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Easy Build Mission Side Table



This fall, our church was holding a gala dinner and fundraising auction. I agreed to contribute "something" to the auction, and this is the mission-styled table that I came up with.

I was first thinking something small and square for the entry or foyer, but quickly realized that a longer table was basically the same amount of work, and could be used as either a hall table, or an entry table, or a console table, or a sofa table, or a .... you get the idea!

I did some googling online and looked at a lot of different ideas. I found something similar to this, which I quite liked. I'm rather fond of mission styling, and I had some white oak already on hand. White oak is very often used in Mission or Craftsman style furniture. I then worked in sketchup to take that idea and produce a plan that suited the dimensions that I had in mind.

I had picked up this white oak lumber back in the spring at a small mill north of town. I like dealing with small operations, and also it is fun to be able to tell someone that this was "locally grown" lumber.

I brought two boards in from the garage to acclimate for a few weeks before starting this project. This was about 17 board feet of lumber, in case you're wondering. (two boards, 10ft long, and about 9-10" wide.)

This was air dried lumber, so I was careful to check the moisture content before getting too far in the process. I wasn't that worried, as it had been well dried before I bought it, and it had sat in my garage for almost six months. It checked out at 8-9% (I tested in several places) which is fine.

The first step was to make the top and the lower shelf, since those pieces would need to be glued up out of smaller boards to achieve the needed width.

My jointer is only 6" wide, so I can't joint 9" lumber. As well, the wood was a bit cupped across the width, so after cutting the wood down in length I split it on the bandsaw, before jointing and planing to final thickness.

I chose three peces for grain and colour and glued them up to make the top shelf. I repeated that (with two pieces) for the narrower bottom shelf.

I could then move on to preparing the stock for the legs, side rails and long rails.

A few pieces had some small knots, which were a bit loose. I treated them with some five minute epoxy to seal and harden up the knots.

Unfortunately, one of the knots was almost dead center in one of the long rails. At first I thought it would be okay. Then I thought it could be placed against the back side. But after thinking about it I realized that I really didn't like the look of the knot. Most of the piece was pretty clear and straight grained, so the knot looked out of place. Also, on a piece like this I could not be sure that one side would get placed against the wall, so I wanted all sides to look acceptable.

One trick I tried was to drill a hole on top of the knot and then glue in a plug that I had taken from a piece of scrap. This is shown in the top-left inset photo in this image. But I still just didn't like it. Fortunately I had some more white oak still on hand, but it cost me another half board to rectify this!

I'm using dowel joinery on this project. However the leg assemblies are a bit different than what I'm used to as I am putting dowels into the face of the board, rather than the edge. So I was careful to lay out all the piece as I wanted them, and then I left them there as I drilled the dowel holes. After each operation I brought the board back into it's position and then moved onto the next one. It's a simple way to try and avoid mixups.

Putting together one of the side assemblies.


There are three square spindles that are part of each of the side assemblies. Here I am notching the ends of one of the spindles, so that they can fit into the space between the top and bottom cross rails.

I drilled and countersunk pilot holes and then fastened the spindles in place with screws. I needed dark screws for this project, as it was going to be fairly dark once finished. So a bit of black paint was applied to the heads of the screws (and left to dry of course!) before they were installed.

The top is a wide board which will expand and contract throughout the year based on seasonal changes in humidity. One easy way to allow for that is to attach it to the base with these metal table clips. They slip into slots, such as the one being ripped on the tablesaw in this photo, and then the other side is screwed to the the table top.

Starting to put it all together. The two leg assemblies are connected together via the long rails using dowels. If you're confused, the table is upside down in that photo.

There are no lower rails. Rather, the lower shelf is used to connect the two leg assemblies together at the bottom. In this case it made sense to use pocket hole joinery to attach the shelf to the ends.

For the finish I had decided I wanted something a bit different. I tried a few test pieces before I settled on using a Minwax Ebony stain. Yes, BLACK. It is a bit startling when you first wipe it on, but after you wipe off the excess it is a greyish tone with black highlights. A lot of the black settles into the grain lines and when the polyurethane is applied (next photo) it becomes a rich dark brown with black overtones. I think it looks pretty cool.

I applied 3-4 coats of polyurethane over most of the project, but several extra coats were applied to the top. In part I had a little issue with some bubbles, but mostly I like to put extra protection on the tops of tables. After it had hardened a day, I wiped on and buffed in some paste furniture wax on the two shelves. This added even more protection, and really brought out the shine.

The final step in this project is to attach the top to the base with those previously mentioned table clips.



What follows is a small photo album showing some more photos of the finished project.

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)

Rockler Table Top Fasteners (similar to what I used.)
Dowelmax Company
NOTE: at the time of publishing (May 2023) Dowelmax is not currently available on amazon. It has been in the past, so I am keeping the following links, but right now only the link above to "" is known to work.
Dowelmax Dowel Joinery Kit
Dowelmax Drill Guides for 1/4" Dowels
Dowelmax Dowels

Kreg Pocket Hole Clamp
Kreg Pocket Hole Jig
(I have older versions of these Kreg tools)

DEWALT D26453K 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander

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See Also:

Bookshelf Bench

Easy End Table

Harvest Table (Part 1)