Build It

How to Build a Table

In my last post on How to Paint and Customize a Bookshelf, I talked a bit about how we’re trying to turn our extra bedroom into a guest room, toy/game room, music room and food storage area.  That’s a lot of jobs for one little room.

It needs to have all this…

  1. Piano
  2. Bed to sleep 2 adults
  3. Bookshelf to hold books/video games
  4. Large table to play board games on
  5. Something to hold thousands and thousands of Legos
  6. A place for food storage

We’ve got numbers 1-3 finished, so next on the list was a big table. This could also be used as a dining table if that’s what you’re wanting it for.

This project ended up being a frustrating compromise for me because I wanted to combined numbers 4&5 and have a massive table with a bookshelf substituted in for 2 of the table legs. I also thought of doing cubbies (1 wide and 2 high) to replace all 4 legs.Then we could put all the Legos in bins on the shelves and it would be a Lego/Game table. In the end, I decided to go with 4 legs for a few reasons:

  1. Doing a bookshelf on one end would take away valuable seating real estate. I wanted to fit 8 people for board game time. Going with a bookshelf or cubbies would’ve taken away places for people to sit.
  2. It’s a lot more simple to build legs instead of shelves.
  3. The room is small and is also being used as a guest room, so when guests come over we want to have the table against the wall. When it’s being used as a Lego or board game table, we’ll pull the table out to fit everyone around it. A table with 4 legs is a lot lighter and easier to move back and forth.
  4. If we ever decide to use it as a dining table or outdoor table, we can.


Designing the Table

I don’t use plans to build furniture. I just grab a sheet of graph paper and start drawing out what I want. I’m planning on doing a “How to Design and Build Furniture” post sometime soon. A plank-style table looks great, but for a game table where you’ll be passing cards back and forth and needing a completely level surface you’re probably going to want something completely smooth for the top.

Plywood. That’s right. It’s almost a swear word for some woodworkers. It’s not real wood; it’s the cheap stuff. I’d never tried building with it before, but after seeing some impressive builds using plywood I decided to try it out.

I wanted 3×3 legs (I had to cut 4x4s down to get the size I wanted). You could go with 4×4 or 2x4s as well. For the aprons I used 1x4s and for the supports 2x4s (since they don’t show and 2x4s are the cheapest). The total cost in lumber was about $70. The plywood made up most of that at $50, but with the plywood leftovers I’ll also be able to make either a bench or console/entry table and a desk.

Supply List

(1) 1″x4’x8′ Plywood (Lowe’s will cut it the size you want for free)

(1) 4″x 4″ x 10′

(2) 1″x4″x 8′

(2) 2x4s

Wood Filler

Wood Glue

Miter Saw

Kreg Jig

2-1/2″ and 1-1/2″ Kreg Jig Screws

Sander and Sandpaper

Pre-stain conditioner


Wax or other top coat

Initial Cut List

Your cuts will depend on the size of the table you want to build. When we were getting it cut at Lowe’s I realized that the leftover piece would be 1 foot wide, but I wanted to use it for a bench, so I had them cut the 4-foot side into 34″ and 14″ instead of 36″ and 12″. Something to think about if you’re wanting to use the extra pieces.

Table top: 6′ x 34″

Legs: 3″ x 3″ x 29″

The measurements of the aprons below is based on putting the legs 6″ from the right and left side and 2.5″ from the front and back.


Long Aprons: (2) 1″x4″x54″

Short Aprons: (2) 1″x4″x23″

Note: If your table legs are 4×4 instead of 3×3, your aprons would be 52″ and 21″.

Short Runners: (2) 2″x4″x23″ (or 21″ if using 4×4 legs)

Trestle Piece: Wait until the end to cut this



Make the cuts as given above. For unique table measurements, you can figure out the lengths of the long aprons with this formula:



Don’t forget PEMDAS…multiply before you subtract:) Sincerely, your middle school math teacher.

For the short aprons:



*Note: The 12″ accounts for the two 6″ overhangs, and the 5″ is for the two 2.5″ overhangs. If you want a different measurement for your overhang, just take the distance you want and multiply by 2 and substitute that number in the formula.

Sand every piece, then us the Kreg Jig to drill holes in the appropriate places, as shown below. (The reason I don’t ever give measurements for the Kreg Jig holes is because I estimate it, check on a test piece of wood and make sure the hole is where I want it).

Make 2 each of the following:

For the 2x4x23s, sketch out a 2×4 box and cut it out.

Sand each piece.





Place a 1″ board under the board you’re connecting so each piece will be set in an inch instead of lying flush with the legs. You can see this in the picture below.


To connect the smaller pieces I used clamps. The first board (that isn’t stained) is to keep the middle board flush with the leg. The middle board is a spacer to set the piece I’m connecting in 1″. The 3rd board is the one I’m actually drilling into place.

3: Add supports

To make sure you get the perfect fit, cut these to size at this point. Trying to figure out measurements and cut the 2x4s in the beginning usually just doesn’t work out. Measure and cut 3 2x4s, drill 2 pocket holes on each end of the board and attach.


4: Attach the runners

To get the height I wanted on this piece, I laid two 2x4s and 1″ board under it.

The board in front that isn’t stained is to set the piece I’m attaching in 1″. The top clamp is holding the 1″ board and my 2x4x23 together. The bottom clamp is to keep the 1″ board flush with the leg.

5: Attach base to table top

Center the base and clamp it down, the screw together.

After I did the first couple of screws on the right side of this long board, the left side of the table base kept slipping too far forward, so I used my carpenter’s square (you could just use a piece of wood, too, but this was nearby so I grabbed it) and clamped it into place to force that leg to stay where I wanted it while I drilled.

I didn’t attach the trestle piece, I just set it into place because the table was so big and to get it through the door we needed to get it through legs first then pivot the table around the corner. With the trestle piece in place we couldn’t have done that. You can use glue, nails or a countersinking drill bit to attach it.

6: Stain or Paint

Ok, you probably noticed that I had already stained the pieces before I attached them. This isn’t the “proper” way to build…first you build, then you paint or stain. I really don’t like reaching into all the crevices and trying to get everything stained once something is built. To me it’s so much easier to stain first. You can do it however you want.

This table has 2 coats of Minwax Special Walnut. Staining is insanely easy. Start with a wood conditioner so the stain doesn’t turn out blotchy. Just follow the instructions on the can. I like the Minwax brand for conditioner. To apply the conditioner or the stain, I use a piece of an old t-shirt and wipe it on, then wait for it to dry. So easy.


7: Protective Coat

I used Minwax clear wax, wiping it on the same way as I did the stain, then buffing it out.


It didn’t take long for my kids to grab one of their games and start playing. I love having a place for them to set out games and be able to leave them there…they get to finish their games later without me having to stare at it sitting out on our dining table for days…win-win!




You may also like:

Dining Table with Angled Legs

Ikea Table Hack


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