Mid-Century Modern Table for the kids

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Project by Mark Kornell posted 12-20-2015 04:57 AM 1619 views 3 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The story

This Christmas, all of our kids (& their spouses) are coming home. And bringing a couple of grandkids. My wife wants a couple of tables so we can seat everybody – one for the adults and one for the kids. I haven’t quite got the big table done, but I finished off the little one today.

This was one of those rare times when a design flashed into mind, fully formed, and I knew exactly how to build it. Usually the design process takes a while between paper sketches, modelling in SketchUp and even doing prototypes. Still working on the design for the legs on the big table, by the way. This piece, when my wife said “table for the little kids”, it was like I was looking at some pictures and a detailed plan in my head.

Yeah, it is only 5 pieces of wood, so we’re not talking about a lot of detail or complex joinery. No real joinery to speak of, actually. Still…

Iit is a fairly typical mid-century modern piece. Simple, clean lines. No adornment to complicate things, no joinery to mess up.

By virtue of the simplicity, though, any flaws get magnified. The real challenge is to execute flawlessly. And to finish flawlessly. The legs need to have a smooth, graceful shape – and all 4 have to be visually identical. The underbevel on the top has to be the right angle and depth. The corner radii must all be exact. The dye on the legs must be evenly applied. And the topcoat can’t show any runs, dust nibs or other imperfections.

Well, just to keep me humble, the top coat does have a few flaws. Not visible unless you look close, but they’re there and I know it. I’ll probably sand it back and re-spray later, but the kids are arriving tomorrow and the table is going to see some use immediately.

Construction details

The top is approximately 21” x 23”. Just under 1” thick, made of beech.

The legs are hard maple, 18 1/4” long. Turning them to be exactly the same was the big challenge for this project. If I did this type of leg a lot, a copy lathe would be very handy.

To attach the legs to the top, using a 1 3/4” forstner bit, I drilled a flat at a 7° angle to the corners. In the center of each flat, I sunk a hole into which I epoxied a 5/16”-16 nut. On the top of each leg, I drilled a hole and epoxied a length of threaded rod. Cut to the correct length, the rod screws into the nut and holds the leg in place securely.


The legs were dyed with Lockwood #163 – Weathered Oak at a standard concentration.

The top was painted with Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Co.’s Snow White. 4 coats were necessary to give it a solid color.

The top coat was Varathane Nano Defence floor finish, satin sheen. Yes, it is a floor finish, but it is really tough – appropriate for a table for toddlers – and dries quickly.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

10 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18394 posts in 3880 days

#1 posted 12-20-2015 05:29 AM

Nice, clean well executed project.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View CFrye's profile


10487 posts in 2043 days

#2 posted 12-20-2015 07:17 AM

It only looks simple if you’ve done it properly! Beautiful little table, Mark. I’d think a flooring finish to be very appropriate for a toddler’s table :-)
Thanks for sharing.

-- God bless, Candy

View WoodwolfAtl's profile


39 posts in 1809 days

#3 posted 12-20-2015 01:52 PM

Very nice. Enjoy family and Merry Christmas

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8542 posts in 2186 days

#4 posted 12-20-2015 02:35 PM

Very nice piece. Not sure I’m wrapping my head around the nuts/bolts/leg joint. We simpletons need pictures for such complexity;-)

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View terryR's profile


7439 posts in 2512 days

#5 posted 12-20-2015 03:29 PM

Looks very clean.
nice bevel under the top’s edge.

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View edward60's profile


152 posts in 2127 days

#6 posted 12-20-2015 05:29 PM

Simple and beautiful table, Mark. Your kids will be very glad. I like brass elements on the legs.

View DocSavage45's profile


8725 posts in 3046 days

#7 posted 12-20-2015 06:01 PM

Danish Modern, from the fifties. LOL! Looks like it fits the kitchen, and the kids will be very happy you made a table for them.

Made a table of a very similar style for furniture when I was returning to college after the military. Matched my Naugahyde sofa. LOL!


-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2734 days

#8 posted 12-20-2015 06:32 PM

Here’s the leg-to-table “joinery”. For the simpletons :-)

After the leg was turned, I used a drill chuck in the lathe to bore a hole about 2” deep. Can’t remember the diameter, but just large enough to hold the threaded rod. At the same time, I used a forstner bit (7/8”, I think) to counterbore a 1/4” deep recess.

Cut the threaded rod into 4” lengths, and then epoxied them into the hole in the top of the legs. The recess was used to catch any epoxy spillover as the rod was pressed into the hole. I then filled up the recess with more epoxy.

For the top, I drilled an angled flat using a 1 3/4” forstner bit. Angled the drill press table at 7° and made a jig to hold the top in place for drilling accuracy. And at the same time, sunk a hole for the nut in the center of the flat.

To epoxy the nut in place without filling the threads, I put some packing tape on the bottom before I pressed it in place. I was cautious to avoid putting too much epoxy in place initially, which meant filling the gaps around the nut with drops of epoxy using a toothpick.

After the epoxy had cured (24 hours), I started the finishing process on the legs using the excess length of threaded rod to stand up the leg in a scrap block of wood. Final assembly involved cutting off the excess length of rod to just fit the nut depth.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View Mosquito's profile


9541 posts in 2496 days

#9 posted 12-23-2015 04:36 PM

Very nice. “We need another table, but no worries I’ll just whip one up quick” :-D

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View Waldo88's profile


207 posts in 1500 days

#10 posted 01-05-2016 04:24 PM

Nice. My first real furniture build was something very similar. About the only difference is the leg connection, instead of mounting them directly to the top, I drilled into small pieces of oak, and then inset them in the bottom.

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