DIY Dining Room Table
August 3, 2006 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Exercise your imaginations, MeFites, I want your suggestions! Rather than just buying something, I'd like to DIY a dining room table.

Granted, there's about a million possibilities, but here's what I'm thinking, in rough terms:

- Something unusual/unique about the construction, material, execution, etc. that will have people talking about it long after they leave.

- I can make it with no special equipment or tools that cost an arm and a leg.

- Preferably rectangular, about 42" wide x 80" long. Not necessary, but bonus points if it's possible to make it with one or even two (about 18" each) leaves.

- NOT a pedestal-type table, but with legs on the corners. I don't want to notice the legs, really - focus on the surface.

- This will sit on a wood-over-concrete slab floor so weight isn't an issue (although I'd like to be able to move it without killing myself!)

- Affordable - Consideration will be given to the fact that in general a dining room table I would buy would probably cost me in the $1,000 range, but the less expensive over all the better.

I'd love to make something REALLY unique like this, but can't figure out how. Besides, it costs over $6,000! (Of course, if someone could show me how to do something similar while staying in my budget, I'd love it!) I also thought of a slab of travertine from a salvage yard, but oddly enough can't seem to find such a place here in my hometown (Houston, Texas), or at least, not yet. Also old antique doors, but that's been done to death, IMHO.

I realize beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it also needs to "fit in" with our decor. Hard to describe what that is, exactly. It's easier to say what it ISN'T, but I think I'll get more ideas if I leave it open. I'll know it when I see it, so bring it on!

(Just for the record, this is not for a contest, design class or anything else. It's just something I'd like to do for me.)

I know it's not much, but I'll try to post a flickr photo stream of the build, and for the "winning" idea, raise a glass to you the first meal we use it for.
posted by Bobtheordinary to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What about a Lite Brite table, or a table made of Legos?
posted by iconomy at 11:53 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

A huge, old, unique-looking wooden door? Not so modern-looking, but I'd be impressed. They can sometimes be had at architectural salvage stores -- or maybe if you know of an old house that's being demolished, if it hasn't already been picked clean, you could ask the demo crew? If it's paneled, you could put a slab of glass over it to create an allover level surface.
posted by penchant at 11:59 AM on August 3, 2006

Best answer: Buy a sheet of exterior plywood and have the lumberyard cut it to size. Buy a roll or two of sod. Put the table outside, unroll the sod and cut to fit, water for a week or so until the grass looks good. Move it inside just before the party.

OK, totally impractical, but cheap and it meets your something people will talk about criteria.
posted by LarryC at 12:10 PM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

A U-shaped table. The middle can be left empty or you build a matching cart that perfectly fits into the space in the middle. To deliver stuff to or from the kitchen, you can roll the whole center away without disturbing people (plates, drinks) around the U-shaped main part of the table. Maybe build extra roll-away modules as the urge comes over you. One for your hobby, whatever that might be, and they could be single- or multi-level, with or without shelves, drawers, lazy susans, elevators, electronics, baby chair, ant farm, fish tank, cone of silence, shrunken heads collection, etc.
posted by pracowity at 12:53 PM on August 3, 2006

I just built a dining room table to accommodate larger LAN parties. I started with 2 planks each of red oak and poplar,th 6' x 1' x 3/4". I glued the planks together the long way, alternating oak & poplar, then cut them crossways in 1' strips. I then flipped every other strip around to form a checkerboard pattern.

I used a sheet of 3/4" plywood for a base and glued the strips to it, followed up by trimming the plywood to size. I put 4" oak molding all around, filled in the seams with some putty, and added some black metal table legs. (If you place the legs a few inches in from the corners, you get a floating effect -- people looking down on the table from above can't see the legs.) Total cost of materials was about $400. Major tools were a circular saw, belt sander, random orbital sander, and finishing sander. (About 90% of construction time was spent on the finish.) A planer would have saved a lot of work and produced a better finish, but I didn't have one. Final table dimensions were 6' x 4' x 30" high. Finish was several coats of Minwax Antique Finishing Oil interspersed with multiple sandings of increasingly finer grit. (Leaves a matte surface that is fairly impervious to water & stains.)

Not sure about the Wow! factor -- the contrast between the poplar and red oak is pleasing. I built it for practicality and most of the conversation about it consists of: "YOU made this?!? And you still have all your fingers?"

I've built several tables and desks this year and the biggest problem I've faced is how to make the legs stable. You have to think about the lateral forces on the top (e.g., people leaning, pushing on it) that will make the legs flex.
posted by forrest at 12:53 PM on August 3, 2006

Coat a piece of plywood or MDF in thin concrete, then acid stain.

Decoupage with menus from various restaurants.

Green felt, "Ask MetaFilter" stenciled in one corner.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 1:13 PM on August 3, 2006

Hmmm. Looking at the $6000 example, I'm visiualing a cheap alternative made of plywood. Put molding around the edges to form a lip. Paint it black. Mount LEDs or rope-lights or mini-lights inside. Put a sheet of glass on top; you can have that cut to size. Voila, table top. Depending on what sort of lights you use, you might have to cut a hole to plug in in -- would be nice to have battery-operated or solar lights, if you can find them.

The legs could be simple wooden legs from Home Depot (or wherever), or you could use pipe. Using pre-made legs does provide much better stability, not to mention the confidence that they are equal length. :-) On the other hand, plumbing fittings might give you a cool industrial look -- silver, steel, or copper -- or you can use plastic pipe and spray-paint it. You could probably bolt metal legs onto the table; plastic might need epoxy.
posted by Robert Angelo at 1:26 PM on August 3, 2006

My ex-boyfriend made his own stainless steel table to compliment the appliances in his kitchen. Just went and had the stainless steel cut to the right size and then he bent it around the plywood frame himself. He knew it would get scratched up pretty easily, so he decided to scratch it himself in a circular motion using steel wool to make some really interesting patterns. The rest of his apartment wasn't modern, but it didn't look out of place at all. He got an insane amount of compliments on it. I guess you could do the same thing with copper ceiling tiles or just about anything to match the decor.
posted by Ugh at 4:47 PM on August 3, 2006

I second the door idea. I saw something a while back about a guy at a startup that used a door as his desk, and was struck by how good it looked, and how spacious it was. (Perhaps you could use the doorknob hole as a sort of 'centerpiece' mount, even though it'd be on the side.)

LarryC's idea sounds really neat, if it weren't for the obvious problems. (How are you going to cut the grass? You probably can't bring the table outside every week, you can't let it grow to foot-tall hay if you plan to eat off it, and you can't use a lawnmower indoors without sawing your arm off and filling the house up with exhaust. Cutting with scissors would be really laborious. And I've never seen grass that didn't have tons of bugs and small animals living in it. (Then again, I've never seen grass as a dining room table, so who knows.)

I was going to recommend sand, which seems really nifty, and is open to all sorts of neat styling ideas. (Chinese rock garden, even!) Except that I think you'd end up with all sorts of food bits stuck in the sand all the time. Although it would absorb spills nicely... (And I can't imagine that you wouldn't get sand on the carpet underneath every time you used it.)

You could do a piece of plywood on two sawhorses. If done alone, this could be called 'minimalistic art' or something. You could also add a sheet of glass (might be very expensive?) on top, optionally inserting something novel in between. (Plates? Empty cans? Old pizza boxes?)

What would be really neat, but not last long, would be if you had the base of plywood and sawhorses, put dry ice on that, and then had a sheet of metal on top. Drinks would stay cool, and if you could get some water inside, you'd have an awesome 'fog' effect going. (Problems, though, include me not being sure whether evaporating dry ice leaves nasty stuff behind, food getting cold too quickly, and guests getting frostbite from your table. And maybe condensation dripping and freezing peoples drinks to your table. Oh, and it might not melt uniformly, so your table would potentially be at changing angles all night.

Although, going with just the metal thought... Brushed metal can look really spiffy if done right. You could skip the dry ice altogether.
posted by fogster at 4:49 PM on August 3, 2006

If you like the lighted look, which I do, what about frosted glass or plexi, with led lights under the glass. Frosting would make the wiring mostly unseen, and you'd get a nice diffuse glow. You can make a table base with a lip underneath, so the wiring under the glass wouldn't show from the side, hot-glue or otherwise attach strings of LEDs. You might even be able to buy a table whose clear glass had broken, and retrofit with frosted glass.

I love brushed stainless, too.
posted by theora55 at 5:00 PM on August 3, 2006

I was going to suggest rope lighting, too. You could create a "block" table top by mounting two pieces of plywood together using 1/2 inch blocks/boards between the two pieces of plywood, and inset rope lighting around the edges to get a more subdued glow. If you use pipes or hollow legs, you could snake the cord to power the lights down that to make it less obvious. You could do lots of decorative cool stuff to the plywood (cut in different shapes, splatter paint it and then poly it, mosaic the top with glass, odd plastic bits, found items, pieces of china...)

You could also get a piece of pegboard and shove xmas lights up through the holes, and then create a wooden frame around the edges, and mount glass on top. If you make the glass removable, you could stage scenes or put oddball items there to spark conversation or for decorative purposes.

If you created a slightly tilted bottom, you could always put a fountain/trickle/water effect inside the box - with the water recycling. It'd take a lot more work to make it not leak, but the effect would be stunning - especially if you used metal on the bottom that you rusted or torched to get interesting color variations -- or glued rocks down on the waterproof lining for texture. Heck, now that I think about it, I might make that for myself!

Finally, you could go an easier route and get several layers of plywood and cut them in vaguely oblong shape, but slightly offset. Cut the edges at angles so it looks like the wood is extruding out and undlating inward, and the edges of the piece angle out smoothly. There'll be a lot of sanding, but it'd be worth it. Than you could lacquer it and polyurethane the heck out of it, and add decorative touches. It would look less ordinary and be touchable, and you could go to town on the decoration.
posted by julen at 6:55 PM on August 3, 2006

We have a totally cheap table that consists of two pieces of MDF (1200x600x18 each) biscuit joined on the long edge and 20x40 pine edging... total cost of materials, maybe AUD80. That rests on top of a normal & smaller kitchen table.

It sounds totally shit until you realise there's a dremel hanging underneath and we get all our visitors to write their names in the top. The top side is now pretty much covered with names, dates and lame comments. One side even has a 3-way conversation going that formed over the course of about 2 years.

Given that we have lots of trees near our place and a whitegum came down a few years ago, we had it sawmilled on site and seasoned in the shed for 4+ years. We've recently started making benchtops out of it and they're awesome. White wood with funky grain and all these black bits in. About as hard as iron, too.

I like the idea of laying a sheet of glass down on top of some interesting surface, like an old weatherbeaten barn door. Or sand.

Another interesting finish you can get is to saw the faces off old and partially rotten railway sleepers. In AU they're made of redgum which lasts forever but in a harsh environment you get a rippled surface (amplitude and pitch about 5mm) where one layer of wood has come away. The remaining wood is grey on the surface for a depth of about 0.5mm and under that it's a rich red. You saw planks off the sleepers and then plane about 3mm off the face of each and then coat in 2-pack epoxy. That gets you a rich red wood appearance, all shot through with grey channels (the weathered bits that weren't planed off) covering about 30% of the surface area.
posted by polyglot at 7:23 PM on August 3, 2006

Start with a cheap, soild table from GoodWill and then use your imgination to glue whatever you want to the top. I've used at different times mental and ceramic tiles, wooden religious ikons, old type face, photographs. In the last step use bar coat toping over whatever you put down.
posted by zackdog at 12:30 AM on August 4, 2006

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