Making my first table

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Forum topic by Tim posted 01-02-2007 07:04 AM 2034 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Tim's profile


11 posts in 4207 days

01-02-2007 07:04 AM

My growing family is going to need a larger dining talbe in the next few years. Last year we moved into a new home, and our old 4-place drop-leaf isn’t going to cut it for much longer. Makes it tough to entertain more than one other couple.

First, a little background on my skills. I’ve completed 4-5 “major” projects since I started woodworking a few years ago. Most of these have been cabinets or built-in shelves, plywood with solid face frames. I buy my plywood/lumber at home stores. I just bought a nice used 6” jointer and by the time I’m ready to tackle this project I’ll probably have purchased a 12” planer. I’m at the stage where I want to start working more with rough lumber, rather than buying it all s4s.

I’ve seen some tables at furniture stores that I like, but I haven’t settled on a specific style yet. I want to make something “solid” looking, that will seat 10-12 at most. I’m thinking i will buy chairs for it rather than making them.

So here’s my question: what can I do now to start getting ready for this type of project? Any suggested reading? Any suggestions of smaller projects I could take on now to start honing my skills?

Thanks for any help.


5 replies so far

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4199 days

#1 posted 01-02-2007 07:48 AM

Why not make a small table – maybe a coffee table, sofa table, hall table, bedside table? Any of these will force you to gain the skill required to make a larger table.

You will need to learn how to do proper mortise and tenon joints, learn about wood expansion and how to allow for this in your table. You will need to consider the pros and cons of sheet construction compared to using solid timber. You will need to carefully determine what chairs will go with the table, and design sufficient room to accommodate these without crowding, i.e., not only the chairs but the people sitting in them. You will need to make decisions regarding the construction of the table vis-a-vis moving it into location. (Will it fit in the space available? Will it fit through the doors and around hallway corners?) You will need to make a decision concerning its finish. Is it a piece of furniture foremost, or is function more important? Can you design both into one table?

Have a look at this Australian self-taught woodworker. I love his work and even more when I realize that he became a skilled craftsman the hard way.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4196 days

#2 posted 01-02-2007 05:06 PM

When it comes down to it, tables can be broken down into pretty much the same basic components. While there might be some minor disagreements as to which way is better to attach the top to the base, for the most part you’re looking at the same techniques. So you should start with getting a general understanding of table construction.

But after that, the biggest decision is going to be based on style. Style is what differentiates a Heppawhite table from a Queen Anne from a Mission. If you look at them, they all have a top and legs and aprons, but they look very different from one another because of their stylistic design features, like slipper feet or turned legs or a bead detail on the apron or a profile on the table edge.

If the style of the chair (or the comfort of the chair) is more important to you, start by trying to find the chairs you want and come up with a table design that follows the style of your chairs. If the style of the table is more important to you, come up with the table style you like and then try to find the chairs that will match it.

-- Ethan,

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4428 days

#3 posted 01-02-2007 05:28 PM

Hey Tim:
you might try looking at Matthew Burak’s line of tables. He has kits if you want to buy the legs and joinery. I haven’t ordered from this place, but I get monthly emails from them, and I saw the company featured on a t.v. show once, I think it was New Yankee Workshop. Burak specializes in selling kits, and has a lot of information about design, and parts needed.

Here is the website link:

go for it,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Tim's profile


11 posts in 4207 days

#4 posted 01-03-2007 08:00 PM

Thanks to all for the comments. I’m definitely going to do some searching on the ‘net and look at some furniture showrooms to get some ideas and test drive some chairs. I like the idea of a kit for the base, if I run short of time (and I almost certainly will) that seems like a good compromise.

Thanks again.


View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4184 days

#5 posted 01-27-2007 08:35 PM

I purchased a good book on tables – Dining Tables by Kim Carleton Graves with Masha Zager. There are several types of tables in there you can make, including a large trestle table.

You can find the book on Amazon for a reasonable price.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

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