Build your own tables

My wife and I frequently have get-togethers with family and friends and like to cook and dine outside. We have been at other outdoor events and noticed that out in the country people frequently use farm tables, which are both attractive and functional, but tend to be heavy and awkward to move around. We wanted a better solution.

As it turned out, the easy thing to do was to build our own tables and construct them so that the legs would fold flat and lock into place to make the table easy to move around and easy to store. It turns out that the key component to making this type of table is a leg hinge that will lock in place in the folded position, and then lock in place when the table is set up. This type of hinge is readily obtainable, but needless to say, you need to build a table around it. We decided that the best material to use for the table top and skirt would be ¾ x 3” tongue and groove hardwood flooring. This would fit together and make an attractive surface that can be easily finished and maintained. In addition, we can use the same material for the skirt. For the legs, it is simply a matter of purchasing 4 standard turned table legs, which are available at Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, etc.

Since the flooring comes in standard 84” lengths, and you need to form them together to make a top, we decided to make the table 36” deep x 72” wide. We needed 12 of the 3” flooring boards to make the top, and then 2 to make the long skirt, and then 1 to make the shorter skirt, for a total of 15. This is of course assuming you don’t make any mistakes in your cuts. This project requires carpentry skills slightly more advanced than hanging a picture. The tools you will need will be a pocket joint jig, a variable speed power drill, appropriate sized drill bits, a circular saw, possibly a screw driver, clamps, glue, and appropriate OSHA and ANSI approved vision and hearing protection depending on the procedures you are performing at that time. The place to start is to make the table top. To do this you need a flat surface to work on. Put some glue on the tongue part of the joint, put the boards together one by one, and then clamp them with the clamps until the glue sets. You need to completely glue and clamp the top within about 15 minutes so that the adhesive does not set up before the clamps are securely locked down. Since it is almost impossible to get the ends to line up perfectly, and we want to make our table only 6’ long, it is necessary to trim the ends. To do this, align the straight edge about 3” in from one end, clamp it in place, and make sure it is perfectly perpendicular to the long axis of the table top. Now use your circular saw with a fine/paneling cutting blade to trim the end. Now measure 72” and repeat the process at the other end, trimming them flush in the same manner. Since you will have a tongue on one edge and a groove on the other, these also must be trimmed off. Use a straight edge, and use the saw to trim back accordingly. If you want to add an artistic touch, you will also need a router to run around the edges and create whatever type of profile and corner radius you think is attractive and appropriate. Once done, the basic table top is finished and you are ready to build the skirt. The skirt should be located about 3” in from each edge. Using the same tongue and groove, prepare to make a butt joint at each corner. Cut the short pieces first, trim off the tongue (it is not necessary to trim off the groove as nobody will see it), and locate the two short pieces on either end making sure that you deducted the ¾” at each end for a total of 1 ½” thickness for the long pieces. Set them on the table top underside. Now cut the 2 long pieces. Position the pieces without fastening anything in place, making sure everything fits the way you would like and looks the way you would like it to. At this point, use the pocket jig to make appropriate holes 6 long the long edges and 3 along the short ones so you can anchor the skirt sections to the table top. To do this, apply glue along the edge. Locate the sections in place, and then using the screws just long enough to secure everything in place until the glue sets the anchor everything in place. Make sure the corners are square. You now have the table top with the skirt attached. To install the legs, turn the table over and locate one in each corner inside the corners of the skirt. Make sure that when the legs are folded they do not conflict with each other. Since typical legs are 30” long, and we are making a table that is 72” long, less the 3” on each end and the thickness of the skirt (7 ½”), our legs will fit and not conflict with each other. If you are making a table 48” or 60” you will have to alternate the location of the legs so they will not conflict when folded. Now is the point in time to locate the hinge. Hinge manufacturers include: 4x Iron, D.A.S. Posi Lock, Rockler, Mechwares, Btibpse, Skelang, Platte River, and Tech Team Products. The hinge we decided to use is the Tech Team #708 Locking Table Leg Hinge.

It is a masterful piece of construction using steel almost 3mm thick and has a durable zinc dichromate (yellow) finish so it is both tough and durable. Put the hinge up against the leg,note where the holes are, drill shallow 1/16” pilot holes in the top and drill deeper pilot holes in the leg. Insert the screws in one hinge and test the folding function of the leg. Once you find that that is suitable, repeat the process for the other legs. At this point you have created a beautiful table. The only thing left to do, if desired, is to sand and finish the top.