The Unhandy Man’s Guide to Building a Dining Room Table & Bench

dining room table and bench DIY

Here’s a peek into our dining room. Our whole place is a huge work-in-progress but this space finally looks pretty cute:) This is a post by my husband Aaron…

We’ve always wanted a big farmhouse style table but up until we purchased our condo a few months ago, we never had the room for one and really, I never had the ambition to build one. But since I was riding high on my moderately successful brick wall exposure project and since we now have a big open dining room, the space was begging for a big table and I knew I had the answer the call.

My last official wood shop class was in 7th grade about 21 years ago. I’ve built some random things for my job over the years but never furniture and never something that will be the centerpiece of a dining room. I had a few ideas running around in my head, but they all seemed overly complicated, so I hit the internet for some inspiration and settled on a rather simple design (we used these posts as inspiration/guidance: DIY Dining Room Table, A Story About a DIY Table, and How I Built My Own Table All By Myself). I never really intended to copy any of the designs exactly, but that’s pretty much what I did and perhaps, if you find yourself in my situation…needing a table, not wanting to buy one and possessing just enough confidence to get yourself into trouble, you’ll copy my design, which I copied from someone else. Living in an urban space and having minimal power tools and no workshop other than my patio, I knew I had to keep it simple, but most importantly, I had to keep it cheap. My goal was to see if I could build the entire table using nothing but the tools I already had and spend under $200.

So, let’s get into it.

How to Build a Dining Room Table and Bench…

Materials:

  • 4 wood planks (length, width and number can vary depending on your needs)
  • 4-6 2×4’s (again length will vary depending on size of your table – also used for supports under table)
  • Wood screws
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Brushes
  • Mineral spirits
  • Gloves

Tools:

  • Screw driver (preferably electric)
  • Sander
  • Wood block planer (optional)

dining room table and bend DIY

dining room table and bench DIY

dining room table and bench DIY

The Steps:

(A note from Anna: Before you start, use tape on the floor to determine the size of the table you would like. This helped us a lot when deciding how big to make the table and gave us a visual so we would know if the table size would work the way we wanted it to in the space.)

1. I started at Home Depot and selected the straightest and least warped boards I could find, which in actuality where about as warped and crooked as a 100 year old man with scoliosis. Lacking pretty much everything but a basic tool kit and a few minor power tools, I knew I wasn’t adequately equipped for major construction, so I had all my dimensions written down and had Home Depot make all my major cuts. An interesting note… it’s advertised that your first 2 cuts are free, each additional cut is .50 cents. I’ve found that even at .50 cents a cut that’s cheaper than buying unnecessary power tools. Luckily, even though I had them make about 12 cuts, I didn’t get charged.

2. After I acquired all my building materials I laid them out in the dining room I did a preliminary dry assembly. (remember, you are building the table upside down, so be sure that you have the side that you want to be eating your thanksgiving diner off of faced down)  I wasn’t all that surprised to see that somehow I miscalculated and one of my trim pieces was to long, which in my opinion, if you are going to miscalculated, going long is the better of the two miscalculations. You can always take off length, but’s it hard to add it. After another free cut at Home Depot, I was back in business.

3.  As much as I tried to sleuth out the most choice pieces of wood a few of the boards were warped. Going into this project I knew the table wasn’t going to be prefect and I was ok with that. I won’t lie, I had illusions of chiseling out dovetail joints and using nothing but hand tools in the hopes that the table was going to come out looking like an Amish man built it, but I knew in my heart of hearts, that was not going to be the case, so I butted everything together as best I could and started putting screws everywhere. I was hoping the screws would pull everything tight and to a certain extent they did,  but the the warp was to much to overcome and I still had some high sections on the top part of the table.

4. Unfortunately my goal of using only the tools I currently own didn’t come to fruition and I had to purchased a $9.99 wood block planer to plane down some of the surface area.

5. After hours of planing and sanding ( I used my $9.99 power sander i bought at Harbor freight for the brick wall exposure), I had the surface about as smooth and as even as it was going to get.

6. I wiped the surface down with mineral spirits and applied 2 coats of wood stain, followed by 2 coats of a semi-gloss polyurethane.

7. As for the legs, we decided to go the prefabricated route and purchase them. We found some at Ikea for $10 each, but they weren’t ideal and we swapped them out for the hairpin legs that we currently holding our office table aloft (you can find similar hairpin legs here and that’s ultimately where we ended up getting the shorter bench hairpin legs from).

All in all the project cost was approx. $150 and maybe a weekend’s worth of time. I think it looks pretty good. It’s not perfect, but in the end all the table is meant to do is hold my plate of food a little closer to my mouth.

And… The Bench…

After completing the table, I came up with an idea to build a matching bench. I basically used the same concept for the bench as I did for the table. I used the same style of board as I did for the tabletop and had Home Depot cut and my trim pieces down to size.  I screwed it all together, sanded and stained it, then order some cool hairpin legs to match the look of the table. All told it took me about an hour to build the bench from start to finish.

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! Aaron

P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp! SpendingFastBootcamp.com

46 comments

46 thoughts on “The Unhandy Man’s Guide to Building a Dining Room Table & Bench

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  1. Roxanne

    First, I enjoy reading your blog! I am inspired by this post and wanted to know how long did it take you to build each piece?

    Reply
  2. Aaron

    Roxanne – I built the table over a couple of different days, so i don’t have a specific time, but if you dedicate an entire day to the project, you should easily be able to complete it…. remember though you have to allow a 4-6 hours of drying time between coats of stain and polyurethane.

    Reply
  3. Ricarda

    Great table! Can’t wait to make this :)
    I was wondering where you purchased your planer? $9.99 is a great price!

    Reply
  4. Aaron

    Ricarda – I got the planer at home depot. It’s the smallest one they had, but it did the job. It’s surprising how handy a block planer can be once you have one.

    Reply
  5. Amanda

    Can you tell me a bit about the bench? we are building a very similar table right now, and I wanted to add a bench. My only concern is that if 2 adults sit on it at a time, it will bend in the middle and/or not support their weight. Do you guys have this problem? and how long is your bench compared to your table? Thanks so much!

    Reply
    1. Aaron

      Amanda – I built the bench using the same wood planks I used for the table than to reinforce it, I added trim pieces to the sides (see the picture above in the post). The bench is 68 inches long and the table is 78 inches. I made it this length so it can easily slide under the table and still have enough room for up to 3 to sit on it. I placed the hairpin legs 3.5 inches in on both ends. The bench is pretty beefy and so far I haven’t noticed it bending in the middle or unable to support the weight. If you are really concerned, you could always add an additional set of hairpin legs directly in the center of the bench. I used these combination hairpin legs.

      http://hairpinlegsforless.com/shop/combination-hairpin-legs/

      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  6. Sarah

    My husband and I made a table based on this blog and it turned out great! We are making the bench right now. What height hairpin legs did you use for the table and bench and are you happy with the results? We used 28″ table legs and can’t decide the correct height for the bench.

    Reply
    1. Aaron

      Hi Sarah –

      I used 16 inch combination hairpin legs for the bench.

      http://hairpinlegsforless.com/shop/combination-hairpin-legs/

      I used 28 inch legs for the table. The legs I used for the table were actually ones we already had, but here is a link to the exact same ones. I really like the 3 rod look as oppose to the 2 rod and couldn’t be happier with them. They are sturdy and look great.

      http://www.hairpinlegs.com/products.php?id=6

      With the table top added in, the total height is 30 inches. With the bench top added to the 16 inch hairpin legs, the total height is 18 inches. This height seems to be prefect for both kids and adults. I am 6 foot tall and I can sit very comfortably on the bench. Another reader had some questions about the bench, so please see my comment to her for some more info. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  7. J

    Made the table and it looks great! However, its a bit wobbly. We made sure the legs are equal sizes and that everything is level but cant seem to figure out how to get rid of the wobble. Its 3ft x 5ft. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. Aaron

      Hi J –
      If everything is level with the table itself maybe the floor is the culprit. Before attempting to modify the table, I’d first start by checking the levelness of the floor. If the floor isn’t level you could also do a quick fix and had a small shim under one of the legs. If that is too unsightly, you could also remove the wobble leg, add a small shim (like a thin piece of wood) to the underside of the table and reattach the leg with the shim in place. Does that make sense?

      Reply
  8. Leslie Waller

    Did you rip down the 2×4’s that you used on the table? They look smaller in the picture where they are attached to the bottom of the table.

    Reply
  9. Aaron

    Mercedes –

    I used 2 coats of a “walnut” colored stain (Minwax brand) and than applied 2 coats of a semi gloss polyurethane for some added protection.

    Aaron

    Reply
  10. Anna

    What did you coat the hairpin legs of the table with? I looked and the link says “raw steel” so they have to be protected somehow. I like how dark yours look…

    Reply
  11. Elise

    So excited to have found this blog! After searching all day for my perfect diy table withen my pricr range and with my skill set I found this. Its perfect. Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Scott

    Nice work! Will be building one of these within the week for my new apartment. Did you stain and coat the wood before screwing it all together? Or did you assemble first then stain? It looks like in the picture each board was done first. Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Aaron

    Leo-

    The boards were 12 inches in width and I believe 8 feet in length but I cut them down to about 6.5 feet.

    Hope that helps!

    Reply
  14. Elizabeth

    The table project is really cool! Do you find that the table sags in the middle at all or did the boarder trim rienforce the edges enough? Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  15. Olga Torba

    Hi :) I am in love with your creation and was wondering what were the names and sizes of the hairpins (both table and bench hairpins)? Thank You!

    xoxo

    Reply
  16. Peter

    Hi, Great look. Is the top layer of wood (the actual table) less thick than the supports? It looks like you two used 12X1’s for the top and 2X4’s for the supports. Is that correct?
    Table looks great!

    Reply
  17. Samantha

    How long are hairpin legs for the table?! I’m so in love with this and plan on making this weekend and would love to order the legs. Great job!

    Reply
  18. Sandra

    Your table turned out beautiful. I found your tutorial when I searched “how to level a dining room table”. We made our own table top out of 2×6’s and 1 2×12. After we screwed them all together the underside bowed/warped. Did you put the 2×4’s on the underside to correct the warping you experienced? Would you say it worked? We are desperate to figure out how to fix it without cutting the legs. Thanks for your time!

    Reply
    1. Aaron Jones

      Hello!

      Yes, I for sure experienced some warping and tried to correct it by putting the cross braces under the table (see second photo in the post). I’d say that it helped but it sounds like you might be experiencing more warping than I was if the actual table legs are uneven. At this point, I’d say try to add the cross braces and see if it helps to pull anything back into alignment. If it doesn’t and you end up having to trim the legs, don’t worry about it…. half the fun for me was just attempting to build it. I was totally ok with imperfections! It made my table unique!

      Reply
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  22. Bedelia

    I love the bench! Do you find that the hairpin legs + weight of people on the bench cause damage or dent the wood floor?

    Reply
  23. Jackie C

    Hi! What are the dimensions of the boards you used for the table top? I looked at the boards at Home Depot, and none seemed as thin as the ones you used. Thanks!

    Reply
  24. Shelly

    I didn’t see details about putting the table top together. How did you connect the planks? Wood glue? Small dowels? Poker screws? Or just rely on the frame underneath to hold it all together?

    Reply
    1. Anna Newell Jones

      Hi Shelly, I connected the table top planks by driving screws up through the frame and the support boards underneath and into the planks themselves. Be sure to use the correct size screws because you don’t want the screws coming up through your table top. I hope that makes sense.

      Reply
  25. Sarah

    how far out can you have the table top from the legs? I want to extend an existing table by place a new table top on top – wondered if I can go a foot out away from the edge where there is support underneath

    Reply
  26. Jordan

    I made a similar table with similar legs. Have you guys noticed after a few months that it is bowing in the middle? Our table is 8′ long x 41.5″ wide.

    Reply
    1. Anna Newell Jones

      Hey! How cool! You know, we haven’t noticed bowing in the middle but the planks do now have a bit of gapping between them. I think it’d be a pretty simple fix if we wanted to mess with it. I wonder if you could put a board across the middle underneath to counteract the bowing?

      Reply

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