Hello to all of you wonderful Rehling Unit followers!
Rebecca was kind enough to let me take another stab at this blogging thing, so I thought I would share a tutorial from my latest project: our farmhouse dining table! If you follow me on Instagram (@cwrehling) I try to post progress pictures of projects, so you may have seen some already…but in this post I’ll share some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way. I’ve loved diving deeper into woodworking/furniture building, and my hope in sharing this post is to help motivate another person to plug in a saw and (carefully) get building! I’m telling you, once you see your first project start to take shape, you’ll be hooked!
For this table, I followed these plans we found at Shanty 2 Chic. They have lots of FREE plans for awesome, easy, farmhouse style furniture and home décor. Most of their plans (this table included) are designed with relatively inexpensive white common board or pine wood that you can get at Home Depot or Lowes (I’m a Home Depot man through and through). Rebecca found a picture of this table on Pinterest and loved it immediately. I’ve been trying to get around to building it for probably 6 months now. I actually bought the wood a while back but slowly used everything for other projects that came up…Oops. Anyway, the plans in the link above will have all the shopping lists, cut lists, and steps with awesome diagrams. But I’ll share my steps, some pictures, and any lessons learned!
For this table, you’re basically building 3 sub-assemblies that you will then finish with your stain/paint of choice and assemble:
- Table Top
- Table Bases (2)
- Stretcher (single board to connect the bases)
For you to understand how I build this table top (as well as the other assemblies) I first need to explain what pocket holes are. If you are interested in diving into DIY crafting, building, making, whatever, pocket holes will be your best friend! A pocket hole is an angled pilot hole that allows you to screw two boards together either at an angle or edge to edge. I’ve used this technique for tables, desks, cornhole boards, bath trays, you name it. For our purposes, here’s how to do it:
- Buy a Kreg Pocket Hole System.This is the set that I use, and it gets the job done but if you see yourself doing lots of big projects, might be a worthy investment to spend about $50 more to get their heavier duty set. You’ll also need a Kreg Face Clamp. For this plan, you’d need the 6 inch clamp. I’d recommend getting that over the cheaper 3 inch clamp because it’ll let you do bigger boards for only $10ish more.
- Follow the instructions in the package to set your drill bit and jig to accommodate the size of wood you are working with.
- Clamp the jig to your board where you want the hole drilled and drill the hole.
- Line up your boards how you want them to be, use clamps to hold the pieces secure as necessary while you drill.
- Use Kreg Pocket Hole Screws to drill the two boards together.
Here are some pictures of how to do the pocket holes! You can see how when you repeat this and add on board after board, you eventually wind up with a nice table top, or a flat, plank style piece that you can use for trays, wall art, or whatever creative pieces you can come up with!
Okay – now that you’re a pocket hole wizard, let’s move on…
For the table top you can follow Shanty 2 Chic’s instructions and you’ll be good to go. We wanted our table to be a bit shorter than the plans, so I subtracted the difference and shortened these cuts a bit. When you attach the boards to each other, don’t forget to use a thin line of wood glue between each board – that will help make sure the table top is solid.
After I got all the boards attached to each other, I wanted to make sure that all of the ends were flush, so I used a circular saw to cut the ends. You can use a straight edge board clamped in place as a guide to make sure that you cut straight. Make sure to use a speed square to check that your cut is square BEFORE you cut! Here is what the top looked like at this point:
The next step is to attach the 2×4 edge pieces using the pocket holes (remember those??) drilled along the outside edges. To do this: simply cut the 2x4s to size, and attach the short ends to the table top first. Then the long side pieces attach to the table top. Then attach the edge pieces to each other in the corners using pocket holes. I used straight boards and clamps to make sure everything was level and locked in place before I drilled them into place.
*One possible variation you could do here would be to cut the 2x4s at a 45° angle, but I chose to keep the edges at 90° because I liked the “raw” look. Don’t forget to use wood glue here too! I think these 2X4s were brilliant here because it makes the table top look really solid, but we’re only using 1” boards (which are really ¾ of an inch…).
Here’s what the finished table top looks like from the bottom and top!
At this point, just give it a really good sanding especially around the corners and edges (we wanted the edges rounded a bit). Make sure that everything is level, even, and smooth! I highly recommend getting some kind of powered sander. Ryobi makes a finishing sander that’s only about $35 and works well. But if you expect to do big projects I’d recommend a random orbital sander or belt sander. It’ll save you lots of time.
For the table bases, I followed the plans exactly. Shortening the table length didn’t impact the height or width at all, so if you make the cuts accurately and cleanly, you’ll be good to go. There are three main tips that I have for this section:
- After you cut your individual pieces, sand them well before assembly. This will make it drastically easier on you as it will be hard to sand all of the nooks and crannies once it’s all assembled.
- When assembling, it’s very important that the 4x4s that make up the main support of the bases are secured straight on at 90°. If the upright isn’t square with the bottom, then your angled trim pieces will wind up with gaps and it will look sloppy. I highly recommend having the upright clamped to the bottom when you screw into place! I made sure to do that this time (I haven’t on previous builds) and it made all the difference. Even if this is a first build, don’t be a rookie!
- If you fill in your holes with wood filler, do NOT use store bought wood filler unless you are painting the table. If you are staining your table, the wood filler will NOT accept the stain well (even though it says stainable). The best and cheapest option is to make your own wood filler (yes, really!). You take a little bit of saw dust (the very fine powder- if your sander has a dust bag, this is an easy way to collect it) and mix with wood glue and voila! Just mix it enough where it gets to a paste-like consistency where you could roll it up into a little ball. I would recommend testing this BEFORE you use it on your furniture 😊
If you make all your cuts cleanly and accurately, and if you follow those tips above, you’ll have no problem with the table bases! Here are some progress shots so you can get an idea of how they come along:
I hope you all are ready, because this one gets kind of complicated. It’s a tough one. Just kidding, it’s the easiest part. Just cut the 4×4 according to the plan. Boom. Done.
Since our table was shorter than the plan, we just took the length out of here too- super simple.
If you care about making good use of your time, then you followed my instructions and sanded the individual boards before assembling the table bases. Now you just need to give the different sub-assemblies a good once over. Make sure everything is smooth. Again, I’d suggest rounding the corners and edges just a bit!
We stained our table using the Minwax Special Walnut color. I applied two coats to get it a little darker without going all the way to a “dark walnut” shade. Love the color. We did the same shade on the desk that I made for Reb so we knew we liked the color. You’ll start to kind of learn how to achieve different colors!
For the top coat, I used regular ole’ polyurethane. I used the glossy finish and applied two coats. Just follow the directions on the can if you want to apply multiple coats! Give it a very light sanding after it’s completely dry to smooth and even out the finish.
You’re almost there!! Home stretch! Just follow their instructions to get all of the pieces together. That being said, it’s helpful to have an extra set of hands while doing this. But Reb was occupado feeding Joel dinner, and brother you do NOT interrupt Joel’s dinner! But I used a folding table to support the stretcher and random scrap wood to get the upside-down base at the proper height. Then I used a clamp to make sure that the stretcher was held in the exact place I wanted it before I started to drill. I was pretty impressed with myself….
At this point, there is nothing left to do but crack open a cold one and take a seat and enjoy your beautiful new table!
We also built a matching bench to go with it (you can find the plans here and all of my tips still apply!) and are thinking of building a church pew for the other side to give some height! Thoughts?
Here’s a picture of the final product with the bench. Be sure to check out our weekend recap for shots of the table decorated by my beautiful, talented wife for Jenna’s baby shower!