Monday, October 3, 2011

A Complete DIY Farmhouse Table

  Tis the season all 'round the (Northern) world that we begin to think about the harvest season, the holiday season and most of all- just being indoors. Spending more time indoors working and entertaining requires a good size table.
    I myself am not interested in shelling out a few hundred to a couple thousand bucks for a good size table. So I decided to make one ! AND share the process with you! The cost of materials?  Wood, glue and screws-$60 Tops. That's it.
    If you need to buy the tools then plan on about another $150 to $200 for a low end table saw or a hand held circular saw, a cordless drill and some drill bits. Or borrow one from a neighbor or friend or work with them on the project!
  Surprisingly there are many steps that can be skipped and I will note them with an *. Not doing the steps will result in a less finished looking table but a table just the same.  So, shall we get started?

   Step #1 Going to the Lumberyard.
   The kind of wood you will be getting is construction lumber. This is usually some type of Douglas or Hemlock Fir, pick out the straightest closest grained pieces you can find. In other words when you look at the end of the board the rings of the tree should be a 1/4 inch or closer and the board should be as straight as possible.
  You will need 4 2x4's that are 8' long,
                          4 2x12's 8 feet long,
                          1 4x4 that is 10' long, and
                          1 box (around a 100) of 3" Phillips head deck screws,
                          18 #14x3" Phillips head wood screws, and a
                          1 P2 (regular) and
                          1 P3 (large) Phillips bit.
Take a friend to the lumber yard and grab some lumber.

     Step #2  Getting Going.
     You may notice that the wood is rather, uh, well, uh beat up and rather ugly. This is good and easily remedied! Just don't worry about the faces of the boards right now.Get the lumber and tools together and start by cutting off the edges of the 2x12's. Only about about an 1/8th to 1/4 of an inch off either side- lengthwise of course.
   *By not cutting the long edges off the boards you will end up with curved edges that will collect crumbs and such as well as not be able to be glued together very easily. To avoid this you can put an 1/8" gap between the boards in the step #5.

   Step #3 Laying Out the Table Top Supports.
   Take one of the 2x4's and cut three 2'6" (or 30") pieces from it and then mark them, in the middle, at 15". Also layout the table and mark the 2x12's at the 2, 4, and 6 foot marks on both sides of each board.
     Step #4 Gluing the Table Top.
     Layout the 4x12's as the table top with the numbers from the above step facing up. All of the edges that will be touching will be glued. Start by standing the boards on edge and put a bead of glue (like in the picture above) on the left  three. Then lay them down from left to right. Squeeze them together. Continue to the next step.
   Tip: If glue is squeezed out of a joint you can clean it up easily by wiping it off with a clean damp rag. This saves a large amount of time sanding later.

  Step #5 Assembling the Table Top.
   Apply glue to the down side of the 2'6" 2x4's. Then place the 15" mark on the middle seam (between boards 2 &3). Grab the screw gun with P2 bit and, starting at the left, using a slight angle screw in the 3" deck screws. Make sure that the boards are as even as possible at the ends. Then screw down the second board and so on until the support looks like the one above. Continue on to the 4' and 6' marks pushing the table top boards together as much as possible. When you're done it should look like the picture below! Good job! You are on your way to a new table! Let this sit for now while the glue dries.

   Step #6 Laying Out the Apron-
   The apron is the wood comes down from the table top and brings the legs and the table together, both structurally and visually. Now cut the edges off both sides of the last three 2x4's.  Lay them out, on edge, on the still upside down table top. Set them 3-4 inches from the edge. Once you have determined the distance from the edge mark the position of the face of the apron on the table top(it's ok- no one will see it and you can sand it off later if you want to). Now subtract 3" overall from the length and width and cut to length. 
Laying out the apron
   Step #7- Making the Legs.
   The average table height is 30". So with the table being about 1 1/2" thick this means the legs should be 28 1/2" long. So grab the 4x4 and cut four legs at 28 1/2" long.
   Tip: Cutting the 4x4 will need 2 passes since most saws don't cut that deep so be sure to make your cuts as accurate as possible on the second pass and make sure not to pinch the blade.

Removing wood for apron. 
    Step #8 Making the Joint for the Apron. 
    Measure 1 1/2" back from what will be the outside corner of the table leg and mark it on both faces. Also mark the height of the apron board on the face of the leg. On the top of the leg mark the thickness of the apron. Then take a mallet and a sharp 3/4" chisel and carve out the outlined areas on all four legs. This will take some time, so enjoy yourself and try not to get too impatient!

   Step #9 Assembling the Legs and Apron. 
   The legs and apron should fit as in the picture shown above. Trim and shave as needed to get the legs and apron to fit to the 3-4 inch border that was drawn around the edge of the table top. Pre-drill the holes 2" deep for the #14 screws first using a 5/32 drill bit. Then only drill the apron boards using a 1/4" drill bit. Put each screw in after each hole is drilled. Careful not to split the wood
    Tip: Make sure you are using a P3 driver for the #14 screws as the right size bit prevents the heads from stripping.
  Step #10 Assembly and Drilling Pilot Holes.
  Holes are drilled though the table top to attach the top to the base (apron and legs). This is best done right side up. Time to flip the apron and table top over! Line up the penciled border on the bottom with the apron and then measure in from the edge of the table to the outside of the apron, then ADD 3/4" and mark with an X. As a rule of thumb there should be three screws per board across the ends and one screw every 10-12" along the length. Drill the holes 1 3/4" deep with a 1/8" drill bit.
  Tip #1: Drilling holes to a set depth might seem hard, but if you use a piece of tape and wrap it around the drill bit at proper depth you'll get it right every time!
  Tip #2: If you do not want to see the screw heads you can get two special drill bits one is a countersink bit that cuts a clean hole to just below the surface of the table and the other is a plug cutter which cuts a plug that is glued into the hole and then cut flush with the top of the table after the glue dries.
Marked, pre-drilled and ready to be tightened!
  *Step #10 Sanding and Filling in Holes and Gaps. 
   Now that the table is done being built it is time to make it look finished. If there are any gaps between the boards that you wan to go away, squeeze some glue in to the crevice and the wipe across the gap with some sawdust to fill it. Wait about 30 minutes and the begin sanding the whole table. Start with 100 grit sand paper (the tan stuff tends to be junk, I prefer to use Norton 3X sandpaper, at the time of blogging it is white sand and red paper).Sand down any uneven edges and corners that need to be softened. If there are any dings in the wood sand these smooth as well.  


And sand, and sand, and sand. Once the table is sanded to the way you want it do a final sanding of 220 grit (also Norton 3X yellow on yellow this time) to get rid of the scratch marks from the 100 grit. 

   Step #11  Finishing.
   I decided to put a nice quarter round edge, using a router, on the table, the legs have also been tapered 1/2" over 24" to give a lighter look, similar to a Hepplewhite style leg, and I also experimented with a light/dark finish that is achieved by using a blow torch to ever so slightly burn the grain of the wood. No matter what you do as a detail you'll want to  preserve it by sealing the table.
   For this you can use any paint, varnish, water based urethane, wax or a combination. I have two finishes that I like to use regularly. First is the water based (the oil based one smells for about 2 weeks) Varathane  (satin for indoor pieces) and then wax after a 6 hours of drying. The other is varnish: regardless of the directions on the can I use 50% varnish and 50% thinner for the first coat. Then put on one or two more coats straight from the can after that sanding lightly with 220 between coats.That's what this table ended up getting. Let the table dry and air out for a day or two and then it's ready to go! Enjoy for many years and if there are any dings or wear marks, well that is easily taken care of in the spring time. Just sand and apply a fresh coat and good as new. After all what is a farm table without wear and tear from the passage of time? Think of it as a timeline or diary of good times.

   Follow up: The construction of this table can be used to make many other types of furniture from beds to sideboards. While the type of lumber used is not the best I will say that it has been used with great results for centuries. Considering what you can get from China (Mango wood is not good wood) and the price that it garners, this table can last generations and ultimately become THE beloved table that we gather around with family and friends any time of the year.

P.S. If you don't want to build a Farm Table I'd be more than happy to make one. As shown is only $400. There is minimal lead time and any finish is possible. Contact Filliquist Studio

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