How to Make a Table Top

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There are many ways to build a tabletop, from simply using the slab of an old oak tree to an elaborate inlaid design made from a high-quality hardwood. Here we will explain how to make a table top that will resemble an old-fashioned butcher block. If you have access to some unused hardwood or come across an old maple block, it might be a fun task to make your own table.

Things You'll Need

  • Hardwood stock
  • Safety glasses
  • Drill bits
  • Wood dowel
  • Carpenter's glue
  • Table saw
  • Electric drill
  • 2 pipe clamps
  • Dowel drilling rig
  • Procure the wood that you need for your table top. Maple, oak and even the softer pine are all good choices for your project. You might even consider the possibility of making your table top from an uncommon wood source like elm, ash or poplar. If there is a sawmill near you, you might find that an alternative wood source is both economically feasible and aesthetically pleasing.

  • Cut the wood to size. Each piece needs to cut to the same thickness--1¼ to ¾ of an inch is a good range for this. You will need a table saw to do the cutting, or perhaps the wood supplier might be able to the cutting for you if you do not own such a saw. The length of each piece should be greater than the width of your table.

  • Find a suitable surface to work on. A work bench is ideal, although saw horses can be used if the floor is even and you use a stiff sheet or two of plywood as a working surface. Take all your wooden pieces and line them up on the work bench. Glue and then clamp the whole mass of wooden pieces together. First apply glue to the interior thickness of each board, and then line all of them up next to each other. Press them together by hand and then take the pipe clamps and clamp the entire row of wood together. Press down on the top surface of the wood to insure that you get as flat a surface as possible. Wipe off all excess glue and let the table top sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

  • Remove the clamps and turn your table so that one of the outside edges lines up with the edge of your workbench. Take a long-speed bore drill bit (1/4 or 3/8 inch is good) and drill two holes into the side of the table. Take these holes to the halfway mark and make sure the holes are dead center in the thickness of the wood. Drill the holes level so the drill bit stays in the center of the table. You may have to acquire a dowel drilling rig to do this, but it is imperative that the drill bit goes in straight and true.

  • Do the same thing to the other exterior edge of the tabletop. Place the two holes so they do not line up with the first set of holes. When the holes are drilled, put a small amount of wood glue on a piece of dowel and insert the dowel into each hole. The size of the dowel should match the size of the hole. When you have inserted the dowel as far as possible, cut the ends of the dowel flush with the edge of the table. Let the table top dry.

  • Cut your table top down to size. Use a circular saw or table saw for a rectangular-shaped table, or use a scroll saw to cut a round or elliptical top.

  • Sand the table thoroughly. You might need a belt sander for the top, but hopefully your construction skills are such that this is not necessary. Finish your sanding with a fine grade of paper and pay particular attention to all edges.

  • Apply your finish. There are several different types of finish to choose from. A good rule of thumb is to use an oil finish for a table that gets light use and a plastic finish (like polyurethane) for a table that gets a lot of use.

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