I Want To Build A Table By Hand

Here’s the thing, I feel like I have very few… real world skills. By this I mean that I’m not really an expert at anything that matters if say, the internet was forever gone. I don’t know how to plant crops, I can’t change my own oil (even though I don’t have a car) and I don’t know how to build a table. And build a table is exactly what I want to do.

Currently I’m using an IKEA Vika Amon tabletop with crap Vika Amon table legs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually been a pretty great desk. I’ve had it now for about 5 years now and there are signs of wearing, but other then that it’s still stable and working. But it’s also not big enough, and well, it’s just particle board.

I really want a nice table, something that’s larger so I can spread my crap around, and made of real wood so that, you know, I can hand it down to my kids one day. My question for you is, do you know anyone who can teach me how to make a table? They’d need to here in Los Angeles and I’d be looking to work on the weekends to make it. I’m totally serious about this, I even think it would make for a great series of posts. So if you or anyone you know wants to help me out leave me a comment or shoot me an email.

Update: I appreciate that you all have faith in me that I could do this on my own, but the thing is that I live in a tiny apartment. I have nowhere to build so I was hoping to borrow someones studio space or workshop. If I had any room I would attempt it, but it ain’t gonna happen.


18 Comments I Want To Build A Table By Hand

  1. Sarah Bray February 23, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    You should talk to @adamkingstudio. He’s based in Illinois, but he’s a superb minimalist furniture craftsman, and he teaches as well. He might even know people in LA. :)

  2. David February 23, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    This is not exactly what you are talking about but I just saw this reclaimed or scrap wood table project here:


    with instructions here:


    I love the end result. I probably would want to glue the pieces myself, and shuck out the bucks for the clamps and all, but their method of bolting the pieces seems pretty effective also.

    Good luck and yeah, I would love to see a series of posts about the progress of whatever project you choose to take on.

  3. Mories February 23, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    Hey Bobby. It’s a shame I don’t live in Los Angeles because I would Love to help you out (I’m from the Netherlands, Rotterdam).

    I love the fact that you dropped this post. For the past few months I have been reading a lot about technology and it’s history (George Basalla wrote a book on it), and about ‘crafting’ stuff (William Morris, you probably know that name, wrote a lot about that). And I’ve been asking myself the same question: Am I able to create stuff with my hands? Survive without buying stuff.

    Honest products that work good, last long and are handmade, it’s a world were slowly drifting away from.

    Anyways, to get you started I’m doing a quick sketch of how I would put together a table. As I said, I can’t help you in person… But maybe this gets you going.

    I’ll give you a link tomorrow! I’m testing myself too.

  4. Adam King February 23, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    Well, you’re on to something there. The legacy of a handmade piece cannot be surpassed by anything less. Plus when you use the table, the emotion and intent put into its design and construction will be there every time you sit down to enjoy the product of your vision.

    I would love to see your journey as you build one. It would be interesting to watch the design evolve.

    A few things to consider: What style influences will you work from? Can the design be transported relatively easy? How many people need to sit comfortably there? Will it accommodate a growing family?

    Also, as you search the area for a woodworker, look for one that uses hand tools as well as power tools. The hand tool skills will be invaluable. A small investment in hand tools means you can make anything anywhere without relying on big machines.

    Good luck, and feel free to ask if you need help!

  5. Heather R. February 23, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    Sorry, no suggestions, but I do know what you mean. I recently made a life list and put “make something for my home” on it, with “something” meaning a shelf or table or some such. It feels like you’re not really a human until you can build a real-world tool or shelter for yourself, and I’m nowhere near having that skill.

  6. ouf February 23, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    buy some wood, a hammer, a saw and some nails.
    observe how tables are made.
    make it, play with it and then throw it away, make another one.

    you dont need a table nor a mentor. you need fun.

  7. NB February 23, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    a table is pretty basic build. depends on how basic/raw you want it too look also. easiest would be make a frame out of stock lumber, like 2×4 2×2, attache 4 legs on the inside of the joints, then put a piece of plywood(birch, etc) on top of it, screw it down, and done. oh, dont forget a few cross members to strengthen the frame. i just did a platform bed, and it cost me about $125 @ home depot, plus took about an hour to cut/put together.

    if you want to get “fancy” you can build the frame(miter each end at 45 for a nicer look), then legs. put the top on, then use some nice wood, to skirt the sides of the frame to hide the ugly frame.

    http://www.woodfinder.com/index.php <-there are some good reclaimed wood places in the LA area.

    oh, and home depot will cut any piece of wood you need to your size if you buy it there. so all you really need to a hammer/nails/portable drill

  8. rburch February 23, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Hey Bobby,
    I built a table last year and got hair pin legs from Ian Maclean. It’s erally hard to find hair pin legs and he’ll make them custom. Not expensive either. You can check out my table and link to Ian’s site here: http://www.farmidable.com/2009/09/19/our-dinning-room-table

  9. steve February 23, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    if you go to home depot, they cut any wood that you have to size for you!
    that would save you some time, and no need for shop space. if you plan your desk
    carefully enough then all you will have to do is assemble it at home!
    (just be sure not to get an asshole working there. sometimes if they are rude they
    won’t want to cut your wood.)

  10. Brennan February 23, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Funny, I want to do the same thing.

    I love wood, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to make stuff with fiberglass. It’s expensive (everything is compared to virtually free scrap wood) but I think it’s a cool art to learn and know.

    Maybe one day I’ll be good enough (and have enough money) to make a carbon fiber table…

    Well, that doesn’t help you at all. But, it has inspired me considerably.


  11. pedro freenandes February 23, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    This is why i went to industrial design school and now doing graphic design. I wanted the survival kit first. Now i think i’ll join the paramedics…

  12. Daniel Clarke February 23, 2010 at 8:07 PM

    I really hope that if you follow through with this, you will post every step of the way. I have been keeping the idea of making a table in the front of my brain for a while now, imagining designs / scouting for wood, and I am most certainly as skilled in wood work as you.

  13. Robert February 23, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    My cousin is a carpenter. I can ask him any questions you might have? The table illustration came out cool by the way.

  14. mattly February 23, 2010 at 11:57 PM

    step 1: find a salvage place that has doors. Where I live in Portland OR, we have the Rebuilding Center: http://www.rebuildingcenter.org/

    step 2: find a door at this salvage place. Ideally you want something without any bevels, windows, or other accouterments, and without any paint on it. Buy the door.

    step 3: sand the door with some finer grit sandpaper, perhaps 250 grit or higher. Stain if desired. Add a sealant, I usually do two coats of shellac.

    step 4: go to Home Depot (or its equivalent), find a 10 foot long 4×4 in decent condition, and have them cut it into four pieces 26 inches long. If you’re tall like me, maybe 28 inches. If you already know what your ideal desk height is, take that, subtract the thickness of your door, and that’s how long you want your pieces to be.

    step 5: while at home depot also pick up 8 “StrongTie RTA2Z” L Brackets, for joining two pieces of wood at a 90 degree angle. Get a box of screws of about the thickness that will go through the bracket, but make sure they aren’t longer than the thickness of your door.

    step 6: with a power drill, attach the 4x4s to the edge of the door using the L-Brackets and the screws. It will look something like: http://img.skitch.com/20100224-ad365tg7d5esugu3nqe171xj3.jpg

    step 7: get a friend to help you turn the whole thing over, it’s possible to do it yourself but tricky.

    I’ve done probably about four of these for myself (a few for storage), helped put together another six at my office, and helped various friends put them together. The most important part is finding a good door; after that the rest is cake.

  15. David February 24, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    One way I have gotten around lack of space for projects in the past was to rent a storage unit, not a nice one btw, and work on the project there afterhours or on weekends. It worked out with my schedule, gave me a place to store the project and materials until I was finished, they usually have power nearby, it gets me away from my hectic life/apt, etc. Just another suggestion – good luck and I hope you find someone willing to work with you or loan you space for the project.

  16. Paul Anthony Webb February 24, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    This sounds like a good idea, I’m looking forward to your documentation on this process.

  17. ETrine February 25, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Hey Bobby, I’m in Long Beach, which isn’t too far from you. You could take the blue line to downtown with your bike and we could meet up and go to my studio.

    I’d love to help you with this project! I just got a new warehouse space, so I have plenty of room for you work on this project over multiple weekends. The whole reason I got the bigger space was to help people, like yourself, take on some projects of their own. I have a lot of friends who don’t own tools, or have room, and they really want to build their own coffee tables or dining room tables, etc.
    Let’s talk!


  18. andy May 3, 2010 at 8:58 PM


    this is my tip to you: find a table that someone threw out and fix it up.

    i am almost finished transforming an old kitchen table into a desk. when i found it, it had stains all over it, the legs were cracked, and it was too small to be a kitchen table and too big to be a desk. i removed the stains, cut the table to an appropriate size, and filled the cracked legs with wood glue. i will be applying a more modern finish to the table soon.

    you’re a creative guy but one without a clue as far as this sort of thing goes. i’m the same way, but i have this sort of stuff in my blood.

    do yourself a favour and re-shape something that already exists, rather than starting something from scratch. with your current capabilities, you won’t be able to create patterns or designs within the table that will make you happy. buy a table on the cheap or search some LA curbs – i found my table on a toronto curb – and you’ll get plenty of satisfaction out of restoring it. trust me!

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