It's basically SAW: Beauty Edition.
Being into crafting is kind of like being an adrenaline junkie — you’re lured further and further toward the thrilling and dangerous, through a series of escalating personal dares. You start with simple, contained projects — for me, lots of beaded jewelry, bath bombs, decoupage, and the like — but eventually you feel the DIY rush draining away as the law of diminishing returns takes hold. You’ve still got to get your crafting fix, though, so you advance to more elaborate crafting attempts. After a year of dipping my toes into heavier DIY projects and abandoning them in frustration or boredom (see ya, unfinished faux Capiz shell chandelier! Peace out, brick succulent wall!), I needed a big crafting win to perk me up and give me that rush I’d been missing. I decided that the most prudent course of action, considering my maker’s malaise and the fact that I hated my kitchen table with the fire of a thousand burning suns, was to build a new dining table, in my living room. It came out awesome, and I bet you could do it too.
I have absolutely zero carpentry skills, save for a semester of high school woodshop, during which I mostly mooned over one of the slouchy, perennially stoned senior boys in the class, and made one hideous but reasonably functional cutting board out of scrap wood. I’ve always fantasized about learning to actually build things that were beautiful, useful, and unique, and I love artists like Ariele Alasko. I’m not a total novice at refinishing furniture, but building every component of the thing was not in the cards for me. Luckily, though, the Internet exists, so most of the information I needed to complete the project was readily available online, and I figured out what materials I could realistically use. I decided to use an old door, and add a simple herringbone pattern on top, then finish the project with hairpin legs I found on Etsy.
It was a daunting endeavor and it destroyed my living room for three solid weeks, but it was well worth it. I love the table and feel a sense of pride and competency every time I sit down to a meal and, as my friends will tell you, I am not above bragging shamelessly about it.
If you’re in the mood for a crafting challenge, here’s how I did it, and how you can too:
- An old door or wood slab cut to your desired dimension — I used an old door I found at the miraculous Urban Ore, in Berkeley, but you could use any sturdy piece of wood cut to your specifications and about 1 ½ inches thick.
- Lots of 1 ½ inches-wide wood trim, cut into 8-inch lengths, and also four pieces of trim the lengths of the sides of your table base — I used some from Home Depot; it was cheap and stained beautifully.
- 23 gauge pins and an air pin gun — I used this one (turns out Hitachi doesn’t just make that one awesome thing), and it’s great. You’ll also need a small air compressor to work this tool — you probably know someone that has one, so borrow away.
- 2 saw horses set to a comfortable working height — You’re going to be doing a lot of detailed work on the tabletop, so be sure you don’t have to bend or reach in an uncomfortable position.
- A handheld sander — I’ve had this one for several years and it’s awesome.
- Sandpaper in coarse and fine grits — the lower number grits are coarser, higher numbers are finer.
- Hammer and nails
- Stainable wood filler
- Putty knife
- Wood stain in some gorgeous color
- Polyurethane sealant and brush
- Small handsaw
Budget: My total budget for this project was about $300. I borrowed the sawhorses and air compressor and already owned the sander and sandpaper, hammer and nails, wood fill, and putty knife.
How It's Done1. Gather your materials and prepare your work area.
No sugar coating: This part was a huge pain for me. I don’t have a covered outdoor space where I could work on this project, so I tarped-up most of my living room, but it was still pretty hardcore to do inside. From the long pieces of pine trim, I got the slats cut cheaply by a local lumber company. The amount of slats you’ll need is a math problem, basically, but I just estimated generously, then added 20 slats and it worked out fine. My 36- x 72-inch table used about 205 1 ½- x 8-inch slats. Put your slab of wood on your sawhorses and you’re off to the races.
2. Lay your herringbone pattern.
This part was difficult for me, and I botched it the first time by not being fastidious about gaps in the pattern. If you let the pattern get off, you’ll have a big mess on your hands, trust me.
The most helpful tools I used in figuring out how to lay the herringbone pattern were videos on how to lay parquet floors. I laid the slats in the pattern exactly as I wanted them, working left to right across the narrower part of the door, then worked from one end to the other carefully lifting, then gluing and pinning each slat back into place. I pinned each slat down with a five pins (one on each corner, one in the middle); you can use a dot or two of glue in addition if you like, but I didn’t.
3. Sand and fill.
Once the pattern is laid and pinned down, fill and sand it. Sand, beginning with coarser-grain sandpaper (I started with 80), going up in number to the finer grains after each round of sanding. After your first sand, use wood fill and your putty knife to carefully fill in all the cracks, then sand again with iteratively finer-grain sandpaper until you’re happy the feel of the table. You’re going to be eating at this thing, you want it to be smooth and comfortable, so don’t skimp on the sanding.
4. Trim the sides.
There’ll be edges sticking out helter-skelter, so you need to trim them. I used a small handsaw and lots of elbow grease from me — and my customarily game bestie — to trim the slats that stuck off the sides, but I’m sure there are better ways to do this. Once they’re cut, sand the sides again to take care of the rough edges.
5. Add your edging.
Line your edge pieces up and secure them to the sides of your table with nails. Three nails on each edge should do it — two on the corners, one in the middle. For awhile, I was planning on doing some nonsense with mitered corners, but couldn’t quite pull it together.
6. Stain and finish.
First, use a wood stain and a paint brush to carefully stain the tabletop and sides, but be forewarned: This shit will not just stain your table, it will stain everything if you’re not careful. I used Minwax Dark Walnut mixed 50/50 with Minwax Honey. Let dry overnight. Once dry, add three thin coats of polyurethane, letting everything dry fully between coats.
7. Attach the legs!
I ordered hairpin legs from Etsy in standard dining table height (28 inches). The table looks awesome with the legs, but isn’t as stable as I’d like it to be, so you may want to consider a different method. Ikea also has a great selection of table legs you can easily attach, and stain to match your table.
8. ENJOY, you crafting genius, you.
Happy tablemaking! What’s the biggest craft project you’ve ever taken on, and how did it go?