Everyone enjoys the look and feel of fine wood furniture. It
has a warmth and elegance that enhances every home. With the
prices of quality wood furniture increasing, many do it
yourselfers are making their own custom pieces. In this
pamphlet, we are going to demonstrate the correct way to
build a beautiful end table in your own workshop. We will
take you through step by step, from initial planning to the
finished product. As you build this project, remember, every
new skill and technique you
learn building this table can be carried over into other
Review this article thoroughly
before proceeding with this project. Go through the tools
and materials check-list and study your
plan carefully. Know the safety standards for the project.
Plan ahead and gather the items that you will be using, and
place them where you will build the table. The plans shown
here are for a basic table. You may want to adapt them to a
design of your choice. Before you begin your project, you
will want to become familiar with the wood working terms
Cut - Angle cut across the width or thickness of the board
Rabbet - L-shaped cut
Dado - Channel cut across the board, into which a second
piece of wood is fitted
Kerf - Width of the blade
Countersink - To set a screw head at or below the surface
Dowel - Wooden pin used to provide strength and alignment
Chamfer - Corner of a board beveled at a 45 degree angle
Crosscut - Cut across the grain
Ripcut - Cut with the grain
Before you purchase your wood and select a finish for your
end table, you should ask yourself some simple questions
about how you plan to use and display it in your home. Where
will the end table be located? Do the dimensions of the end
properly in the space you have allowed for it? Is it a high
traffic area? Will people be placing wet glasses, or
propping their feet on it?
The two basic categories of wood are hardwood and softwood.
Hardwood is more durable and less prone to dents and
scratches. It is also more expensive but will finish to a
better advantage. Soft woods, like pine, are more prone to
dents and scratches and do not have the durability of
hardwood. Softwoods are much less expensive and easier to
find. Ask your lumber supplier to show you "Class 1 " or
"Select Grade" lumber. Make sure it is properly dried,
straight, and free of knots and defects. (It may be
impossible to be completely free of defects but be sure you
understand how to cut around these.)
Wood selection for your end table should be of a durable
hardwood. In our plan, the choice was oak. Solid pieces used
for the table top will expand and contract with changes in
humidity. So that this will not create a problem, be sure
all your stock is of
a similar moisture content. To allow for seasonal changes,
do not glue the top to the rails. Many people use veneered
wood to avoid this seasonal problem.
Usually it is best to purchase surfaced stock that is smooth
and of a uniform thickness. However, you can use a planer
and purchase the less expensive rough stock and finish it at
home. Any areas of the wood that show cupping or crowning
will need to be planed by using a jointer or table saw.
Now that you have reviewed the safety hints, learned the
mistakes to avoid, reviewed the basic components and
gathered your tools and materials for your end table - you
are ready to BEGIN!
A Step By Step Approach
Don't let the job of building this end table make you
apprehensive about beginning. This wood plan makes
building an end table easy by dividing the project into six
simple, manageable steps. Each step is then broken down into
a series of instructions. You will find each step and the
instructions for completing them NUMBERED to help you
remember exactly what stage of the project you are doing.
Refer to the diagrams if you have questions.
steps to follow in making this lovely end table are:
1. Preparing the Stock
2. Preparing the legs and Rails
3. Assembling the top
4. Assembling the frame
5. Attaching the top
6. Finishing the assembled table
Preparing the Stock
If you did not buy pre-planed stock, start with step 1 of
step 1; if you did buy preplaned stock, start with step 2 of
1. Make the stock smooth and uniform. To do this use a
planer. Plane the stock to a uniform 3/4" thickness.
2. Mark the stock for cutting. Measure carefully and make
your marks clearly. Note: Stay away from a circular saw to
make your cuts because it is very hard to get a straight
cut. Instead use a table saw, radial arm saw, or similar
multipurpose tool. Set your guides and use a push stick,
fence straddler, or a push block to keep your hands away
from the blade.
3. Rip (cut with the grain) the stock to the proper width.
Measure carefully and extend mark with steel square to
provide a guide for table saw. Cut to the waste side of the
wood for proper cutting. Set the fence carefully before
ripping. When ripping you must be sure that at least one
side of the stock is perfectly straight so the stock can be
ripped straight. Use a jointer, or a straight piece of
plywood and a table saw to get this straight edge.
4. Crosscut (cut against the grain) the stock to its proper
length. Measure and mark the stock carefully. Be sure to cut
the stock 1" 2" longer. The stock will be cut to final
length after the top is built.
Preparing the Legs and Rail
Choosing a style for the legs of your end table allows you a
great deal of creativity. We have selected the mission
style leg which features a taper that is heavier at the top
than at the bottom.
• Use a table saw to taper the legs. (A taper jig comes in
• Arrange and mark table legs and rails clockwise according
to their locations on the finished product.
• To prepare the rails for attachment to the top, your plans
will specify exactly the dimensions of each piece. In our
example, the rails are cut 3 1/2' by 13 1/2' and 3 1/2' by
19 1/2'. There is a slot on the inside of each rail made by
a kerf cut to receive the mirror holder which holds the top.
It is 1/8" wide and 3/8" deep and begins 5/16" from the top
of each rail. You can use a router or a table saw to make
Assembling the Top
The table top will be assembled from several individual
pieces of wood and glued together edge to edge. The three
pieces will be longer and wider than the dimensions
indicated in the plans. The top will then be cut to exact
specifications. Be certain that the edges are properly
jointed with no space between the boards. If done correctly,
the glue lines will be hard to
• Arrange the top boards so that the grain is pleasing to
you, then mark them according to their location. TThis
arrangement allows for any cupping or warping and ensures
the tabletop will remain flat.
• Joint the edges if needed. Use either a stationary or hand
jointer, both use a cutter that planes the edges smooth and
square, Note: If you don't have a jointer, a table saw is
the next best thing for smoothing rough edges. A hand
jointer plane does a good job, but requires a greater degree
of skill. Whichever method of jointing you use:
• Check your edges for squareness before you start gluing.
• Smooth out any roughness with sandpaper to your
• Glue pieces together with yellow carpenters glue. This
glue is usually stronger than the wood itself. Place glue on
the piece evenly and on both sides. Once you have begun
gluing, spread it evenly across the joint and don't stop
until you are finished. Avoid getting glue on the surface of
• Put waxed paper on the top and bottom of the table t o
make sure the clamps are not glued to your tabletop.
• Apply clamps for pressure to make the tabletop as flat as
possible. Look for a slight squeeze out of glue which
indicates adequate pressure.
Note: If you plan
to use a planer to surface the top, the top will have to be
glued in two pieces, so that the pieces can fit through the
Note: Clamps can mar the wood. In addition to using the wax
paper, you may want to use scrap wood to protect the finish
of your table top by putting the clamp face on the scrap and
gently closing the clamp down. Care must be taken when you
slowly tighten the clamps, in case you change the alignment
of the table top.
• Once it has dried, (approximately 24 hrs.) remove the
clamps. If the surface isn't smooth use your planer or belt
sander. Scrape off any excess glue with a glue scraper being
careful not to dig into the top.
Assembling the Frame
There are many ways to assemble the frame. One of the best
ways is to attach the legs to the rails by using dowels
because of their strength. Dowels provide strength and
easier alignment and can be made of wood, metal or plastic.
Dowels can be pointed with spirals; or can have square ends
with no spirals. Use pointed dowels with spirals to take out
air pockets because they will set more glue and provide for
The frame will be put together by using dowels. The dowels
are 3/8' diameter by 1 1/2" in length. The dowel holes are
2" apart (or the setting of the dowel jig) and begin 3/4"
from the top. The centers of the dowel holes should be
centered on the inside edges of the leg and rails.
1. Drill dowel holes according
to the plans, using a dowel jig or a horizontal boring
machine. A dowel jig allows for accurate holes (directly in
the center regardless of the thickness of the wood) in both
the legs and rails. A piece of tape, or a depth gauge acts
as a guideline for the depth of the hole (half the length of
the dowel plus 1/4").
2. Apply the glue to the dowels, holes, and flat surfaces.
Tap the dowels in their length with a mallet. Clamp the side
rails and legs together.
3. Glue and clamp side rails to the end rails. At this point
check the frame for squareness by measuring on opposite
corners. If the measurements are the same, then your table
is square. Let the glue dry completely (approximately 24
Attaching the Top
1. Make sure tabletop is properly dried. Rip tabletop to
2. Crosscut tabletop to exact size.
3. Use a belt sander until you have removed all traces of
glue and have a smooth finish.
4. To add the fancy edge, the videotape uses a router, but a
shaper or multipurpose tool could also be used. Start with
your end grain first to allow for a small tear out.
5. Draw lines on the underside of the table to make sure it
There are two ways to attach the
top. The first is to use screw pockets, which attaches the
top to the rails. This requires using a brad-point bit with
a smaller bit to drill a pilot hole. You need at least two
screw pockets per side, for this table the total is eight.
Drill your pilot holes into the tabletop, and secure the top
with round head wood screws. Be careful not to go through
The other method uses mirror holders which attach the top to
the rails. Screwed into the underside of the top, these
holders project into a saw kerf on the rail. This table
requires ten holders, two for each end and three for each
side. To use mirror holders to attach the top to the rails,
locate and drill holes for the mounting screws and secure
tabletop in place. Be careful not to drill through top. Use
a drill press to set correct depth, or use a "stop collar"
on your hand drill. Never glue the top to the frame as this
does not allow for the expansion and contraction of the
Finishing the Assembled Table
The best time to do any major sanding is BEFORE the main
pieces are attached. Sandpaper is graded as medium, or
numbers 60, 80, and 100. Fine sandpaper numbers are 150,
180, and very fine 220, 240, and 280. Medium is usually used
for the first sanding, fine for smoother results and very
fine for smoothing finishes between coats. Sandpaper can be
used wet for some finishes.
You can fill in nail holes with wood putty before sanding if
you are not planning to stain the wood. If you are staining,
fill the holes AFTER the stain is applied. In either case,
match the wood putty closely in color to the stock or use
saw dust and wood
glue to make your own putty.
1. Sand with a fine, wet sandpaper (start with a 120 grit on
plywood and 60-80 grit on other lumber) wrapped around a
felt pad or use a pad or orbital sander. Use aluminum
oxide sandpaper because its grit material lasts longer.
2. Sand slowly so you get the best job possible. Vacuum
frequently to remove dust. Finish manufacturers recommend
which grit of sandpaper to use with their specific finishes
to achieve the smoothest result. Feel the wood to check on
the smoothness as you work because touch is really the only
way to get a smooth surface. Make sure that you remove all
dust, finger marks and excess glue before applying the
finish. First vacuum or brush the entire piece clean and
then wipe with a tack cloth.
When it is time to varnish, vacuum the room and let the
remaining dust settle for 24 hours. Wear lint free clothes
and use the fastest drying varnish available. Use a tack rag
to remove dust before applying varnish and between coats. Do
not apply urethane varnish over a coat of shellac or
(Optional Step) The key to a beautiful finish is making sure
the surface is as smooth as possible.
1. Countersink all nails and repair all dents.
2. Apply a coat of filler to all surfaces of the table.
(Paste wood filler thinned with turpentine or paint thinner
is best.) Filler is a compound mixed to the consistency of
yogurt which fills all the pores of the wood for a smoother
finish. Do not use the wood filler that is sold to repair
rotted wood. Work the filler into the wood instead of just
brushing it on. A short-bristled brush is best
and can be made from an old paint brush. Using the filler
gives your table that "Extra" touch of beauty by providing a
smoother finish. You can color the filler after thinning for
a perfect match of wood and filler.
3. Brush the filler on with the grain of the wood, making
sure all pores are filled.
4. Wipe off the first coat of filler. Recoat, this time
working across the grain. Make sure the brush is
heavily loaded with filler.
5. The instant the shiny wet surface looks dull, start
scrapping off excess filler with a straight, sharp edge
implement like a playing card, ruler, stiff cardboard or
knife with a wide blade (like the knife used to apply
6. Use a rough cloth like burlap to rub briskly across the
7. Once the surface is as clean of excess filler as
possible, let it dry overnight. If you are using a wood with
an open grain, you may need two or three coats of filler.
Applying the Finish
Apply your finish in a well ventilated space with lots of
room. Cover the floor in the area that you will be applying
the finish so that if a spill occurs it will not leave a
permanent stain. Be sure the area is clean and dust free and
can remain so during the
drying period. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. The
finish is the first thing you and your friends will notice,
so take your time.
Our choice is a polyurethane finish applied with a foam
applicator. You could use an air compressor with a
spray attachment or the traditional brush method. Give the
surface a fine sanding between each coat for a long-lasting,
Your handcrafted table is a personal source of pride and you
will want to select a finish which shows it off to its best
advantage. Here are some suggestions to consider when you
choose your finish.
1. Appearance: do you want a clear finish or do you want a
stain to blend with the other pieces in your home. Do you
prefer a high gloss or satin look?
2. Texture: Do you want the table to appear smooth and slick
or do you want to feel the wood's grain?
3. Durability and protection:
how is this piece going to be used, and what are you going
to set on it? Do you need minimum protection from water
marks and scratches?
4. Ease of application: how do you want to apply the finish?
Will you be using a rag, brush, or spray? Why not visit an
unfinished furniture store and talk to the staff about your
needs. Look at their finishes and don't hesitate to bring a
part of your project or a sample of a finish you may be
trying to match. Try any finish you are considering on a
scrap piece of wood that has been smoothed down to your
table's finish. You can save a lot of heartache by taking
the time to check BEFORE applying a finish that doesn't
Another finish that can be used is an oil finish. The
advantage of the oil finish is that after the first coat a
fine grit of sandpaper can be used when wet (220) to cause a
slurry of dust particles and oil. This mixture is
continually absorbed into the wood
with each coat. Each coat builds up a very durable surface
with a hand-rubbed look. Though beautiful, those oil
finishes, do not have the durability and water resistance of
the polyurethane finishes.
Some refinishers use a sanding sealer, which makes a light
fuzz stiff so that it can be sanded off. Test to make sure
that a sealer will not adversely affect the finish by
applying to the underside of a shelf and then applying the
stain to see if it goes on
If brushing on the finish, consider the following:
1. Position the piece in horizontal sections.
2. Apply the paint, varnish or stain across the grain.
3. Brush out the finish with the grain using the brush as a
wiping tool. Clean the brush as it collects liquid.
4. Pull the brush across the table's surface with the
bristles held almost vertically.
5. Let each side dry between coats.
Check the varnish to see if a certain stain is called for.
Read the label for drying times and how many coats to apply.
Apply two, preferably three coats of urethane varnish using
a good quality natural bristle brush. Between coats wet sand
the finish. Rub the surface till it feels smooth. Wipe off
any residue and then apply the next coat. Be careful at the
edges of the table so varnish doesn't drip or run down the
sides. For the final touch, rub down the table using a thin
paste of rottenstone. Let the finish dry for a week before
buffing with a hard paste wax or lambs wool pad. Completing
this project gives you a beautiful addition to your home. It
is an expression of craftsmanship you and your family will
be proud of.
Tools: (Other than common shop
1. Table Saw
2. Jointer (optional)
3. A doweling jig or a horizontal boring tool
4. Jig saw
6. Orbital sander
7. Shaper (optional)
8. Clamps for gluing
1. Cabinet grade
plywood for carcass
2. Plywood for door, false front insert and kick plate face.
3. 1" x 6" oak for face frame
8. Finishing nails (6d)
9. Flathead wood screws
10. Drawer materials and slides (if needed)
12. Counter top materials
We hope you
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