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Simple Kitchen Table


This is a pretty quick and easy project.

Here is the situation. The family is growing; the old table isn't. Now, someday my wife and I would like to have one of those lovely double-pedastal oval tables with two leaves. The ones that expand to sit three families comfortably. But the reality is that our current kitchen wouldn't fit one of those tables. Also, our kids currently range in age from 0 to 6. They're hard on furniture right now. Maybe in 5-8 years we might be ready to look for a nice table. Right now we just need a bigger table.

So we've been toying with different ideas. I almost bought a new table in Costco once, but chickened out. The next week I went back, determined to buy it, but it was gone and hasn't been seen since. We've looked in the pennysaver (classified paper) a few times, but never actually called anyone. I even thought about building one, but I knew that could quickly balloon into a large, expensive, time-consuming project.

Next, my dad suggested that I just get a sheet of plywood and attach it to the present table. This would give us the slightly larger surface area we wanted. We actually kind of liked that idea. It was simple, cheap, and it made use of the existing table. The downside is that the current table has 4 legs and they are just a bit too close together for comfortably fitting two chairs on each side. This solution would give us a bigger table, but not any more room under the table.

So we stewed on it for a few more days. Then came trash day.

I love garbage day. Especially when people put out interesting stuff. Our kids have caught the bug too. They're always scanning the street when we are out driving the night before garbage day. A couple weeks ago someone around the corner from us tossed out an old kitchen table. The table was falling apart and deserved to be tossed. But it also came with a pair of perfectly good chrome pedestal-style legs. The owner had even, very nicely, separated the legs from the table and left them beside the trash.

Those legs followed me home and the plan for this table was firmed up in my head.

Don't bother asking me for plans, this is built completely out of my head, with maybe a few scribbles on a notepad to guide me along. (Why do people persist in emailing me to ask for plans? What I have here on these web pages is it!)

I have on my shelf a book by Thomas Moser entitled "Measured Shop Drawings of American Furniture". In the chapter on dining tables he provides helpful guidelines on table dimensions. Here they are, in essence: You need 25" vertical clearance under a table, to have room for your legs. The suggested height is 29-30", with 30" favoured, as we are taller than previous generations. You need 25-30" in width for each place setting, with 30" preferred.

My dimensions are as follows: 30" tall, 60" long, 42" wide. I'm making it out of plywood (Birch - same look as maple), with Cherry 1x2" banding applied vertically around the edges. In order to protect us from accidental bumping of kids heads and also to soften the lines of the table, I'm knocking off the four corners. I'll just measure back about 5" from each corner and cut off a 45-degree piece.

I really like the way Cherry and Maple look together. I've used that combination on a few other projects and I also happen to have some cherry sitting in my garage. So my grand total cash outlay for this project is about $60 for one sheet of 3/4" veneer-core plywood. (no particle board allowed!!!)

The chrome legs each have a mounting plate with 8 holes in it. I plan to put carriage bolts through a smaller piece of plywood and glue/screw/fasten that to the underside of the table. The bolts are then permanently captured in place. The legs could be easily removed by just unbolting them.

One 4x8 sheet of plywood is plenty for this project. At the lumber store, I had them cut three feet off the end of the plywood to make it easier for me to handle. Actually, because of the grain pattern, I had them cut two feet from one end, and one foot from the other. At home I cut the table top down to final dimensions. My goal is 42x60, so I cut it down to 40-1/2" x 58-1/2" to allow for the solid cherry which I'll be applyin to the edges. The cherry should end up being about 3/4-7/8" thick. The one 24"x48" piece of plywood is almost the perfect size for the underneath piece where I'll attach the legs. I cut it down to about 24"x42". The remainder of the plywood gives plenty of scraps to finish up. I'm gluing a 2" wide piece all the way around the edge of the table -- doubling the thickness of the table. This will strenghten the edge, and give a nice wide backing for the solid cherry banding. I will also be adding a 2-1/2" tall skirt around the "underneath piece". This should also add to the strength of the table, helping to resist any tendency to flex.

As I said at the top, this is a pretty quick and easy project. It's fun too, since it comes together so quickly. Having the legs means all I have to worry about is the top.

For the finish, I applied 4 coats of Flecto Varathane water-based diamond finish - semi-gloss. After the first three coats I lightly sanded as needed with 220 grit. After the final coat I wet-sanded with a scotch pad - equivalent to #0000 steel wool, which you can't use on water-based stuff.

Cutting Plan:

Just for fun, here is a rough diagram (not exactly to scale, but close) of a 4x8 sheet of plywood, showing the cutting plan for my table. As I mentioned above, I had two cuts done at the lumber store, to make it easier to handle, and easier to get home. I was left with three pieces: 2'x4', 5'x4', and 1'x4'.

Out of the largest piece, I cut a 58.5"x40.5" piece for the table top. (My goal is 42x60, but I'm leaving an allowance for the cherry banding). Out of the second largest piece I cut a 24"x42" (approx) for the leg mounting plate, which is fastened under the table top.

That leaves 3 pieces of "scrap". If you are careful, that is plenty of wood for the other small bits that you need. I cut four long strips 1.5" wide, which I glued all around the edge of the table (including 4 short angled pieces across the corners) to double the table thickness at the edge. (Glue those on before cutting the corners.) These were cut from Scrap (b) and (c). I also cut four strips 2" wide to form the skirt, which was attached to the edge of the leg mounting pate. These were cut from Scrap (a) and (c).

Building Notes:

Cutting the corners off of the table proved to be a bit of a challenge. I had originally intended to just clamp a straightedge and use my jigsaw. However, the more I thought about it , the less I liked that idea. I have had some blade-wander in the past when cutting thick items with my portable jigsaw and I really did not want to have that here. I don't have a large (huge, really) sliding table for my tablesaw. I thought about trying to cook up a temporary jig for the tablesaw. I tried attaching a large long board to my miter guage and then clamping the table top to that. However, when I tried to see how it would be to move it through the saw (practising with the blade lowered, of course) It just wasn't workable. The table is just too big, and the miter guage too small. Then I had an inspiration. Since I can't move my tabletop through the saw, can I move the saw through the tabletop? I'm only cutting a small piece (5x5") off of each corner... So instead of trying to push the tabletop, I instead positioned the tabletop very carefully on the tablesaw. I clamped it into position and then raised the sawblade up through the corner. Voila! I only have a 9" blade on my saw, so it wasn't quite cut all the way through, but it wa seasy to finish off the rest of the cut with a handsaw. I was left with four beatiful cuts. In order to avoid splintering I also tried the trick of putting masking tape over the cut line on the veneer. Worked like a charm.

One question I wrestled with was in what order should I attach the cherry edge banding? Long pieces first? Or the short corner pieces first? I ended up deciding to fasten the long pieces first. Then I could fiddle with getting the shorter pieces to fit snug. If I make a mistake, it is only a short piece of cherry that needs to be tossed. On the other hand, If I make a mistake with the long pieces it would be harder to replace. In order to simplify things, I decided that the short corner pieces would have a straight 90-degree cut. This actually simplifies cutting the longer pieces as well. Since a perfect 45-degree piece was cut off each corner of the table, choosing a 90-degree cut for the corner banding piece means that the miter angle I need to cut for the long pieces of banding is also 45 degrees. It is hard to convey in words what I mean; doodle it out on paper and it should become clear. Or, see the diagram to the right which is a top view of one of the corners.

Photo Gallery

Not having six-foot-long (plus) pipe clamps, and the fact that the corner pieces don't exactly line up, made for an interesting clamping arrangement for clamping the short corner pieces. It was the best I could come up with at the time...

See the bolts poking through, and then the legs attached.

The finished product.


Thanks for reading!