Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Please Don't Make a Table Like This

I am seeing plans like this all over the internet
 DIY Dining Set

There are people with their own blogs making this type of table and thinking they are saving money.

Many of these plans, including the one above are completely the wrong way to build.

Here's a posting in a woodworking forum from someone who used that exact plan:

I’m fairly new to “fine” woodworking and undertook a project of building a table from a Lowes Creative Ideas magazine.
I have the table built and but the top has twisted so bad that the table rocked. So I trimmed the legs to level it after some reading online but the top has continued to twist. I installed table leveling feet before I could see how bad the top actually is.
Does anyone have a suggestion as to how to fix this? I put 3 coats of poly on the top and 1 on the bottom of the wood slats.
Every time I look at the table sitting in our kitchen I’m so disgusted and am wishing we would have just bought one, but we’ve spent the money and the finish of the table is nice – it’s just so twisted and visible. Any help is appreciated.

I've written here before about using construction lumber for a project, but I'm just a little blog and the message hasn't got through, so I'm trying again.

There is a way to make things, and a way to make things that will last.  


Wood moves.

                      Wood.                       Moves.

Depending on the season and climate, wood can and does change size.  Wood in a dry environment shrinks and in a humid environment expands. This change takes place widthwise, not in the length of a piece of wood, and is due to the internal structure of wood.   Wood pieces that are placed side by side against each other and attached to something, or pieces that are trapped in a frame, will crack or warp. Table tops made of solid wood cannot simply be screwed down.

Also please note that construction lumber is not made for furniture.  2 x 10s, 2 x 8x, 4 x 4s and 2 x 4s are not kiln dried to the water content that wood for furniture is. Have you ever sat a 2 x 4 in your house for a few days?  It usually will end up looking like a hockey stick.  
Construction lumber is not sold to be used for furniture.

The top should first have all pieces glued together side by side then attached with Z shaped clamps which you can see here:

and I used for my lamp table

If you use some of these incorrect plans your table, bed or chair might look good at the start, but will not last. Unfortunately there are people offering plans that are not properly designed.  You may end up with something cheap, but you will most certainly be disappointed and get what you paid for.

I am willing and happy to answer any and all questions about woodworking.

Linking up here:
Elizabeth & Co.                                 Primitive and Proper
Sew Woodsy                                             Coastal Charm
Savvy Southern Style                                No Minimalist Here
The Shabby Creek Cottage                        Remodelaholic  
The Brambleberry Cottage                        aka design
Miss Mustard Seed                                   My Repurposed Life
Sassy Sites                                                Funky Junk Interiors
Be Different Act Normal                          Sisters of the Wild West
Under the Table and Dreaming


  1. Wise advice. Thanks for posting it.

  2. This is really good to know. I have seen a lot of those plans and have thought about making them before. Now, I will have to do some more research. Thanks for saving me some time, money, and frustration.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to post this Julie... I have often wondered what the long term condition of those builds would look like.

    Lesson learned.


    Hugs, Deb

  4. I agree with your statement that the proper wood needs to be used. Furniture quality wood (cut with-grain/cross-grain depending on purpose and properly dried) is important. I was told not to totally poly a piece (inside drawers or under tables) to assist wood and avoid warp. Don't give up doing it yourself! The personal satisfaction (and getting EXACTLY) what you want is great! Also, painted pieces are excellent made with MDF.

  5. Great Post! Love it, though I did make a table with regular lumber and my husband just shook his head at me saying EXACTLY the same thing you did here. He does some woodworking. We did not screw down the top, just made an apron it sits in. I knew we would be using it outside for a patio table eventually so the twisting of the top was not a problem for me, but twist it did! I wanted the practice before moving on.
    Anyways, it takes bravery to go against the more popular opinion (aka blog). I am appalled at people using pallet wood in their homes and most of all to build childrens furniture. I worked in shipping in the past and was in charge of certifying pallets and let me tell you they are FULL of pesticides, fumigants and other chemicals. Even the heat treated ones. No one knows, when they pick them up from the side of the road or behind stores, what in the world has leaked, splashed or some how come in contact with them. Those chemicals out gas into your home and can be a huge danger. But I got flack for daring to mention that, people stubbornly wanted what they called Free wood. They have to be outside for years and years for all that to leach out with rain and the sun helping neutralize those toxins.

    And if people only knew that kiln dried lumber is not that much more than builder grade. Oh well, people shall live and learn such as the poor lady who wishes she had bought a table rather than wasting her money following instructions that are just plain misleading as to the quality of the finished product.

  6. Hi - I'm following, since I think I can learn a lot from you. I want to make nice things, or rework them, but am scared of power saws! I know my fear is partially due to the fact that I know almost nothing about woodworking. Glad I found you!

  7. Hey Julie, always great advice! Do you have a step by step tutorial you could link this to perhaps so a beginner could actually see how it's done? It's hard to visualize all the steps needed for a beginner.


    1. Hi Donna,
      The pieces should be jointed, meaning straightened, on the side edges and then glued together side by side using clamps to hold, then this explains a lot for how to attach the top:
      Attaching Table tops

  8. I'm so glad I found your blog! Off to read.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing this helpful info at the Open House party.
    xo, Sherry

  10. Good to know! Though I would've asked my dad before constructing anything like this, he's a very good carpenter (build our house and almost everything in it including kitchen cabinetry). It's sad that a hardware store like Lowes would make a tutorial like this just to screw people over; that's not right, they're suppose to help with this kind of stuff, not hinder! New follower too, I love woodworking!

    1. And just noticed you're from Ontario! I'm an Ottawa girl myself, currently living in Montreal for studies :)

  11. I appreciate the tip. I have been making plans from and personally love her site and think she does a great job. I have been researching the information you have presented and it is great to know. So I do have a few questions concerning attaching the table top. Obviously it is not best with pocket hole screws as it does not allow for wood movement. How do you notch out the wood (the link called it a kerf cut) to put in place the mounting clamps you suggest? Is there an easy way to do it for someone who doesn't have a table saw? Also I have noticed other methods that still allow for the wood to move, is your method the easiest? Then as far as wood movement goes is attaching table tops one of the biggest issues? Do you not agree with attaching wood together with pocket holes at all? I am just curious. I would like to continue working with wood and building, but I do want my projects to last and I do want to continue using pocket holes where they are useful and ok. Hope that makes since. Thanks again!

    1. I will post a reply to this question and hopefully give some more information that will help others in my next blog post.
      I'll try to get it ready for tomorrow!

  12. Great advice Julie. I have seen those plans too. I'm still a complete novice when it comes to building furniture and probably would have done it just like it said.

  13. Great post Julie-although I am a rebel. I made a top for my kitchen island out of 2x6's, joining them with the Kreg Jig pocket holes. The way I read your post, you would not do it that way. How long would you say it will last?
    I'm not sure how gluing and clamping is much different than the pocket holes, so I look forward to your post about that.
    I think that many people these days are living on a very tight budget and they are not building "heirloom" furniture. It seems that they are fine if it only lasts a few years. Bang for your buck sort of thing.
    Personally, my budget deems how I build. I suppose we may have to agree to disagree? :)
    your first follower, and a huge fan!
    ps I totally agree with the comment above about the pallet wood. I would love to use it, but I too am afraid of the pesticides. I'm wondering why they treat them with all those products?

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. Wow wonderful information! Now I need to find that follow up post!

  16. Was planning on making a table but now after reading your post I'm afraid of doing the wrong thing. Do you have instructions on doing it the correct way???

    1. I do explain it above, but I'll summarize here. Firstly you do not use construction lumber, secondly you glue the pieces side by side so you have one solid piece for the top. Then you use the clips as I suggest.

  17. You really know your stuff, thanks for sharing with the rest of us! As DIYers, we are always using things in unexpected ways and sometimes may not use the right products! As for pallet wood, I can't bring myself to use it either...I'm always afraid of what it's been exposed to!


  18. Thank you for sharing this!

    Shelly @minettesmaze

  19. I've been wondering why everyone is so hot to use construction lumber for tabletops and now floors! Can you imagine the gaps those floors are going to have after a couple of months? Wow... Thanks for your great tips!

  20. I'm gonna play devil's advocate here: There are exceptions to using pocket holes in the apron. If you elongate the hole after you've drilled the pocket hole, it will allow for wood movement. Also, buying the 2xx DF and SPF from big box stores can be used if you're patient enough to sticker it and let the moisture content drop. The problem is that most people don't follow the correct rules for using this type of lumber. Many seasoned woodworkers will use construction grade lumber in only after taking the steps to ensure it's fully dry.

    1. Okay "j". Who elongates the holes for pocket holes? Does "Kreg" include that infomation in the directions that come with their products? I have never heard of people using pocket holes saying that they elongate the hole. Additionally, how long are you going to sit the lumber to let the moisture content drop? And... if you do that, many people who are using this construction lumber, (that will end up crooked after it dries) do not have a jointer and planer to fix it. There is a lot of misinformation out there and because of it people think they can just go to the lumber store and make a table the same day.

    2. There are plenty of reputable sources that give specific instructions (with pictures) on how to elongate pocket holes. is one source that gives a few examples of attaching table tops - using clips or pocket holes. Here is the link: Regarding moisture, obviously location matters, but I live in Arizona and only sticker and store my wood for a month since it is desert dry with very low humidity. For those with OCD, then you can buy a moisture content meter and shoot for <10%. By the way, you can paint the end grain to prevent checking and minimize cracks. I purchase green and kiln dried 4x4 and 2xx Douglas Fir. I don't own a jointer or a planer and use hand planes. There isn't much movement on KD wood, and I can use about 80% of the green lumber (not bad considering the cost). I agree, there is a lot of misinformation but I also think big box lumber has its place and can be used in certain situations. Lastly, Kreg does mention the information in their manual under FAQ and to adjust the depth collar for a deeper pilot hole and then back off the screw a quarter turn to allow wood movement. It's the same thing as an elongated hole.

    3. By the way, Happy Thanksgiving! : )

    4. I completely agree that there are sites with great information. I've been a subscriber to Fine woodworking Magazine for over 10 years and it is an excellent source. However most of my readers are from decorating blogs and they don't see that source, they see people taking 2x4s and screwing them together without any mention of stickering wood nor elongating holes. I am skeptical you can "back off the screw a quarter turn" and beat the effects of wood movement in a place with fluctuating humidity. Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in Arizona, where I suspect there is not much change from one season to another.
      Thank your for your wishes but I live in Canada and we celebrate Thanksgiving in early October, so the turkey is long gone. I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  21. Hi Julie,
    I want to build wood furniture. What wood would you recommend?

  22. I use pine if I want to stain the wood, as I prefer the look of the knots throughout. I never use construction lumber for this type of furniture as it is not dried to the proper amount for indoor use. Poplar is also a good wood because it is easy to paint, it also must be kiln dried for furniture.

  23. Ha! I did exactly what you said not to do in this blog. Now the tabel is cracking, I used wood filler to do ti, argh. So you think by jointing, gluing, clamping, and THEN mounting the top things will be ok, I want to make a table that is smooth as glass on top w/no cracks. Is that the best way to ensure it does not crack? And what would you recommend using as far as wood for a kitchen table top? Where to get it in America? Thanks!

  24. So where can one purchase kiln dried furniture grade wood if the don't sell it at big box stores? Or do they? And if so, how can one tell?

    1. Usually they don't sell it at big box stores. You need a supplier such as a lumberyard or mill. I buy mine rough and then I plane it myself. There are most likely local woodworkers in your area that can help you find a supplier. If you don't have the capability of planing yourself from rough, maybe someone local can do that for you as well.