Every year, Scott and I spend Thanksgiving in Chicago with our friends that aren’t usually able to make it home for the holidays – for one reason or another. Our little in-town family of orphans knocks it out of the park; we are potluck champions, and we consistently rock it, regardless of our long list of dietary restrictions (vegan, veggie, gluten-free and meat lovers, unite!). This year, however, our usual host was 9 months pregnant (and our newest Chicago family member was born early this week!), so naturally – like anyone who just bought a house under construction – we said, we’ll host!
This immediately posed a number of problems (omg, how do I make a turkey?), but the biggest dilemma was where will everyone sit? We had a crew of 11 on Thanksgiving day (with even more for the infamous follow-up Leftover Party), and rather than settle on any old table for the big day, we decided (again, naturally) we’ll make one!
We love a good challenge, so after scouring tutorials on Ana White’s blog, we settled on the Modern Farmhouse Table. Never having built a substantial table before (or any table for that matter), we liked that the clean lines would not only be a good fit for the long haul, but it seemed simple enough to build quickly (and it was!). This would be our table for years to come, and regardless of what chairs we tuck under it or what chandelier we hang overhead, this one could effortlessly set the stage:
We worked with Ace Hardware to get all the materials we needed, and we knocked it out in one weekend. Our local Ace doesn’t typically carry large amounts of lumber, so we discussed with the owner, Al (he’s the best), what we’d need, and he ordered everything into the store for us. All our supplies were ready in 2 business days; we picked it up, and we were good to start building!
MATERIALS + TOOLS USED:
This tutorial from Ana White, modified (see cut list, below)
9 – 2″x6″x8′ boards (for the legs and tabletop)
3 – 2″x4″x8′ boards (for the aprons)
6 – 2″x2″x6′ boards (for the supports)
2 1/2″ wood screws
Mini Kreg Jig
Table saw – we used the Craftsman Evolv 10″ (for creating square edges)
Compound miter saw (for making cuts)
Screwdriver / Drill
Tape measure / Ruler
Electric mouse sander
Sandpaper: 80, 120 and 220 grits for your electric sander
CUT LIST FOR A 6′ FARM TABLE:
4 – 2″x6″ cut to 30″ (LEGS)
7 – 2″x6″ cut to 69″ (TABLETOP PLANKS)
2 – 2″x4″ cut to 69″ (SIDE APRONS)
2 – 2″x4″ cut to 28″ (END APRONS)
12 – 2″x2″ cut to 35″ (UNDER TABLETOP SUPPORTS)
For those interested in this same tutorial, we encourage you to check out the step-by-step right here. Ana’s instructions were spot on, but we did alter her plans to make a larger table; ours comes in at 38″d x 6’w x 30″h, reflected in the cut list, above. Here are some of the tips we learned along the way, which we think made the process much smoother – especially as first timers.
First, we ripped down all of our 2″x6″x8′ and 2″x4″x8′ boards by 1/4″ on each side, length-wise, on a table saw. We picked up the Craftsman Evolv 10″ portable saw, and we loved it. (This guy has a lot of projects coming its way!) By doing so, we took a total of 1/2″ off of each board, but we gave them nice, square edges. It wasn’t necessary to do this on the 2″x2″ boards, as those were used as under tabletop supports, and they’d never be seen.
From there, we used our compound miter saw to cut everything down to the proper lengths. I figured out all the math beforehand to take Ana’s 5’+ table to a solid 6′, so we were able to move right along without breaking out the calculator. Rather than measure each and every piece, we cut one piece for every component to size, then used that same piece as our guide for each cut after that.
Once we finished up the cut list and the dusty work was (mostly) over, we brought everything inside to assemble (it was freezing in the garage!). It felt a lot like putting together a piece of Ikea furniture – you know, with all the parts scattered about, matching up piece A to piece B, and so forth (in other words, not so bad, but patience is important!).
After the legs and aprons were in place, we found it was easiest to turn the whole table upside-down and install the under tabletop supports this way. We used a scrap piece of 2″x2″ under the supports to keep things level, and rather than screw in each piece from the outside, we used our mini Kreg Jig to hide these screws. To keep things flowing smoothly, Scott pre-drilled all the Kreg holes (one on either end) first, then I lined up all the supports, rested a screw in each hole, and he zipped down the line, securing each one to the aprons.
The trickiest part of the entire assembly was putting our tabletop planks into place. To start, we did a dry fit, then took everything back out and started on the edges. Using clamps to make sure everything was as tight as possible, Scott drilled from below, using 2 wood screws on each small section of support, up and down the length of the entire tabletop plank. The tutorial recommends that you lay all the planks in place, turn the table over and pre-drill these holes. In our case, it was much, much easier to skip the pre-drilling and work from below as a starting point. We got a super snug fit this way!
We continued to secure the planks one by one, working on one side, then the other. As we got closer to the middle, we turned the table on its side, then I stood on the planks as Scott screwed everything in place. (Because our clamps weren’t large enough to keep the planks tight, this helped tremendously.) By the time we got to the final middle plank, we did have to shave it down by a 1/16″ on the table saw, but afterwards, we were able to use a hammer and a scrap piece of wood to get it in place. We rejoiced; Jack hollered in response – 4 hours after we started, we had a table!
The following day, we brought the table outside for sanding. While Scott got started on the construction clean-up, I sanded. And I sanded. And I sanded some more.
I sanded our table for close to 4 hours, but it was necessary to take down some of the un-level edges and to remove the rough knots, splinters and manufacturer stamps. Starting with the 80 grit sandpaper on our electric mouse sander, I went over the entire table one and a half times (really making sure to even things out all over), then worked my way down to 120 grit and finally, 220 grit.
Although sanding is one of my least favorite to-dos, it was absolutely worth it. The finish is so smooth; The knots no longer have the rough, scratchy edges, and you can run your hand over the entire table without fearing splinters.
The only visible screws we have are on each of the four corners – 6 screws that are keeping this table sturdy and tough. We altered Step 5 of the tutorial by placing screws at 3/4″, 2 1/4″, 3 3/4″, and 5 1/2″ from the end, angling the screws as necessary so that they never touch or overlap. Ultimately, we’ll use wood filler to cover those up.
To squeeze in every last one of our friends for Thanksgiving dinner, we did have to bring in our former patio table, we mix-and-matched chairs, and the eleventh person (Scott!) had to use a pasta dish. We all sat comfortably, but even on its own, the table still looks great with only 4-6 chairs around it (which is what it’ll usually have). In a pinch, it was good to know that for once in our Chicago lives, we can actually seat a fair amount of people!
It’s pretty obvious that we still need to stain the table, but we haven’t quite settled on the right color. We’ll be using our Elkhorn chairs, so we’ve been waffling on the proper wood tone – although we’re leaning heavily towards the same finish as my studio desk. (We’re not looking for a perfect match; quite the opposite!) In total, the cost of lumber and supplies (minus the power tools) came to $150 – although any finishing supplies would add another $20+ (give or take). If you were to follow Ana’s plans exactly (for a slightly smaller table), the cost would easily be under $100, as many of the cuts use every inch of board.
Not bad for one weekend and a new dining room table. (Now if only those walls could paint themselves!)
Update! See the finished table right here!