Building a table

I went to a workshop on Wednesday at the OffMarket Freeschool (running for another week yet, with some great workshops still to come!) on furniture building. It was very much about using what you have around: we started out with some thick plywood, a table top, and some lengths of 2x2, and we fetched up with a pretty solid table.

(I also discovered the wonders of a handheld circular saw. Awesomeness.)

The basic principle goes like this:

  • Work out how long you want the table's legs to be, and cut 4 lengths of 2x2 to that.
    Hint: If you're starting with 4 separate bits of wood and cutting them all down, it's a good idea to line them all up next to each other, aligned at one end, and mark the line straight across all four at the other end. If you have pre-cut ends, plan to use those on the floor as they'll likely be straighter than your cuts.
  • Next, take some pieces of plywood maybe 4-6" wide for the supports. These will fit under the table, outside the legs, and act to support them. Pieces wider than 6" are fine, and in fact will be stronger; but remember that you may want to be able to fit your legs under the table, and a support that's too wide will prevent that (see the photo of the finished table below to understand what I mean here). You want two pieces the same length as each other for the short parallel sides of the table, and another two pieces the same length as each other for the long parallel sides of the table. Put the table-top upside down on the ground and work out where you want your legs to be, then mark up and cut the supports accordingly.
  • Attach the table legs to the supports. Ideally each one should be overlapped at one end, and overlap the next at its other end. In the photo below, the support on the left overlapped the end of the middle support, which in turn overlapped the end of the right-hand support (you can't unfortunately see this as it's behind the legs. I should have taken another photo!). Put in one screw per leg side (so two per leg) all round, then go round again putting a second screw in each joint. It is definitely worth drilling a pilot hole first!

    Table upside down on the floor, supports being screwed to legs
  • Turn the whole thing back the right way up, and straighten up the table top. Measure roughly where the middle of each leg is, drill a pilot hole straight through the table top and into the leg, and put a screw through the pilot hole. You want one per leg.
  • That's it! Table!

    Finished wooden table standing in middle of floor
  • You can adapt the same basic technique to make all sorts of different sizes of tables, but also stools, benches, and anything else with four legs and a top. (We also discussed making something a bit more like a chair, with a slight adaption of the technique.) Our tables were pretty rough-and-ready, but with slightly more careful choice of materials (and maybe a little paint afterwards) you could produce something more elegant.

    And it was fantastic fun!

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