Sunday, November 20, 2011

Project - Dining Table

Mission accomplished!

I wrote back on October 30th that I was building a dining table which needed to be ready for Thanksgiving. It took right around three weeks, but today the table moved into the house and was assembled. We even ate our first meal at the table tonight!

Here she is in all her glory:

Project Plan
I held onto the different receipts from Home Depot so that I could tally up the costs.

I went to the 'dimensional lumber' section for the wood this time and picked out boards made of Douglas Fir.  The boards are more often used in framing for a house rather than the furniture inside of it, but with a good lot of sanding, they can look really good.  The total cost for all the wood was around $60.  The real difficulty was that these boards have lots of imperfections after being run through the different machines at the mill.  They often have ink stamps on them too.  Since I wanted to stain the project rather than paint it, this required extra effort.  The various nicks and other imperfections that I couldn't  sand out generally added to the 'character' of the table.

I used Minwax Polyshades, which is a stain and polyurethane finish all in one.  The color we chose was Mission Oak.

For assembly, I used my Kreg Jig for all joints.  Again, the Kreg Jig was really what inspired me to get going in creating pieces out of wood as it is a simple but good looking way to join wood.

Including wood, screws, stain, wiping rags, sand paper, rubber gloves, brushes, steel wool, and various other items, the total bill came out to just under $150.  I'm really pleased to have a great looking dining table for that price.

Quick Step-by-Step
After buying all the wood, I took it home and began making all the requisite cuts.
All the boards

I was so excited to get going on this project that I made a stupid mistake right away.  The table top required five long boards, but I cut six.  That screwed up another piece I needed to cut, because now I had already divided that board into one too long piece and one too short piece.  So, I had to go back to HD to buy another board.  Not terrible, but a waste of $7.
All cut up
I think the most important part early on was to cut the legs correctly.  If you screw this up, even slightly, you won't know how the table sits until close to the end.  This I found out the hard way.  I really focused on making sure the base of the boards on the legs were even on the bottom, but I left the tops with some variation.  The best thing you can do is to stack several boards and cut them at the same time. 

After all the cuts were made, I drilled endless holes with my Kreg Jig.  Knowing this project was going to be heavy itself and having to support weight, I erred on the side of drilling too many holes for extra joints.  As you are preparing to drill the holes, you need to picture the final project and decide which boards will go where, which side will face up/down, etc.  I really enjoyed this part - deciding which were my favorites and assembling them in my head.  I think the smarter move would have been to fully plan this out before I started making cuts.  As I mentioned above, when using wood that isn't S4S (squared 4-sides - meaning it is completely smooth and looks good on all sides), you'll find blemishes that will force you to maybe hide an ugly side of a board. 

I assembled the long boards into the table top and added a perpendicular board at the end
Table top almost done
The one breadboard (the perpendicular board) pictured above was perfectly flush, but the other side had one board that was short by maybe 3/8".  I then had to take my circular saw and cut off 3/8" from the assembled table top to ensure the other breadboard would attach and be flush.  This threw off a lot of the dimensions of the table, so I now had to make adjustments to the plan.

I next assembled the two legs and the frame separately.  The tabletop itself was already heavy and I began to realize how much of a pain it would be to put this all together myself.

Next came seemingly endless sanding.  I'd read online, and now recommend myself, that you either sand before you begin assembling, or sand once you have a few boards together.  By doing so, you'll make it a lot easier on yourself if you only have to maneuver a single or a few boards rather than an entire tabletop.  I used a hand sander as well as an electric finishing sander.  Sanding by hand was strenuous, but worked a lot better than the electric sander.  I started with 60 grit paper to sand off the real rough spots or ink markings.  Then I moved down to 120 followed by 220 grit paper to get the project ready for staining.
Frame laid out
I then finished assembling the pieces to leave me with a table top + frame and two legs.  The legs wouldn't be attached until I was done and the project was in the house.

This was my first attempt at staining and it could have gone a lot more smoothly.  I watched a few videos on YouTube about staining and decided I would use a rag with stain to apply the stain to the wood.  Staining is different from painting and I wish I understood that better when I started.  Your job is to apply the stain to the wood, let it soak into the pores, then wipe away the excess.  I used a cloth soaked in stain to apply the stain, which is a fine method, but what I didn't do was wipe off the excess as soon as I should have.  This led to some splotching.  For my next project, I will apply with a brush and use the cloth for wiping.

After the first layer of stain was on, the project needed to sit for 6 hours.  Following that, I sanded the entire project again using 000 steel wool.  This helps even out the stain and opens the pores up again to accept more stain.  I next gave the project a second coat.

The Minwax can says that two coats are recommended.  If you want to make the project darker, you can add subsequent coats after you hit it with the 000 steel wool, which I did.
Final stain
The project was pretty much done - I thought.

Today, my brother came over and provided the other set of hands needed to move the table into the house and flip it to attach the legs / flip it back upright.

Unfortunately, once attached, the table had some wobble to it.  This was really caused by two things - 1) the top of the legs weren't 100% even and 2) I focused on making sure the table top was flat, but the underside was a bit uneven.

After a lot of passes with the level, I realized that even if the legs were 100% even, the way they attached to the tabletop could leave them still uneven.  So, I feel like I cheated, but I ended up attaching adjustable feet to the bottoms of the legs.  I knew I'd be adding something underneath in order to protect our wood floors anyway, so why not kill two birds?

With the adjustable feet attached, the table is now steady and sturdy.  We ordered sushi and everyone ate at the table.

What's Next
For Thanksgiving, the six attendees will either sit on the two red chairs we own or on folding chairs.  Soon after though, I am going to try and build four wooden chairs and a long bench to match the table. Should be fun!


  1. Yeah i dont try too hard to make sure the legs are even anymore, if your legs are even your floor will be uneven or the other way around.

  2. I like the part where he brother came over to save the day. It seems he was vital in this project being a successful. You should make sure his favorite beer is around on Thanksgiving. I bet he is good looking too.

    - Anonymous

  3. Jim, is your brother's name Anonymous by any chance?

    That table is beautiful!

  4. Ha, I think Anonymous has been outed