03 May 2021
How to make a table Part 1
The mix and match you decide upon is entirely up to you, as is the final dimensions of the table you make. The main thing to remember is to match the woods – particularly the meranti, so that you get a balanced appearance, so side for side, end for end and so on.
The final dimensions for the table shown here are 1300mm long, 458mm deep front to back, and 900mm high – which is a very convenient height for a work surface.
We have split this feature into two parts… PART 1 deals with the tabletop assembly, sans the frame and PART 2 deals with the legs and the tabletop frame to which the legs are attached and the final assembly.
Meranti: 69x22mm – three lengths 1.83m – cut to two tabletop centres 1188mm long; two tabletop frame sides 1255mm long; two tabletop frame ends 360mm long.
44x44mm – three lengths 183m – cut to four legs, 828mm; two leg spacers, 170mm; two feet 460mm; four tabletop frame corner reinforcement blocks 65mm; four leg side blocks 65mm.
22x44mm – three 1.83m lengths – cut to two tabletop sides, 1300mm* long; two tabletop ends 360mm; two leg locking braces, 355mm.
22x22mm – one 1.83m length, cut to two battens of 500mm to attach the tabletop side frame members to the underside of the tabletop and two pieces of 355mm to reinforce the legs’ lateral bracing.
Two 22mmØ dowel rods 183m – leg lateral braces – cut to 1215mm.
6x19mm sides strips, two lengths 1.83m – cut to 1300mm*.
9x44mm – one length 1.83m – cut to four foot pads, 100mm (ends bevelled at 45°); four leg block spacers, 65mm.
8mmØ dowels; 8mmØ dowel rods – three of 900/1000mm**.
SA pine: 32x44mm – one 1.83m length cut to 1188mm – tabletop central spine.
22x96mm – two lengths 1.83m – cut to 1188mm – tabletop outer panels.
12x96mm – one length 1.83m – cut to two tabletop inner ends 360mm and each ripped to 25mm wide.
Wood glue; 20mm panel pins; 40mm 8 gauge wood screws; 8mmØ dowels and three 900/1000mm** long 8mmØ dowel rods; meranti wood filler and pine wood filler; finish of your choice – we used a gloss marine varnish as it provides a hardwearing surface.
*When cutting end or side pieces, cut them slightly longer (just 2-3mm or so) than the final required length so that you can sand them down to a precise length.
**Some dowels are sold in minimum lengths of 900mm, other in minimum lengths of 1000mm. Longer lengths are usually 1.8m and 2.4m.
First step is to measure off the various lengths for the table top, but first of all only the five main pieces – the central spine, two meranti pieces next to it, and the two SA pine pieces on the outside of the latter meranti pieces. Ensure that you cut them a little longer than your final required dimensions so that you can trim them when glued to the precise length you need and for a very straight end cut. That means that for a tabletop 1300mm long with ends, you need to factor in the ends pieces.
I secured the pieces and cut them with a circular saw… note the use of the fence to guide the saw, and the bridging clamp using pieces of wood to secure the workpiece in place as the clamp throats would not reach where the clamping force was required.
Don’t forget that many lengths of timber have roughly cut ends, and these need to be trimmed off beforehand.
Next step is to lay out the five pieces and select the best top surfaces for each, so that the final result is what you want.
I placed some scrap 250 micron black plastic on the workbench top to stop glue overspill gluing the top to the bench itself.
Flip the pieces upright as shown and apply glue along the top edge of each (not on the central spine. Then each piece on either side of the central spine is turned inwards… the pair on the left clockwise, the pair on the right counter-clockwise and aligned as closely as possible so that their ends line up.
I glued most of the table top together in one go, except for the edging pieces, but it would have been far better to have glued the central spine and the two adjacent meranti pieces, and then followed up later with the two outer pine pieces – to arrive at what is pictured here. Notice the liberal use of clamps at each end and at two points along the length to ensure that the lower surfaces (which will in fact be the top surface) are as closely aligned as possible.
Once the glue had dried, I trimmed the glued assembly to the desired length. This also ensures that each end of the top is very flat…
As you can see here with a piece of scrap wood.
Now I attached the two meranti outer edges using 8mmØ dowels cut from the 900/1000mm** long 8mmØ dowel. First I marked off the positions of the dowels at intervals of 160mm.
I used a gauge to mark the centrepoint on each 160mm mark.
Then I used an 8mmØ brad-bit drill bit to drill each dowel hole.
Secure the outer edges as shown here and drill through the holes you have already made and into the SA pine pieces. Then remove clamps, apply glue to the surfaces, reposition the pieces on the SA pine and after coating them with glue tap the dowels home. This will secure the side pieces securely, but clamp them in position as well to ensure a close union.
The heads of the dowel rods are left a little proud of the edge, in preparation for later sanding down flush.
The next step is to level out any discrepancies in the tabletop upper surface. You can use a planer to do this initially. Set the planing depth to 0.5mm – the minimum – and plane down any steps you can see where the timbers meet. It is far better to make multiple passes with the planer, removing only a little material with each pass, than set the blade too deep and then end up with having to plane the whole surface.
After planing, sand the whole surface using 100 grit sandpaper.
Pass a steel rule across the surface as shown so that you can see the high areas. With backlighting – light from the far side of the rule – any gaps will be readily visible.
Lightly mark the high areas as shown.
Sand them again and finish off using a large area hand sander. I made this one up and if you are good, behave yourselves and wear your masks properly, etc, I will show you in a future feature how to make it.
With the top sanded smooth (with a final fine sanding to come), it’s time to fit the end pieces. First here’s one of the two tabletop inner ends of 360mm, each ripped to 25mm wide… or as viewed here, depth.
As it is 25mm wide (deep) the inner end is positioned slightly proud of the tabletop surface, so that it can be sanded down absolutely flush. Here also is the outer end in position – note that the edges are slightly longer than necessary – so that they too can be sanded down for a neat, flush table end.
Apply masking tape along all the edges so that excess glue does not mar the top surface.
Apply glue and clamp the pieces securely in position and allow time for the glue to cure.
Now for the crafty trick… this simple device allows you to drill dead centre into any piece of timber or tube that will fit between its jaws. Again, the subject for a later project.
Use the 8mmØ brad bit to drill a hole 90mm deep.
And a second hole 80mm in from the edge of the table.
Drill a second hole into the end of the tabletop down its length and 80mm in from the corner.
Cut dowel rods about 95mm long, apply glue and tap them into the ends and sides as shown. These lock and reinforce the ends and edges securely in position.
Sand down the corners for a neat finish and cut the 6x19mm meranti strips to slightly longer than the tabletop.
As the top of the strip has to be level with the tabletop upper surface, an easy way to achieve this is to clamp a length of timber along the top surface and then simply position the strip hard up against it. Apply glue first and then secure the strip in place with pairs of 20mm panel pins at about 100mm intervals.
Countersink the pin heads with a punch – about 2mm is sufficient.
Fill the holes with meranti filler and once it is completely dry, sand the excess off.
There is still some sanding to go, but as you can see the filler has been largely sanded away. Note that by this time I was using old cloths as padding between the tabletop and the workbench surface to avoid any debris on the bench surface marring the tabletop surface you have just sanded.
Sand again with 120 grit sandpaper and follow this up with 220 grit. Then flip the top over so that the underside is uppermost.