Tag Archives: pocket hole

A Seriously Large “Craft” Table

Sometime in the past my wife and I considered building a bar in our finished basement.  It is a large room—approximately 40 feet long by 16 feet wide with a nook that increases the space even more—that is used infrequently.  There is a large television, like every other house in America it seems, but it is turned on maybe once a week.

Our two kids have aged out of “baby toys,” so we sold the old play table that I built and the toy storage bins from IKEA that dominated one half of the room.  As it sat empty we returned our thoughts to building a bar.

Like every starry eyed couple on HGTV we discussed using the space to entertain, even though we do not entertain, and were hopeful that it would become a space where our kids would spend time as they grew up instead of disappearing to friends’ houses.

In reality, what we really wanted was a large flat space to contain art projects, wrapping at Christmas time, in-process LEGO builds, and whatever creation our son starts to dream up with whatever found materials he brings out of his room.  It was never about a bar, per se, but rather a large kitchen island that could serve multiple functions.

With that realization the discussion turned to building an ersatz kitchen island that would not require a major construction project (e.g. plumbing that required breaking concrete, flooring being removed, etc.).  Enter the Modern Craft Table over at Ana White.

This is the completed Modern Craft table:

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A lot of modifications have been made to this particular plan.  Let’s go over a few of the major differences:

  • Adjustable shelves:

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Each end—total of four—has two or three adjustable shelves that sit on ¼” chrome shelf pins:

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The holes were drilled using a JIG IT shelving jig.  If you are drilling shelf pins with any regularity get one of these.

  • Wider bases with a set of shelves on either end:

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This is a modification that was made by a number of people on the “brag board” on Ana White’s website, so I cannot take credit for the idea.  It does provide for a wider base, which allows for the larger top described below.

  • Larger top made with double stacked ¾” plywood that has been edge banded with runners underneath to provide additional rigidity and sag resistance:

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The top is similar in construction to what was used on a prior furniture project.  The 2”x2” runners along the bottom provide rigidity to the center of the top preventing sagging over time.  Like so many furniture projects we have built over the years this top got a little out of hand.  It weighs a lot.  How much?  It is well over 100 pounds.  This is not flat pack particle board construction.

The table is big.  How big?  The top measures 85.5” by 49.5” edge to edge.  Yes, that is almost the dimensions of a 4’ by 8’ sheet of plywood.  It is also double stacked for strength and stability.  This sucker is not going anywhere.

The end result is a craft table that can comfortably seat four at counter height chairs with plenty of room for whatever project is in process.  The real problem is now that the far wall looks a little bare with a floating shelf of kids’ artwork the vestigial reminder of pre-school classes.  We are already looking at a variety of plans to complete our basement build.  Stay tuned.

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What Makes Something “Custom?”

The temperatures started to really drop the past few weeks as a so-called “polar vortex” sent super chilled air through my part of the United States.  As I suffered through numb fingers in the garage putting the finishing touches on a large furniture project and my space heater failed to keep pace with the howling wind outside I wondered, “Why do I bother making furniture for my house?”

The initial answer is that it is my hobby.  There is a kernel of truth in this answer.

However, the real answer lies in what was the genesis behind the hobby.  After buying our first house, a Cape Cod style home built in the 1930s, we wanted furniture that fit the spaces that we had in a classic home.  In essence, we wanted custom furniture but we could not afford custom furniture.  We also wanted to replace damaged trim, crown molding, and casework with appropriate looking modern facsimiles.  When your trim is made from ¾” thick hardwood that is over four inches tall there is no lumberyard that stocks such a replacement.

I find myself two houses later making furniture in a freezing garage.  Why?  The answer is still that we want something custom to fit our space.  Our housing and economic circumstances have changed, but our motivation has not.

The finished basement in my home is the great example of this new reality.  Instead of vintage woodwork to accommodate, we were stuck trying to fit furniture to a couch that we had ordered.  With a maximum of naiveté, we ordered a custom sectional from a manufacturer in Indiana.  We liked the modern lines, choice of fabric, and overall size versus the easier to acquire mass produced versions available at the local furniture stores.

The problem with the couch is that clean, modern lines also mean that most commonly available furniture and furniture plans are not sized to accommodate.  What does this mean in practical terms?  Take an end table.  You want the top of the table to be flush or slightly below the top of the arm of the couch.  Taller than that and you risk knocking drink glasses on the edge of the table top every time you go to place your glass on a coaster.  Here is what that transition looks like:

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How did I come up with that exact height?  I sat down with a cup in hand, hovered it over where I would naturally set it down, and had my wife measure that height with a tape measure.  It does not get more custom.

In practical terms this meant that I had to take an existing plan—the Ana White rustic x end table in this case—and cut it down.  Sounds simple in a sentence, but reducing the height meant changing the proportions of several components of the piece.  In reality, it meant making some stuff up as I went along which is how I make furniture most of the time.  Every piece, even if it is made from the same plan, turns out a little bit or a lots of bits different.

The aforementioned couch also proved to be problematic when crafting a sofa table to sit along the rear.  Low arm height also corresponds to a lower back height.  Those modern lines are so minimalist in both form and function.  Every piece and plan we looked at was too tall by several inches, so you ended up with both a barrier and a view of usually unfinished rears.  Ugh.

The solution?  You got it, custom built furniture.  This time the base plan was the Shanty 2 Chic DIY Sideboard.  Lots of changes versus the original plan in my version:

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The height was obviously dropped to accommodate the back of the sofa.  However, I also increased the thickness of the top from a single piece of edge banded ¾” plywood to a pair of stacked pieces of plywood.  This made the top more in line, in terms of heft, with both the end tables and the forthcoming television stand that is in process.  It did make the top weigh a whole lot, so be forewarned if you decide to make the same mistakes that I did.

I also changed the interior configuration from evenly split shelved to having more space on the bottom to accommodate larger items:

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One has to have room for all of those LEGO sets.  Just wait until you see what I did to the craft table plans we found online.

Not Quite Ana White Rustic X End Table

If you spend any time on Pinterest looking for ideas of furniture to build you will come across Ana White.  She is like the patron saint of Pinterest’s DIY furniture community.  From rustic farmhouse furniture to close facsimiles of high end lifestyle retailer’s furniture the titular Ana White is a source for a lot of ideas on how to turn a weekend and a pile of 2x4s into something for your home.

Unhappy with what was commercially available for our in-process remodeling of a family room—which was transitioning from some well-worn IKEA items to something more to our liking—my wife and I began sliding down the rabbit hole of Pinterest.  In the interest of full disclosure, we knew we were going to end up building furniture because I already had a garage full of woodworking tools acquired over the process of remodeling two prior homes and helping lots of friends with casework, cabinets, and built-in project over the years.

We chose to build a modified version the Rustic X end table, which is part of the particularly popular “x series” of tables on the site.  The real fun began when we started to change all of the measurements.  How much fun?

Most end tables that we looked at were too tall and so was the end table we were planning to build.  So, off came two inches on the height taken from the legs which begat changing the measurements of the x brace.  The table was also quite large at approximately two feet by two feet square give or take.  So, off came six inches in width to get something that matched the proportions of our couch a little better.  If you have an overstuffed or large leather couch the proportions may work quite well, but it just did not in this case.

Another deviation from the plan is the top.  Instead of joining 5 2x6s together for the top I chose to create a flat top with 6 boards.  To eliminate any grooves between the boards I machined one long edge of the two end boards and both long edges of the four middle boards.  On each pass with the table saw I took off ~1/4” so that in the end the overall width was quite similar to what was in the plan.  After some time with a belt sander, random orbital sander, and a router equipped with a roundover bit the top came out like this:

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There are still some machining marks and imperfections in the wood and the result along the edge is far from uniform.  It is not quite as rustic as what was in the original plan, but I think that the lack of grooves between the boards will be welcome since none of that gunk from tables will end up accumulating in the spaces.  Please note that sawing through a dozen pieces of 1.5” thick wood is a task for a fairly robust table saw equipped with a high quality blade.  Some “consumer” table saws will gak after a few passes and the blades will produce some awful chatter marks on the machined edge.  Also, if you take this route get ready for some serious piles of sawdust.  My compost pile got quite the addition of material.

Additionally, I did not attach the top using screws from to bottom.  I chose to use a tabletop attachment bracket which will allow the large wooden top to expand and contract without placing undo stress on the rest of the construction.  In a lot of these DIY rustic plans there is little effort to take into account the movement of wood through the seasons which will lead to unsightly splits, joint separation, and warping in time.

All in all, the tables came out quite well for something that started with a pile of 2x4s and a plan from which we deviated quite a lot:

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As you can see from the pictures I also went with a more traditional stain and polyurethane finish as opposed to the weathering and wax that was used on many of the examples shown on Ana White’s website.  One, I did not feel that the grey to blue tone of the weathering would look particularly good against the blue to grey couch.  Two, polyurethane is a much more durable finish as opposed to wax and these tables will be the victims of coaster-less drinks.  Trust me, I have two children who never think to use coasters.

Next up is a version of the rustic x console as a sofa table for behind the sectional.