How to build a farmhouse table

(Original post from my Blogger; visit to view it.  And please also excuse my poor-quality iPhone pictures.)

I built a table.

A legitimate dining-room table.

Totally serious.

Interested in building a piece of furniture too?

Start here: This is one of the coolest websites I’ve found.  Ana has a passion for building things, and for making her plans available for free online so that regular people like me can build our own furniture for WAY cheaper than retail.  She also bases many of her designs off name-brand furniture you can buy from Crate & Barrel or West Elm–but for much cheaper.

Find your plan.  I used THIS one.  The Farmhouse Table  Although I’ll freely admit that I modified it a bit.  I wanted a shorter table with different legs than the original plan (4x4s) instead of 2, 2x4s attached, and no stretcher supports.  That meant that I had to modify things so that I could use my post legs without the stretcher supports.

Do all the math and you get something that looks like this:

HINT: Wood is not actually the length it says it is.  This was really frustrating.  A 4×4 post will actually only measure 3.5×3.5.  Take that into account when you’re doing your math.  My table worked, but in the end, didn’t need any of the spacers I planned.  And don’t use my plan above…. the morning we started cutting & building is when I realized the wood anomaly.  This means that the above plan doesn’t represent the actual measurements of the wood.  Sorry

Then buy your wood (and screws).  I got all of mine at Home Depot.  Make sure that your boards are SUPER straight.  This is really important.  We also used 3″ AND 4″ screws throughout the process.  We found out when we got to Home Depot that they don’t actually sell 3.5″ screws.

And I had to sit in the back with the wood because it was so long.

Then you get out your mighty mighty tape measure, square, and skill saw and start cutting your wood to length.  We did wait to cut the tabletop pieces until the end though, just to make sure everything would be the same

HINT: cut the “breadboard” (the two pieces on the end of the tabletop that run perpendicular to the rest of the tabletop) LAST.  This measurement was way off, and we ended up having to cut them over again–which meant buying more wood.

Then frame up the legs and sides.  We used a pocket hole jig to keep from needing to screw from the outside of the boards.  See more about pocket holes HERE.  Kreg Jig is just a brand name product–I got an off-brand Home Depot version for cheaper.

Then we built the under-tabletop supports.  This piece was just 2, 2x4s with the 2×2 support pieces screwed into them like ladder rungs.  Then we set the under-tabletop support piece into the frame we built.

Then screwed the two pieces together.  This is Kevin, my table-building model.  I also convinced him to do a lot of the actual “power drilling” & “skill sawing” work.  He was just so good at it…

Then we turned the whole thing upright and tried to square it.  We got to about 1/2″ off and called it good.

We measured and screwed in one of the breadboards to the tabletop, and then started on the 7 tabletop pieces that run perpendicular.  This was the exciting part.

This is, of course, when I realized that the breadboard pieces were too short (when cut to the exact measurements from Ana White’s site–my guess is that the darn, “I’m not actually how long I say I am” wood sizes are the culprit.  Regardless, having the one breadboard piece in place made placement of the middle tabletop pieces a lot easier.  Then the breadboard piece was removed, a new 2×8 board was purchased, and the new breadboard pieces were cut and screwed into place.

Ta da!  Except because I didn’t want those stretcher supports underneath, the whole thing was a bit wobbly.  So Kevin & I improvised and created some very simple triangle supports for the legs.  We just measured and cut from a leftover 2×4 and screwed them into place (after using a level to make sure things were square).

The table-making process took two days (or about 12 hours) to complete.  Then I took a week break and started in on the finishing process.

First, I sanded the table to within an inch of its life.  I bought a finishing sander from Home Depot and it was worth every penny.  I used several grits of sandpaper: 100, 120, and 150.  I was afraid to sand too much because I’ve heard you can essentially “stain” your wood by over-sanding & make it so stain doesn’t soak in well.  That, and I was sick and tired of staining by that time.  It was really smooth to the touch.  I counted it good, and then used tack cloth to get ALL the sawdust off.

Wood conditioner is recommended for soft woods like pine (the lumber they generally sell in the regular section at Home Depot).  It’s essentially two parts paint thinner to one part finish and really helps the soft woods evenly absorb the stain.  It closes the wood pores (which are very large on soft wood), so it will absorb less stain just in general–something to keep in mind if you want your project really dark.  It also gives the wood (in my opinion) a honey-ish looking color.

Then I tested a piece of wood for the staining process.  Six different options: 1) no wood conditioner, stain put on and immediately removed, 2) no wood conditioner, stain put on and left for 10 minutes, 3) wood conditioner wet (or newly applied) and stain put on and immediately removed, 4) wood conditioner wet and stain put on and left for 10 minutes, 5) wood conditioner left to dry overnight and stain put on and immediately removed, and 6) wood conditioner left to dry overnight and stain put on and left for 10 minutes. (Don’t automatically just choose the directions from the back of the can–in my research I have found that wood conditioner needs the full 24 hours to dry to work correctly, even though the can says the stain needs to be applied immediately.)  For the look I was going for, I chose #6.  My stain was an oil-based Minwax Dark Walnut.  The wood conditioner gave it a warmer, honey-like tone underneath.

Staining the table was probably my absolutely favorite part of the process.  Be sure to put down a tarp to catch all the drops though.  And buy some Mineral Spirits beforehand.  It’ll make the dalmatian look go right away once you’re done with the stain.  It gets out stain AND polyurethane off skin & brushes, which is really helpful because soap (or dish soap) won’t do the trick.  Although I’ve head that cooking/mineral oil will.

Use a rag to rub it on the stain, and an old cotton shirt or sweatshirt to rub it off.  Make sure to get all of the stain off afterwards, or it just becomes sticky/tacky and creates more problems when you go to finish the project.

Let the stain dry completely (at least 24-28 hours).  Then you can apply another layer of stain if you want.  I’ve heard that past about two coats, your project won’t get any darker though. I only did one coat and was really happy with the color.

I did quite a bit of reading on poly.  Oil vs. water. (P.S. Never use a water-based stain with an oil-based poly–you can use water over oil, but never oil over water. Check your labels!)  It’s essentially a plastic coating to furniture, which will protect the wood from spills or liquids.  It doesn’t have to be too shiny–you can choose from satin, semi-gloss, or gloss finishes to poly.  It’s not the best finish for all wood projects, but it’s a good solid, scratch-resistant, water-proof option for a dining room table (that isn’t an “antique”).

I did the first layer of oil-based poly (with a foam brush), then let it dry for at least 24 hours.  Being sure to use long, slow strokes to make a minimal amount of bubbles. After the first layer dried, the wood was a little rough, so I lightly, hand-sanded with a 220 grit sandpaper (I think any grit lower–e.g. 150–will only scratch the wood too much), wiped everything off with tack cloth, and applied the next layer of poly (and let it dry for another 24 hours).  Then sanded with 220 grit again, wiped off with tack cloth, and applied my third and final layer of poly.  Now the coating was smooth.

At this point, the table is done!  Unfortunately polyurethane takes approximately 2-4 weeks to “cure”.  It will be dry to the touch in 24 hours, and you can start using it after 7 days, but don’t leave anything sitting on it for long periods of time, otherwise it will sink into the poly layer.  You can’t see it, but apparently the molecules within the poly layer are still moving around, even though the layer feels hard to the touch.  I’ve also heard that it can take up to a year for the poly layer to be completely cured.

So I left my table in my shed for a couple weeks, let it off-gas its VOCs outside, and then got Kevin and my dad to carry it around the mulberry bush and into my house.  Where it looks absolutely gorgeous (even without chairs!)

Cost breakdown:  Had I bought a brand new, retail 6’x3′(ish) table, it would have probably cost about $1,000.  Instead, I spent:

Home Depot wood & screws: $110 (or very close)  The 4×4″ posts were the most expensive.
Pocket hole jig: $30
Power finishing sander & sandpaper: $35
Stain, polyurethane, and foam brushes: $20
TOTAL: About $200

Such a fun project–even for an amateur–and a totally successful “30 before 30” list achievement (with a whole bunch of stories/memories made in the process).

**I’m linking this post up with Primitive & Proper’s “Piece of Work Wednesday Link Party”!  Check it out HERE.


How to reupholster a wingback chair

Welcome!  If you’re coming from Daily Do It Yourself today, I’m so glad you’re here!

Disclaimer: I’d never reupholstered anything before this chair, but I had the gumption to take on the project anyway.  There is not a lot of extraordinary skill involved, just patience and determination.  Nothing difficult, just a little time consuming.  But, the recognition at the end (when people comment that the job looks professional) is worth the effort.  Go for it!

Here’s what you need to get started:
*Wingback chair
*Fabric to recover with (Fantastic chart for how much fabric you’ll need HERE from All Things Thrifty)
*A screwdriver with the thinnest edge you can find (you will be using this to pry out the millions of staples)
*Gloves (I went rebel and didn’t wear any, but my hands almost revolted on me)
*A sheet or blanket to lay on the ground (you’d be surprised at the amount of dirt & stuffing dust, seriously)
*A sewing machine (although you’ll probably only need this for sewing piping and the cushion)
*Stapler (electric preferably, and also one that actually works–trust me, it’s worth it)
*A hammer
*A container to hold removed staples

Upholstered chairs are built like an onion.  One piece at a time.  I was surprised when I heard there was very little sewing involved.  It’s true, except for the cushion and the piping.

**After each piece is taken off, label it with its location and number.  The pieces go on in the same order they came off, and while this step seems lame, it’s actually really important to keep them organized**

Here’s what I started with:

Lay down the sheet, and turn the chair so the legs are in the air.  Start by removing the staples from the black piece on the bottom of the chair (usually a black-mesh material).  Remove every staple you see.

This is the most tedious and heartbreaking part of the process.  Don’t get discouraged.  It doesn’t look like you’ve done much, but the staples on the bottom and back took me the longest.

Remove cardboard and piping (if you have it).  Then put the chair back upright.  The next piece is the back.

The best way I can explain it is to use your screwdriver between the edge of the fabrics (on the sides) and pry the tack board from the chair.  The tack board looks like a long strip of metal with teeth on it.

I stole this picture from The Creative Maven who has a great tutorial (that I referred to) on recovering a wingback chair HERE

The top and top edge will probably have what others have lovingly referred to as “sharp metal teeth” (**I just learned that it’s called Ply Grip).  The fabric is folded into them.  Pull it out and pry the metal teeth down.  Just be careful not to injure yourself.  The teeth are sharp.  Sharp metal teeth close-up.

Continue working on the layers you can see.  Take out all the staples you see along the way.

Now you’re going to work on removing the sides.  Those sharp metal teeth will also be on the top part of the sides.  You’re likely to find cardboard strips in the other places (down the side and under the armrest).  Try to keep these pieces together once you remove them.

You’ll find stuffing, most likely also stapled to the frame.  That will be a headache, but remove it anyway.  Label which side it goes to.

Note:  The sharp teeth strips will need to be removed to get to the under layers of the fabric (and piping).  Keep in mind the order they are layered on.  And when you remove the sharp teeth, try to keep in mind that you can reuse them, so try to keep them intact.  Label and put aside.

Then you can take off the decorative thing from the arm rests.  Mine were literally nailed in.  Use your screwdriver to pry them off.  Or a hammer, if that’s easier.

Do the same to the other side.  Then remove the armrest fabric pieces (mine were attached/sewn to the inside sides.)

If you haven’t already, remove the backrest and also the piece under the cushion over the seat.

Naked chair.  Take a breath, look at your handiwork.  Then get back to work.  It’s not going to recover itself.

Lay out your fabric pieces (see my labels?) and cut out your new pieces.  Keep the old with the new for the time being (that way if you have any questions you can refer to it for placement.)  If any of the pieces are sewn, use a seam ripper to take them apart to cut new fabric and just re-sew them like the original.

Pull out the cord from the old piping and sew new piping the same length.  Best tutorial for sewing piping.

If any of the pieces are sewn, do this now.

Start with the last piece you took off.  Presumably the piece under the cushion.  Staple one side and then pull the other sides tight.  Tight enough to keep the fabric taut, but not so tight the fabric will rip.

Then the armrest/inside side pieces (which were sewn together on mine).  Then the backrest.

Then the piping on the outside sides.

Now comes the tricky stuff.  All I can really say here is if you watched how it was assembled as you were taking pieces off, then you’ll be fine.  The sides were a little tricky for me, especially around the armrest curve.  Use the cardboard pieces for an even edge.  Lay the fabric (upside down over the armrest) and place the cardboard on the underside up next to the piping (see below).  The cardboard ends where those awesome metal teeth begin.

Add back on the decorative armrest things.  I hated this step.  I couldn’t get nails to go in straight.  Do the best you can to attach them.

Then attach the back piece.  Start with the fabric at the top held in with the metal teeth.  Then work about the tack board sides.  This piece was the hardest for me.  It takes a bit of time to get everything tight, but you’re in the home stretch!  Then flip the chair over and put on the bottom trim and that lovely black mesh piece and you’re done!

Ta da!

And I’m not going to go into great detail on the ottoman, because once you reupholster the chair, the ottoman is a piece of cake.  Although mine involved more sewing.  Just start from the bottom and work your way until the piece is again naked.  Then recreate it.  Also, you can check out my post on How to Reupholster a Tufted Ottoman.

I’m linking up with Thrifty Decor Chick‘s February Before & After Party.

And Primitive & Proper‘s Piece of Work Wednesday (POWW).