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How to Make a Table

Making a wooden table is a great entry level project for the beginning woodworker, and also a complex project for the more experienced carpenter. In this wikiHow we will show you the steps to take in making a simple but sturdy small table.


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    Using paper, pencil and a ruler plan out the rough design of your table.
    • Use brainstorm sketches first, don't worry about dimensions.
    • Once you have settled on a rough design, pencil in some rough dimensions. Your dimensions will vary based on the kind of table you intend to construct. In other words, a dining table will have different dimensions than a bedside table.
    • Consider where you intend to place the table when creating your dimensions. It doesn't have to be any size other than the size you need.
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    Using your rough dimensions figure out how much wood you will need. Always add a little extra, just in case.
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    Purchase your wood. For most beginners using a soft wood like pine is a good place to start. For a slightly better finish try poplar. If your table will be used outdoors consider redwood or treated woods.
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    Construct the table top. There are two ways to do this:
    1. Using planking. The advantage of planking is that it is less expensive than a single sheet. Tongue and groove planking is easiest, but if you can use a dowel or biscuit cutter to create a butt joint then you might consider that route for a flat top.
    2. Use a single sheet of wood. If you go this route save some money and use hard wood veneered construction plywood.
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    Cut, glue and clamp your table top and leave overnight.
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    Create the under-table. The under-table is a basic square of wood that attaches to the table top and helps support the legs, preventing them from moving from side-to-side. To create the under-table:
    • Measure in from the edge of your table top a few inches. The exact width will vary depending on the dimensions of your table. Make a mark at your position.
    • Turn the table top over and draw a square on the bottom of your table at your mark.
    • Cut two pairs of wood for the two front pieces and the two side pieces.
    • Glue and clamp these pieces at your lines on the underside of the table. You may choose to screw these into the table top either permanently or to help hold until the glue sets if your clamps do not have the depth they need to reach your inset.
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    Create the legs.
    • Cut one leg to the size you wish.
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    • Cut the three other legs to the approximate size.
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    • Clamp all four legs together.
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    • Cut all four legs to the same length while they are clamped together, using the first leg as a guide.
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    • Sand your table legs using a power sander so they are smooth and ready for a fine sand. Be careful not to sand the top or bottom of the legs as this is likely to ruin your right angle cuts.
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    Attach the legs.
    • Turn the table upside down if it is not there already.
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    • Place the first leg in one corner of the under-table with the top flat against the underside of the table top and the sides flat against the under-table.
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    • Apply glue to the top of your leg and to the interior side of the under-table that will butt against the leg.
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    • Secure the legs by fastening screws — do not use nails — through the under-table and into the leg.
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    • Check that your legs are at a right angle to the table top. Adjust the screws as necessary.
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    • Repeat for the rest of the legs.
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    • Once everything is set up and square, glue and clamp the legs in place.
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    • Optionally, you can place a screw into the top of the leg from the top side of your table, however, this is often unsightly, and you risk splitting the tops of your legs by nailing or screwing into the end wood.
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    Wait until all the glue is fully dry.
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    Turn the table over and see if it is stable by placing it on a known level floor and trying to make it wobble as best you can.
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    Sand your table to whatever degree of finish you find pleasing.
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    Optionally, apply some kind of wood treatment like stain, varnish or tung oil.


  • You can purchase and download table plans online that usually include fully dimensioned drawings.
  • When placing a screw always drill a pilot hole when making furniture, especially on lumber of an inch or less in any dimension, to avoid splitting your wood.
  • When cutting the wood for the under-table and legs cut one piece first, clamp that piece to the other and then cut them both to the same length. Relying on measurements makes it all too easy to get two pieces of wood of slightly differing lengths. Consider using the same technique when power sanding.
  • Never use nails with furniture, they will split your wood and using a hammer well requires far more skill than most people suppose. Screws are also stronger and can be removed if you make a mistake.
  • Consider using recycled or waste woods. You can find these on the street or at construction sites. It takes a little extra work to dimension the lumber, but it saves trees and can also produce fabulous finishes not possible with wood from fresher cuts.
  • Ask your wood supplier for his or her advice; they usually know what they are doing.


  • Be careful with your tools! Anyone with any sense will be pretty safe. Always be aware that you are human, so you will make mistakes.
  • Watch out for fumes from the stain.
  • Follow basic tool safety: use ear and eye protection when using any tools, especially power tools. Wear a dust mask and long sleeves -- wood dust is an allergen and may cause cancer. Never place your hands in front of a cutting tool of any kind.

Things You'll Need

  • A power screwdriver and drill
  • Wood screws or drywall screws of the correct lengths
  • A large selection of clamps
  • Wood glue, either "white" or yellow glue will work. Slightly more expensive is Gorilla Glue as it is an excellent glue and unlike traditional wood glue waterproof and suitable for outdoor projects
  • A sander and sandpaper(s)
  • Wood
  • Proper stain

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Making Tables