Tables seem to be the focus of many of the home makeover shows out right now. The trend is to prefer handmade tables that are large and stately and can seat your extended family with ease. That's great, I'd love to have one but I wouldn't have anywhere to put it nor would I really need a table that seats more than a few people. Ellie and I don't throw parties and prefer our solitude at home. Since it's just the two of us most of the time, we don't really need more than a small table. Try to find a decent small table, please. The ones we found when we looked were particle board and flimsy. And overpriced for what you really got in the end.
The table we have been using we found on the side of the road. It's a nice, solid wood trestle table. It seats four, though I'm sure you could squeeze in six if you put a chair on each end. It perfectly matches the four chairs I bought years ago when I got back from the Peace Corps and needed to furnish my life again. All pieces took up way too much space in our
If only there was a better option…
Oh wait, there is!
I came across plans for a two-seater table with built-in benches. It was an updated version of a table from a magazine published in the 1930s. I sent a picture of it over to Ellie while at work, not thinking much of it. She loved it. And we decided that I should build it to replace our table. And that's what happened.
Mind you, this table was the first major build of anything I've done out of wood. It was a learning experience and a good one at that. The instructions aren't really clear in some places on what needs to be done and instructed I do one thing when really it meant to do something different. For example, in one place I was instructed to cut mortise and tenons to connect the table supports to the hanger. After futzing with the ShopSmith's tenon attachment for a couple days before I figured it out, I realized what I really needed to cut was a half-lap to secure the pieces together. Once I figured that out, it made for a much easier process.
That's the way it went for a few weeks. I'd look at the next step in the instructions and then I needed to figure out how to use the
Until I started putting the pieces together, the table was in the abstract for me. I had all of the boards cut and prepped for the next step but it didn't feel like a table until the complex pieces were joined. Maybe that's because it wasn't a table then. It could have been scrapped and made into something else before it all came together.
When I finally had the support structure together, it was time to focus on the seats and the table top. I bought a few edge-glued boards for this. I didn't want to complicate the process by edge-gluing them myself on my first big project especially since I don't have a planer. I also didn't want to follow the prescribed method of using a sheet of plywood and then attaching edging to it because the mitered edges would be beyond my ability for a first project. I really, really wanted to keep it as simple as I could.
So I cut the edge-glued boards to shape and then ran them by Ellie. She thought they needed a bevel. So I set up the ShopSmith into the shaper mode. I've never used a shaper before, but it was a learning experience. Much of the learning experience was in setting up the ShopSmith. I tried a few cuts that ended up ruining the boards I was using; they would cut too deep on one end. Eventually, I ended up with something…passable. I'm still not happy with it but it will do for now. I plan to go back and remake the top once the current one wears through.
Before I attached the table and bench tops, we put two nice coats of antique white paint on the support structure and stained the tops a deep brown and covered it with a couple coats of polyurethane. We chose colors to match another piece of furniture in the kitchen which we refinished over the summer.
It came out great.
We moved the old table and chairs into the basement for storage until we figure out what to do with them. We moved the new table up to the kitchen and wow! What a difference it makes. Our kitchen and rear entryway no longer felt cramped. We could use the space for activities if we wanted. So much could happen in the kitchen. It really changed how I look at that space!
I had so much fun building this project. Most of the build took place in the late evenings before bed and in several hour chunks on weekends. I learned a whole lot while doing it and I know I could do it better the next time. So, if you're in the Madison area and you want one of these, I'd be happy to make another. Just let me know!
If you are willing to take on the project yourself, I've cleaned up the plans a bit and organized things into a free PDF download of the instructions.