Building a Table - Planning

A Step By Step Approach

Don't let the job of building this end table make you apprehensive about beginning. This section makes building an end table easy by dividing the project into six simple, manageable steps. Each step is then broken down into a series of instructions. You will find each step and the instructions for completing them NUMBERED to help you remember exactly what stage of the project you are doing. Refer to the diagrams and the videotape if you have questions.

The steps to follow in making this lovely end table are:

  1. Preparing the Stock
  2. Preparing the legs and Rails
  3. Assembling the top
  4. Assembling the frame
  5. Attaching the top
  6. Finishing the assembled table

Preparing the Stock

If you did not buy pre-planed stock, start with step 1 of step 1; if you did buy pre-planed stock, start with step 2 of step 1.

  1. Make the stock smooth and uniform. To do this use a planer. Plane the stock to a uniform 3/4" thickness.
  2. Mark the stock for cutting. Measure carefully and make your marks clearly. Note: Stay away from a circular saw to make your cuts because it is very hard to get a straight cut. Instead use a table saw, radial arm saw, or similar multipurpose tool. Set your guides and use a push stick, fence straddler, or a push block to keep your hands away from the blade.
  3. Rip (cut with the grain) the stock to the proper width. Measure carefully and extend mark with steel square to provide a guide for table saw. Cut to the waste side of the wood for proper cutting. Set the fence carefully before ripping. When ripping you must be sure that at least one side of the stock is perfectly straight so the stock can be ripped straight. Use a jointer, or a straight piece of plywood and a table saw to get this straight edge.
  4. Crosscut (cut against the grain) the stock to its proper length. Measure and mark the stock carefully. Be sure to cut the stock 1" 2" longer. The stock will be cut to final length after the top is built.

Preparing the Legs and Rail

Choosing a style for the legs of your end table allows you a great deal of creativity. We have selected the mission style leg which features a taper that is heavier at the top than at the bottom.

  • Use a table saw to taper the legs. (A taper jig comes in handy here.)
  • Arrange and mark table legs and rails clockwise according to their locations on the finished product.
  • To prepare the rails for attachment to the top, your plans will specify exactly the dimensions of each piece. In our example, the rails are cut 3 1/2' by 13 1/2' and 3 1/2' by 19 1/2'. There is a slot on the inside of each rail made by a kerf cut to receive the mirror holder which holds the top. It is 1/8" wide and 3/811 deep and begins 5/16" from the top of each rail. You can use a router or a table saw to make these slots.

Assembling the Top

The table top will be assembled from several individual pieces of wood and glued together edge to edge. The three pieces will be longer and wider than the dimensions indicated in the plans. The top will then be cut to exact specifications. Be certain that the edges are properly jointed with no space between the boards. If done correctly, the glue lines will be hard to notice.

  • Arrange the top boards so that the grain is pleasing to you, then mark them according to their location. The videotape shows you how to alternate the annular rings on each piece of board. This arrangement allows for any cupping or warping and ensures the tabletop will remain flat.
  • Joint the edges if needed. Use either a stationary or hand jointer, both use a cutter that planes the edges smooth and square, Note: If you don't have a jointer, a table saw is the next best thing for smoothing rough edges. A hand jointer plane does a good job, but requires a greater degree of skill. Whichever method of jointing you use:
  • Check your edges for squareness before you start gluing.
  • Smooth out any roughness with sandpaper to your satisfaction.
  • Glue pieces together with yellow carpenters glue. This glue is usually stronger than the wood itself. Place glue on the piece evenly and on both sides. Once you have begun gluing, spread it evenly across the joint and don't stop until you are finished. Avoid getting glue on the surface of the table.
  • Put waxed paper on the top and bottom of the table to make sure the clamps are not glued to your tabletop.
  • Apply clamps for pressure to make the tabletop as flat as possible. Look for a slight squeeze out of glue which indicates adequate pressure.
    • Note: If you plan to use a planer to surface the top, the top will have to be glued in two pieces, so that the pieces can fit through the planer.
    • Note: Clamps can mar the wood. In addition to using the wax paper, you may want to use scrap wood to protect the finish of your table top by putting the clamp face on the scrap and gently closing the clamp down. Care must be taken when you slowly tighten the clamps, in case you change the alignment of the table top.
  • Once it has dried, (approximately 24 hrs.) remove the clamps. If the surface isn't smooth use your planer or belt sander. Scrape off any excess glue with a glue scraper being careful not to dig into the top.