Monday, August 26, 2013

Building a Dining Room Table Top

Warning: This is a long post with lots and lots of pictures!

When we first decided to make a dining room table, we spent a couple of days coming up with a pattern for the table top and a plan of action, including a supply list. Nate used one of his math programs to put together the design so that we knew the dimensions of all the pieces which definitely helped keep confusion at a minimum during the building/cutting process.

After a trip to Lowe's, we got to building the table top. We decided to stick with pine to keep costs down and to use a combination of 2x6, 2x10 and 2x12 so the table would be nice and thick.

Since this type of wood has rounded edges and we wanted a smooth top without nooks and crannies for crumbs to fall into, we started by ripping the edges of each board so they would be nice and square.

We built the table in sections since we wanted it to be expandable. We started with large center board and built out from there. We used our large clamps A LOT during this project... I don't think it would have been possible without them. We used them to hold one of the short center boards to the large board.

FYI: the center boards were bought as 2x10's and then ripped in half.

Then we used our Kreg jig to drill two pocket holes. We attached the boards with 2 1/2 " screws.

At every seam, we also bolted the pieces together to really reinforce everything. We did this by first using a paddle bit to drill a larger hole so the bolt would be sunken and then pre-drilled the rest of the way before bolting the boards so nothing would split. All of this bolt spots are on inside seams so once the table goes together, you won't see anything.

TIP: Mark your drill bit with the desired depth so that you don't pre-drill too far.

Next up was our diagonal connecting piece. This is a 2x12 with the corners cut at 45˚ to create 90˚ points. This allowed the piece to sit flush against the center pieces and start to form our octagon shape. Once again, we used two pocket holes on the underside and then bolted the seam.

To make it possible to bolt all the seams on the other side, we first attached the short center piece to the diagonal.

Once they were securely attached to one another, we attached that section to the rest of the table. This was a little tricky since we needed to clamp everything so that we had tight seams, but we didn't have parallel edges.

After some creative thinking, we used one long clamp to hold another long clamp in place so it wouldn't pop off. That allowed us to used scrap pieces of wood to make parallel surfaces to pull everything together. With everything tightly clamped together, we finally got all the pieces attached and bolted together.

FYI: the pic above isn't out of focus... it was so steamy out that my lens kept fogging up on me.

Here is what we accomplished our first day of building:

Since we had cut everything the previous day and worked out a lot of kinks, we quickly built the other side of the table structure the next day. This was an exciting point since we got to see the size of the table as well as the octagon pattern. We were pretty psyched to measure the sides and find that they were all the same length... yay for Math and not making mistakes!

With the structure of the top built, it was time to fill in the triangles. Nate cut all the pieces and popped them into place.

Now, attaching these pieces presented a problem... we didn't have a clamp long enough to hold our Kreg in place while we drilled and the combination of this and screwing resulted in a fairly wonky looking inlay. (See the right compared to the dry-fitted left inlay?)

This was a fairly frustrating moment but after some more creative thinking (there was a lot during this project) I decided to level everything the best I could and then staple the pieces in place before drilling the pocket holes. The staples held the pieces just enough to make sure they didn't have any major movement.

The inlay pieces still weren't perfectly flush so we picked up a block plane. I had never used one before but found it to be a pretty relaxing and satisfying tool. It shaves off thin layers of wood until all edges are flush with one another.

Even without going back through and fixing the bad side, the block plane made everything look fabulous.

We finished up by filling in any divots and seams with some stainable wood filler.

This was end of day two. Our goal for day three was to get to the same point with the other side of the table. We made pretty good progress but then my hand had a disagreement with the drill so we didn't quite finish and I spent the rest of the day like this:

TIP: Don't try to detach the Kreg jig from the drill bit by holding the jig and reversing the drill bit by turning the drill on... it will rip up your palm and then your husband will make you hold a cup for hours so that you don't open and close your hand.

Despite this set back, I would say that it took a total of two and a half days of working during Will's naps to build the table top. Since this is our first big project working during naps, I was a little surprised with how productive we were!


  1. Oh my goodness. I hope your hand is OK now. Table is beautiful!

  2. Ok. OUCH.
    That doesn't sound good on the hand, when you say 'ripped up palm'. Glad your hubby knows the 'special- healing -cup -technique'! Hope your hand is better and on the mend.
    Now, as to the table. I love the design. The table top is going to be great... I can't wait to see it all put together and finished!

    1. I'm lucky to have him around! It was definitely a 'just don't look at it' moment... I'm ok with blood as long as it's not coming out of me :)

  3. What is the overall dimension of your table? as if it was a square?

  4. Any problems with gaps as the wood expands and contracts? It's a beautiful design,but I wonder how well it's going to hold up over time.

    1. We sealed both sides of the table to minimize that and we haven't had any issues with any gaps at this point (5 months in) so we're hoping it holds up!