Building a Table - Overview

Project Introduction

Everyone enjoys the look and feel of fine wood furniture. It has a warmth and elegance that enhances every home. With the prices of quality wood furniture increasing, many do it yourselfers are making their own custom pieces. In this article, we are going to demonstrate the correct way to build a beautiful end table in your own workshop. We will take you through step by step, from initial planning to the finished product. As you build this project, remember, every new skill and technique you learn building this table can be carried over into other woodworking projects.


Review the article thoroughly before proceeding with this project. Go through the tools and materials check-list and study your plan carefully. Know the safety standards for the project. Plan ahead and gather the items that you will be using, and place them where you will build the table. You may want to adapt the plans shown here to a design of your choice.

Before you begin your project, you will want to become familiar with the wood working terms shown below.


  • Miter Cut - Angle cut across the width or thickness of the board
  • Rabbet - L-shaped cut
  • Dado - Channel cut across the board, into which a second piece of wood is fitted
  • Kerf - Width of the blade
  • Countersink - To set a screw head at or below the surface
  • Dowel - Wooden pin used to provide strength and alignment
  • Chamfer - Corner of a board beveled at a 45 degree angle
  • Crosscut - Cut across the grain
  • Ripcut - Cut with the grain

Wood Selection

Before you purchase your wood and select a finish for your end table, you should ask yourself some simple questions about how you plan to use and display it in your home. Where will the end table be located? Do the dimensions of the end table fit properly in the space you have allowed for it? Is it a high traffic area? Will people be placing wet glasses, or propping their feet on it?

The two basic categories of wood are hardwood and softwood. Hardwood is more durable and less prone to dents and scratches. It is also more expensive but will finish to a better advantage. Soft woods, like pine, are more prone to dents and scratches and do not have the durability of hardwood. Softwoods are much less expensive and easier to find. Ask your lumber supplier to show you "Class 1" or "Select Grade" lumber. Make sure it is properly dried, straight, and free of knots and defects. (It may be impossible to be completely free of defects but be sure you understand how to cut around these.)

Wood selection for your end table should be of a durable hardwood. In the video tape the choice was oak. Solid pieces used for the table top will expand and contract with changes in humidity. So that this will not create a problem, be sure all your stock is of a similar moisture content. To allow for seasonal changes, do not glue the top to the rails. Many people use veneered wood to avoid this seasonal problem.

Usually it is best to purchase surfaced stock that is smooth and of a uniform thickness. However, you can use a planer and purchase the less expensive rough stock and finish it at home. Any areas of the wood that show cupping or crowning will need to be planed by using a jointer or table saw.

Now that you have reviewed the safety hints, learned the mistakes to avoid, reviewed the basic components and gathered your tools and materials for your end table - you are ready to BEGIN!

Looking for a new table? Compare brands, types and prices with our Tables Buyer's Guide.