit -> 80 grit -> 150 grit -> 320 grit. This gave me a really nice finish.
Pro Tip: For things that are glued up, it helps to sand them prior to gluing. Otherwise you have to sand some spots by hand where the orbital cant reach and you never do as good as job as you would like.
After sanding is the staining, oiling, wax, etc. Whatever kind of finish you prefer.
The pine was ugly in my opinion so I choose to stain it a dark red elm, I treated the wood with a wood conditioner first to make sure the grain accepted the stain uniformly. For the top and the oak slats, I really liked the natural color of the wood, so I just choose to seal it with the spar urethane. I really liked the finish it came out with, it gave it some durability and water resistance but didn't take away from the character of the wood.
Step 9: Joining Table Top to the Base
So a ton of ways you can do this, joining the two together.
The easiest thing would be to run some screws up from the top arms of the base into the bottom of the table.
I was trying to avoid screws so instead I drilled a few holes in the tops of the arms on the base and made matching holes in the bottom of the table. Then I glued some small 1/4" dowels into the holes, now they mate together nicely. The table top is heavy enough and the base strong enough that it doesn't move unless you really try to.
Also, this makes disassembly easy as I can just lift the table top off of the dowels.
Step 10: Enjoy
Host a small dinner party and impress your friends with your self-reliance and handiness!