By Lee Wallender
Building a farmhouse table is your first step towards achieving this style. The table is easy to build, requires no special woodworking tools, and, best of all, is relatively inexpensive to make.
Similarly-designed farmhouse tables cost hundreds of dollars from discount online retailers. Brick and mortar furniture stores often charge as much as $3,000 for the same item. Your farmhouse table will cost between $100 and $200.
What You Are Building
Seating six people, this farmhouse table measures 72” long, 37” wide, and 30” high. The secret of the table is the truss that runs at foot level, along its length. Not only does this infuse the table with a rustic look, it acts as a strengthening device.
Another element you will be adding that provides the table with its unique look: two tabletop end pieces that run perpendicular to the lengthwise pieces that form the majority of the top. These end pieces are a stylistic flourish that distinguish this table from other tables, and adding them requires very little extra work.
Tools and Materials
Variety of drill bits
An electric compound saw (also known as a miter saw) is highly preferable, because it will produce cleaner cuts, in less time, than if you did it manually. However, you can use a hand-held, electric, circular saw or even a manual saw. But be prepared for added time for cutting and the possibility of less-than-straight cuts.
|Quantity||Lumber (Nominal Size*)||Length (Ft.)|
Nominal size means the dimension of the lumber “in name only.” In other words, the lumber is called a certain size, even though its true size is smaller. For example, a piece of lumber is called a 4×4 at the store, even though it is only 3 ½” x 3 ½” if you were to measure it with a ruler.
2” finishing nails (box)
2” wood screws (20 total screws)
5” wood screws (8 total screws)
Building the Table
Work in a dry, warm space with a flat floor, such as a garage. Devote two separate work sessions to the table-building process: first, cutting the lumber and constructing the table; second, finishing the table.
1. Mark and Cut the Lumber
Cut all of the lumber in one session before you begin to build. Your cut list:
|Using This Lumber||Cut This Many Pieces||Each Piece This Long|
Instead, this method is far easier as you first make an underlying frame that strengthens the tabletop – eliminating the need for complicated jigging, as well as the need to purchase tools that you will use only once.
Begin with your seven pieces of 1×4 lumber. Arrange them on the floor so that the two 70” pieces are about three feet away from each other.
Arrange the remaining five 33 ½” pieces between the two longer pieces and running perpendicular to them. This rough layout gives you a sense of what the underlying frame will look like after it is nailed together.
3. Construct Perimeter of the Underlying Frame
Following that rough layout, nail together the outer (or perimeter) part of the frame, using your two 70” pieces and two of the 33 ½” pieces.
Before nailing, run a thin bead of wood glue on the end of each piece.
Nail each joint using two finishing nails. While this may initially seem inadequate, you will be adding other fasteners later that will make the table more structurally sound.
4. Add Inner Braces for the Underlying Frame
You now have three remaining pieces of 33 ½”-long 1×4 lumber. Run a bead of glue and then nail one of those pieces dead-center onto the perimeter frame.
Nail two more pieces on either side of that center piece, each about 12” away from the center.
5. Add Support for Your Tabletop Ends
As noted earlier, two perpendicular pieces of wood will cap the tabletop and give it a more finished look. These pieces need support below them.
Take out your two pieces of 2×3 lumber that run 33 ½”. Insert them into the frame, each 6” from the end of the frame. Each needs to be flush with the top side of the frame.
6. Add the First of Two Tabletop End Pieces
Lay the frame down flat on the ground. Take out your two 37” pieces of 1×10 board. Lay one of them on the end of the frame, providing for a 1” overhang. Keep the second 1×10 off to the side; it will be used in a later step.
With your pencil, draw a line down the length of the board on the underlying 2×3. Remove the 1×10. Set the 1×10 board back down, using the pencil mark as a reference guide. Nail down the board using finishing nails.
7. Add the Four Lengthwise Tabletop Boards
Butt the four pieces of 53 ½” board lengthwise against the end piece that you just nailed into place to make a rough check for sizing and placement.
Remove the boards. Run a long bead of wood glue on top of the frame.
Place the four lengthwise boards down again and nail into place with the finishing nails.
8. Add the Second Tabletop End Piece
Take your remaining piece of 37” 1×10 board. Run glue on the frame. Lay the board on top of the frame, butting it against the lengthwise boards. Now, take a break and let the wood glue dry for about 2 hours.
9. Add the Legs
Flip the table over. Take one of your 4×4 pieces and fit it tightly into a corner of the frame. Screw into place, using four of the 2” screws. It is recommended that you drill pilot holes with a drill bit to avoid splitting the wood.
Repeat for the other three legs.
10. Create the Truss Assembly
Flip the table over again, with a helper, so that it is now standing upright. Take your two 26 ½” 2×3’s and your one 63 ½” 2×3.
Build them into an “I” shape, with the long piece running down the middle.
Squirt with glue and screw together with the 2” screws. Drill pilot holes if necessary.
11. Secure Truss Assembly to Table Legs
Place the truss between the table legs, using scrap lumber to prop it up. Height placement is your choice, but keep in mind that the lower the truss is, the stronger it is. However, the truss does need to be at least 2” to 3” off the ground to give the table its proper appearance.
Drill pilot holes, then screw into place with the 5” screws. Use two screws per table leg.
Finishing the Table
Your built farmhouse table is a blank canvas for any type of creative finishing process. One great thing about this table is that you can dial its refinement up or down, according to how rustic or finished you want it to look.
Distressing means, essentially, to turn new wood into old-looking wood by lightly battering it.
You can use several tools that you may already have on hand. In each case, go light on the pressure at first. You can always distress it more later on. But it is difficult to smooth out wood that has been overly distressed.
- Ideas for distressing wood:
Gently sand down the edges of the wood to round it off.
Place screws in a cloth bag and strike the wood with the bag.
Lightly rap the wood with the side of a hammer’s face.
Tap shallow holes into the wood with a nail.
Place a screw against the wood and lightly tap it with a hammer to create an impression.
- The Reclaimed Wood Look
- This Is: Weathered appearance of reclaimed wood created with vinegar and steel wool.
- Use: White vinegar poured into a glass jar with steel wool that you have pulled apart and loosened. After fifteen minutes, brush onto the wood. After the surface is dry, you can leave it as-is or clear coat it with a product like Minwax One Coat Polyurethane. Distress prior to finishing, if so desired.4
2. The Antique Walnut Look
- This Is: A dark Old World appearance.
- Use: With water-based wood stain, cleanup is easy and you will not have to contend with noxious odors. Minwax Water Based Wood Stain, American Walnut or Dark Mahogany, deepens the color of the wood and gives it the look of a century-old table. It is essential to begin with a wood pre-conditioner, as this helps the stain absorb more evenly, avoiding a blotchy look.
3. The Clear-Coat Pine Look
- This Is: Fresh and clean-looking, this treatment evokes the bright look of Scandinavian furniture.
- Use: If you used a soft wood like pine for the table, two coats of clear sealant like Minwax One Coat Polyurethane applied with a brush will preserve that natural wood look.
Building a farmhouse table is a relatively easy project that will take about one weekend and cost less than $200.
Lee Wallender began remodeling homes when he transformed a World War I-era farmhouse into a comfortable new home. He has been writing about home remodeling on About Home Renovations since 2006.