Our last dining room table was a charming little white number that we'd found on Craigslist in MO for $30. It served us well and made living in a home without a dining room (last rental) doable because of it's smaller size. One of the most exciting parts of our new home was finally having a designated dining room, and a large one at that!
Our old table felt a bit swallowed up by all of the space and Brett and I found ourselves fighting for elbow room on our side of the table so about a week after we moved in I started searching Craigslist again for something bigger. I was hoping for something mid-century but the only ones I found were either part of a dining room suite (hello, big bucks) or not quite what I was looking for. I found one that was going for $250 and set up an appointment to see it thinking I'd probably be bringing it home but when I got to the location I couldn't find a house. It was then that I realized the seller wasn't in the Springs but in Denver and without much free time to drive up there by myself I decided to hold out a bit longer. It sold a few days later.
I have had these hairpin legs for about a year after thrifting a kitchenette in MO. We used it as our kitchen table and workspace in our last place and it served as a pile collector up until this week. After deciding the only way to build a table myself was by using these legs I started looking up table DIY's to see if it was possible.
Around that time my friend, Sarah, of Arrow and Apple thrifted a table similar to the one I'd been dreaming about! It was then that I was able to firm up that I wanted it to look more mid-century with a smooth surface and clean lines and less farmhouse-industrial although those tables are beautiful.
I stumbled upon this DIY and decided it was my best chance with my skill level as far as woodwork was concerned. I firmed up my supply list and headed to Lowe's. As soon as I walked in a male employee greeted me asking if I needed any help - which I always appreciate because so often as soon as you do there is no one to be found. I vaguely told him my plans which I'm assuming he took for inexperience because he then started telling me how complex this project might be and that I might be spending more money than it was worth and that there was this great place down the road that could build it for me. He was trying to be helpful and maybe I misrepresented myself but instead of filling in the gaps he was discouraging my idea.
After wrapping that up I went over to source some clamps and then ran into another employee who solved all of those problems I was running into without much conversation at all. He gets a gold star. I left feeling like this project was going to be a toss up. I'd either end up with a table I was proud of or have some expensive wood to paint with chalkboard paint and add to the kids' room. Ha!
Here's the basic rundown of what I used and how I made it. I started it after the kids went to bed thinking I'd get it done in time for dinner guests the next night but that was just silliness. I also wasn't really confident turning this into a tutorial so I only have iPhone photos and the first half were taken after dark.
3 - 3/4" 15" x 72" aspen panels. You could use pine but I wanted a harder wood without lots of knots showing. I wanted it to look like one seamless top but had to fit the wood in my Volvo so I went with three panels.
2 - 1" x 4" x 8' aspen boards. I used the same wood for consistency but since it doesn't show you could downgrade to pine to save a little.
4 - Metal hairpin legs with screws from previous table. Find your own on eBay, Etsy, or directly from here. They aren't cheap but I think they're worth saving up for. You could substitute these for something else from IKEA.
1 - Box of #8 screws measuring 1 1/4" similar to these.
1 - Wood glue
1 - Small tub of wood filler.
2 - Terry cloths for waxing and wiping up glue.
8 - Table clamps. I had four already and bought four more.
1 - Power sander and sanding pads (you could use a sanding brick instead). I used a 120 and an 80 to get a nice, smooth surface.
I used my original kitchenette as my work surface but it wasn't ideal. The second employee at Lowe's told me to clamp one panel to the edge of my work table and then glue the second panel on and then glue the third panel on before squeezing them tightly against each other and clamping the third piece to the work table as well. This saved me money since I didn't want to spend $40 per long pipe clamp and it worked exactly like he said.
After gluing and clamping the three panels together, I wiped off the excess glue from the top with a damp cloth and clamped the panels together at the seams to keep them from being uneven. NOTE: When purchasing wood, I suggest double checking that your sides are mostly straight so that they'll fit together nicely without needing to be planed. I, for one, don't have that kind of set up at home. Thankfully, these aspen panels were straight.
I let the glue set for about 20 minutes while I cut my boards into 30" lengths. I used four cuts of wood for cross boards and centered them about 12" in from each short edge and again about 25" in. I covered each with wood glue before carefully setting it down and wiggling it around a bit to help the glue spread. Then I pre-drilled and screwed in my first screw to secure it before pre-drilling the rest of the holes and screwing the whole cut down. Be sure your glue is pressed down because it will set quickly and if it's not flush your cross- board might end up wonky. I drilled about 10 screws per cross board making sure all three top planks had enough support. Repeat with the other three boards.
Next, I wiped off excess glue and flipped my table top over. I left the seam clamps on overnight just in case. The next morning I removed the clamps and used a little bit of wood filler in between two seams that had about a 1/8" gap between them. After it was set I sanded the table down to remove the glue drips between the seams and to get a nice smooth surface. After wiping the excess sawdust off I sanded it again with a finer sandpaper.
Then I unscrewed the legs off the old table and added them to the new one with the help of my tiny assistant. Once my Briwax arrived in the mail I wiped down my table top and added two thin coats of wax and then buffed it. I let it sit outside overnight to help with the smell of the finish before bringing it inside.
Project total: $152
Cost breakdown: $110 for the lumber, $15 for my legs thrifted from another table, $4 screws, $8 wood fill, $15 clamps. I already had more clamps, wood glue, a sander, sandpaper, and terry cloths.
Skill level: Beginner
Time: Broken up over a week but easily a weekend project.
I'm really proud of this table and the fact that I spent less than half of what it would've cost to buy the other table off of craigslist. How about this one that I found on eBay for $695 plus S/H!
Check out how Casey used hairpin legs to build a desk for their new home. I really like her idea of using reclaimed wood (next time) and that frequent movers like us can always unscrew the legs and find or make another tabletop to fit the parameters of a new space.
It was a bit rainy the day that I had the table flipped over to screw the legs on so you can see where Sunday walked across it. Ruby also got ahold of my pen and added some doodles.
So, I didn't exactly build this table all by myself. I had the advice of others to fill in the gaps, the encouragement from my husband to take the project on, and the company of both kids through various stages of construction. I still feel like going back to Lowe's to find the employee that tried to talk me out of such a 'complicated' project that might leave me feeling 'pretty discouraged' to show him how it turned out.
Thinking about making your own table? I'm happy to answer any more questions about my process or just reassure you that you can, in fact, do it yourself. Feel free to leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for sharing in my excitement over this project!