Utilitarian Projects #1: Chris's table. An old student's table.

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Blog entry by Jim Bertelson posted 11-09-2009 05:40 AM 1532 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Utilitarian Projects series Part 2: Apology »

I feel embarrassed to put some of my very practical projects, utilitarian things, into the projects category. Note that I have no projects, but have completed two woodworking projects for the shop and posted them… in a blog series. I am reserving the Projects category for my true woodworking hobby projects…............should I ever do them (-:

Here is a table I made for my son when he was 13 years old, about 28 years ago. It was used by him until he left for college. Since then it has had many functions, and a lot of heavy abuse, and withstood it all. After a remodel it got covered with…......stuff…......and is now becoming unencumbered, and will be used again. After seeing it, I realized it was somewhat unusual. So I thought the design might be of some use to someone. It has proven to be indestructible. The top is only screwed on, a 3/4” sheet of plywood, so it may be replaced. I made it from my own thoughts about engineering and design. It was meant to be abused, used, and to be tough.

Note the leg design, with a somewhat cantilevered approach.

A side view. Note the two 2×4 legs, the cross beam to the other side, and how they are fitted together.

Here is an underneath view. The table is very easy to upend, very light, in spite of considerable strength. The 2×4’s are fir. The 3/4” pieces are all fir plywood. Construction is screws and glue. Note the glides nailed into the horizontal leg members.

Here is a detail of the legs, boxed in with plywood. The screws (they are easy to see) and the glue, with the boxed in construction, give this an unusual strength, considering the cantilevered design. Notice the horizontal piece. the top is screwed in with 3 screws on two of these horizontals, 6 screws in all. Easily replaceable.

Thought this might be a practical design for a study table or other. It is extremely strong, cheap to build, replaceable top, and very stable. It could be upgraded in many ways, including wood, finish, etc. The boxed double legs are the trick. They make it very tough indeed.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

5 comments so far

View oldwoodman's profile


137 posts in 3574 days

#1 posted 11-09-2009 08:08 AM

Thanks Jim. That is a well-designed table that can be used for many things, as you have attested. It has held up very well. I am sure you could “remodel” it to make it a solid woodshop table of some sort.

View stefang's profile


16066 posts in 3510 days

#2 posted 11-09-2009 12:29 PM

Good strong construction Jim. It’s always nice to make something that lasts. I made a simple sofa set out of fir for my son’s room when he was 15 and he just got rid of it a couple of years ago at age 40. Those sofas were made before I began actual woodworking. They were joined with wooden dowels and they stayed solid throughout their lifetime. I’m still amazed they lasted so long. They saw plenty of use too. It just goes to show that we don’t always need mortise and tenon joints to get a good result. Please don’t tell FWW I said this.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4245 posts in 3341 days

#3 posted 11-09-2009 05:39 PM

If it would fit in the shop, I would use it there. I suspect it is more likely to be used by my wife. However as I think, perhaps if I put some wheels on on side so it was very moveable, it might make a good project table. Have to replace one of my fold-em-up ones, but they have only been folded up once, when we did a major remodel and moved the kitchen temporarily down here. I will have to think on it.

You are absolutely right about construction: screws, glue, plywood, dowels, and durable design go a long way. I have made innumerable butt joint objects of plywood, joined with screws and glue. Not one of them has ever failed at a joint. In fact, and this is even stranger, I have made countless small shelves, boxes, and utilitarian things out of 1/4” plywood, nails, and glue. No reinforcement. Not one of the joints has failed. I drill partial depth holes before nailing with brads. Takes careful drilling, I use a very old flexible power take-off attachment on a wall mounted ancient small drill press that I cannabalized. It has a small chuck, and I leave a very small drill bit in it. So it is always ready to go. I just built one of these shelves 3 months ago to go on the wall behind my drill press, for storage of small drill press related, and miscellaneous objects. I wouldn’t put my pipe wrenches in it, but I bet it never fails.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View dbhost's profile


5767 posts in 3408 days

#4 posted 11-10-2009 01:00 AM

Looks like perfectly good use for plywood to me! That is the sort of furniture that I remember as a kid.

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View a1Jim's profile


117279 posts in 3753 days

#5 posted 11-10-2009 01:03 AM

Got er done should be a big asset in your work.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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