A few months ago (a few… eight… what’s the difference?), my cousin asked me to build a simple farm-style table with benches and chairs. I’ve never actually built a table or chairs before and thought that the chairs would be a fun challenge. I don’t have a heated place to work during the winter, so I didn’t start this project until Spring. I’d estimate that it took me roughly two weeks to build the entire thing, start to finish. However, I spread that two weeks out over three months and only worked on it little by little during moments that I wasn’t working on my tiny house.
It’s a fairly simple design and all built out of construction-grade material (2x4s, 4x4s, 2x6s, 2x12s) available at most home improvement stores. I tried to be as picky as possible when getting the lumber to avoid boards with any kind of twisting, warping, cracking, etc.
- 2″x12″x96″ (6)
- 2″x4″x96″ (8)
- 4″x4″x96″ (3)
- 2″x6″x96″ (3)
- 1″x8″x96″ (1)
- 1″x4″x48″ (1)
- Wood Glue
- 3/8″ Fluted Wood Dowel Pins
- #20 Wood Biscuits
- Epoxy (optional)
- Stain (I used Minwax Espresso 273)
A lot of these tools I bought brand new for this project, as I surprisingly didn’t have a lot of good woodworking tools (particularly clamps). You can buy almost everything on Amazon, but I picked up mine in person from Home Depot.
- Clamps, clamps, and more clamps. I bought a bunch of 3/4″ pipe clamps and 1/2″ ones, as well as four strap clamps (which I now love). Since the table/benches are so large, the strap clamps made it really easy to work with.
- Hand planner
- Biscuit Jointer (you could probably get away with using dowels instead)
- Miter/chop saw
- Table saw
- Circular Saw
- Jig Saw
- 3/8″ dowel bit set
- Sander + sand paper
I built the benches to sit at a standard seat height of 17 inches. Since the top of each bench is a 2″x12″, I first subtracted 1-1/2″ from the height, and then cut eight legs at 15-1/2″. You should be able to get six legs out of one 4″x4″ and then cut one additional leg from each of the remaining 4″x4″s – this way each 4″x4″ still has over six feet of material left to make the table legs.
Next cut some short 2″x4″s to fill in the gap between the legs for the width of the bench. I cut mine around three inches. Then drill a couple holes in the ends of the 2″x4″ where it’ll attach to the legs. These holes will be for the dowels to go in. Be sure to use a bit stop so you only drill a hole about half the length of the dowel – this way half the dowel is in the 2″x4″ and the other half is in the leg.
Determine where you want the 2″x4″ to sit between the legs. I set mine back 1/2 inch from the outside of the legs to add a little dimension and not have a completely flat and boring surface. Use a pencil to mark the position. Insert the dowel centering tool (round metal thing with a point in the center) into the drilled holes, place the 2″x4″ in position where it’ll attach to the leg, and push them together. The point on the centering tool will create an indentation on the leg and that is where you can drill the other half of the dowel hole.
I also put a 2″x4″ block near the bottom of the legs for additional support. To keep things simple, I placed mine 1-1/2 inches up from the bottom so a scrap piece of 2″x4″ would fit in there nicely to make positioning it easier. Drill dowel holes just like before.
I built the table in the same manner I built the benches, only bigger. I cut four legs out of the two remaining 4″x4″s at 29-1/2 inches each. If you do this yourself and want the table top to be at the standard table height, then cut them at 28-1/2 inches. I added an extra inch to the height to ensure there was plenty of leg room underneath.
I then cut some 2″x6″s to length to run between the legs on the ends of the table. I don’t remember the exact measurement, but I believe it was 34 inches. I used dowels and glued each 2″x6″ to a set of legs. I did not glue everything into a giant, standing box yet. I wanted the “sets” of legs to dry first, so that when it came to making the box, there were less joints with wet glue that could shift around. If you have a really level shop floor, you probably could skip that. The floor I was working on is not perfectly level so I was attempting to minimize the chances of something drying slightly out of square.
Once the sets of legs were dry, I cut two 2″x6″s at 57 inches and once more used dowels and glue to pin them to the legs. I clamped everything together using strap clamps and checked it to ensure the corners were square.
I cut four of the 2″x12″s down to about 72″ to start making the table top. Since the boards come with roughly 1/4″ rounded over edges, I used an electric hand plane to plane down the edges of the boards so they fit tightly together. This lets the surface of the table be completely flat instead of having three tiny valleys that would be more difficult to clean. Using a jointer would be easier and make these edges even nicer, but I don’t own a jointer so that’s why I used a hand plane.
I didn’t take pictures, but I used a biscuit jointer and several #20 biscuits to join the table top pieces together. I then glued everything together and clamped it using eight different clamps – four clamps on each side to apply pressure evenly.
I didn’t take pictures of everything during this process, as it was mostly an experiment. This was my first time building a chair, I wasn’t following a plan or using directions, I was just kinda winging it and hoping it’d turn out ok. Each chair is made from two 2″x4″s and a little 1″ material for the seat and back.
I took some 1″x8″ and cut a section at 14 inches. I then drilled two slightly overlapping circles. Connecting the circles into a point at the bottom, I cut out a little triangle to form a heart shape. This makes the chairs a little extra girly for my cousin and has the added benefit of acting as a handle when moving the chairs around.
Without a diagram, it’s hard to explain the cuts for the chair frames, so I won’t. The main point is that the legs point back and an angle and the back rest also tilts back at an angle. The front legs and all the pieces holding the legs together are made from a 2″x4″ ripped down using a table saw to create a 1-1/2″ square (basically a 2″x2″, but without the rounded edges). I glued the sides of the chair together first, to make the “h” shape, then glued the two sides together with everything in between. Just like with the table, I did this in two steps to create fewer wet joints in one step. Also, I only have so many clamps and there are a lot of things that need clamping, as you can see in the pictures.
I made the seat by taking two 1″x8″ sections and joining them with a 1″x4″ in the middle using a biscuit jointer. They’re all 18″ long so that when all three are pushed together, they roughly form an 18″ square. Once everything was dry, I sanded the seems smooth, cut a small notch out of the two back corners to fit around the back of the chair, and glued it to the chair. I did not use any dowels or anything to hold it in place, just glue and clamps.
Filling the Voids
The boards I used had a lot of knots with cracks and other voids that I wanted filled to create a smoother surface. There’s a Youtube channel I watch called “The Homestead Craftsman” and the guy makes really amazing tables and one of the methods he uses to fill cracks is using epoxy mixed with black chalk. This makes it so that instead of being a transparent path that might go through the entire table, it just becomes a black void and blends in really well once everything is stained. So, that’s what this is. I bought epoxy, mixed it with black chalk, and smeared the epoxy into every crack I could find. The table became a leopard.
However, after A LOT of sanding, the majority of the epoxy goes away and all that’s left is a small black line that fills what used to be a crack. If you look closely at the center of the knot, you can see the black line from the epoxy.
I used about two quarts of Minwax Espresso 273 stain to cover everything. I then applied two coats of polyurethane, sanding lightly with 220 grit paper between coats. I ended up doing a third coat to the table top and bench tops, as the second coat got a little messed up from the sun. All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with how the table turned out. I’m sure my cousin will make good use of it.