Rustic Dining Room Table, Version 2

When my wife and I moved into our new house, there was a spot that was perfect for a large dining room table.  I assured my wife that I could make it “really quickly” and for cheap.  10 months later, I was able to keep one of those promises!

It is as heavy and imposing as it looks


There are plenty of designs for rustic-style tables.  I combed through as many as I could find until I had an idea of what my wife and I would like.  Then I hand-sketched some plans and made my lumber list.

Although my first design was by hand, I ended up making some Rustic Dining Room Table plans in SketchUp.

Popular Mechanic’s table build was very influential in the final design:

Popular Mechanic’s table has the same overall look, if a little smaller

The Turquoise Home is a similar style with less solid build:

2×4 short skirts and flush ends are some major differences

Ana White’s similar style:

I’m noticing a pattern here…

The Domestic Heart’s build:

I like their use of satin finish like ours. It really highlights the wood without a strong shine

Tommy and Ellie’s build:

Another similar build except with an extension

Wood Purchase

The lumber was construction grade Douglas Fir from the local Home Depot.  I tried to be careful in selecting pieces that were straight, had close to vertical grain, and were defect-free.  After purchasing the wood, I painted the ends to stop the moisture from escaping too fast and cracking as it dried.  I stacked it in the house with 1″ stickers between each row.  The idea is to let it dry out and acclimate to the house so when it’s built and brought inside, it won’t warp significantly.  I let it sit in a bedroom for about three months to dry out.

These photos from an old book on woodworking highlight the likely direction wood will warp based on the grain and how much it can shrink by:


A helpful article from Billy’s Little Bench on working with green Doug Fir:

Cost Breakdown:

(1) 4 x 4 x 10 $11.22

(1) 4 x 4 x 8 $8.97

(4) 2 x 4 x 8 kiln dried $2.63 x 4 = $10.52

(3) 2 x 12 x 12 $15.69 x 3 = $47.07

Kreg 2 1/2″ pocket screws $4.97

Biscuits $7.97

Dowels $2.88

Helmsman Spar Urethane $15.97

Minwax PolyShades $12.87

Total: $122.40



Each end is two 4x4s for the legs, a 2×4 apron between the two, and another 4×4 that is notched with cross lap joints over the legs for the skirt.  The original plan was not to use the 4×4 skirt, but I decided to add it for extra stability.

The joinery on the top is two dowels and glue for alignment and two 2 1/2″ pocket screws to secure it.  The skirt lap joint is glued and secured with two screws from behind the leg.

Closeup of the leg joinery and dimensions
Legs cut at 28″
2x4s for aprons cut to 39 1/4″
Doweling jig to drill centered holes in the legs
Pointed tip on the drill bit helps keep it centered
Test fitting the dowels in the legs
Using the doweling jig on the aprons
Glue added to the lowed half of the dowels before tapping them in the holes
Pounded down and glue added over the top
Adding some glue to the dowel holes
Glue on the matching face and in the holes
Both sides ready to be put together
The rubber mallet helps persuade the two pieces to fit together
Checking each corner for rough square
Now checking for final square with a tape measure
Each measurement across the corners should be the same if it is square


I didn’t take any photos while cutting the half laps.  The stretcher is 49 1/4″ so I could leave about 5/8″ overhang on each end.  I cut out to a depth of 1 1/2″ from each side so there is 1/2″ still sticking out to prevent it from looking flush
Not from this project but it shows the same general procedure of cutting the laps and removing the material with a chisel

Long Aprons and Stretcher

The long aprons are 5′ long and are connected like the short aprons with two dowels and two pocket screws on each end.  The long stretcher is 69 1/2″ long and like the ends has two 1/2″ notches so it sits 1/2″ above the surface of the short stretchers.  It also extends about 5/8″ over the ends to give it a more “rustic” look that matches the ends.

Dimensions of the long stretcher and aprons
Long aprons installed
Long stretcher sitting in the 1/2″ notches cut into the short stretchers
And the long stretcher after being cut down and notched to sit lower as well
Same 5/8″ reveal
The long stretcher just uses two 3″ screws on each end to hold it from underneath. They are countersunk about 3/4″ to go all the way through the 4×4.  I didn’t get a photo until after staining the frame
With these installed the frame is ready for the top!

Table Top

The table top was a complete fiasco.  I like how it looks now, but unless you are looking for far more work than you need, there are several things I would suggest doing differently.

I used 5 2x12s for the majority of the top.  The breadboard ends are the same thickness (1 1/2″) but 5″ wide and cut from a leftover 2×12.

I wanted that rustic look, but with edges that didn’t have large gaps in them.  I accomplished this by running each 2×12 through my table saw with a jointing jig installed.  This gave me a fairly straight edge on one side that I ran against the table saw fence to get a square edge on the opposite side.  I then eased the top corners with a small hand plane to hide the variation in the board height.  My thinking was that flush edges could be glued up (true) and not finishing the rest of the board would look rustic (also true) and the variation wouldn’t cause me too many problems by having slight variations (very, very false).

By having some variation while being very large and heavy, cutting the breadboard shoulders was nearly impossible except by hand.  I was able to do it, but it took over a week of work to make happen and I had to invest in some hand planes.

If I did this over again, I would square the edges and run each board through my planer with a sled to get perfectly similar boards, or leave the boards alone and not do the breadboard ends at all.

All the boards have square edges at this point
I used a small hand plane to bevel the corners of the boards and help hide any variations in the board heights
Each board was matched up to get the look I wanted and small marks were made for the biscuit joiner
Lining up the biscuit joiner with the marks, they were all cut
Not having an assembly table, I used some cheap levels on the flattest part of my garage floor to do the glue up
Some glue was applied to each face and the biscuits and clamped up
I used whatever heavy objects I could find in the place of cauls to keep the boards flat
After glue up, you can see how the bevel on the top edges helps hide some of the variations
After all five boards were assembled, I moved everything inside so I could begin work on the breadboards. Although messy and less-than-ideal, it gave me the room to work I needed


Breadboard Ends

Like I said, the attempt to leave the top half-rough really made this next step a giant pain.  There are very few resources for doing this with a large table.  Most are using smaller pieces of hardwood that have been dimensioned and is small enough to move around by one person.  Mine was very difficult to move and most of the work was done by hand.

Some helpful links:

Great video demonstrating cutting a breadboard end by hand.  I used several of his techniques including the using the Stanley 45, chisel, and another hand plane to cut the shoulder, and hand saw for the cutting:

Discussion on breadboard ends and making allowances for wood movement:

Wood Magazine article on using dowels to attach breadboard ends:

Eagle Lake Woodworking article on making a Cherry table top with breadboard ends:


I cut the breadboard ends to 1 1/2″ x 5″ x 58″ from the rest of my last 2×12 from the top.  To cut the mortise, I borrowed a router table from a friend and used a 3/4″ straight router bit.  To cut both sides evenly, I lowered the breadboard end onto the bit while running, ran it along the fence, and repeated the same thing with the piece of wood flipped around to keep the mortise centered.  Then I raised the bit about 1/4″ and repeated until I had the depth I was looking for, about 1 1/2″ deep.

Lumber ready to go
Showing the mortise cut out


Cutting the Tenons

The best solution I found was using hand tools.  Again, the best resource I found was How to Make Breadboard Ends with Will Myers.  The first step was to cut the ends flush with a hand saw.  Then I used my new Stanley 45 to cut a dado about 1 1/4″ from the end.  When the dado was to the right depth (about 3/8″), I used a chisel to remove most of the wood from the end, and then cleaned up the shoulder with a Stanley No. 5.  Then the table was flipped and the same process repeated on the other side.

I then marked out about two inches between each board and removed some of the material so each board has a large tenon across the middle.  For the ends I cut out about 1 inch of the tenon all the way.

To secure the breadboard, I drilled a pilot hole from underneath just to below the top surface of the breadboard.  Then I pulled the end off and expanded the holes to 1/4″ on each tenon.  To allow for movement, I drilled the outer tenon holes wider so the screws can slide laterally without cracking the wood.  The screws were installed through those holes so they are only screwing into the breadboard and can move within the tenon.

Trimming the end flush with a hand saw
Cutting the dado with the Stanley 45
Finished tenon
Removed material from the corner
Cut down almost to the edge
Drilled out the end
Chunk removed
Tenon ready
Breadboard test fit
Cutting the ends flush with the table
Screws installed underneath through the tenon
The Stanley No. 5 and No. 7 that I purchased for this. The 7 was actually too big and I didn’t use it. The 5 was the right size to cut the tenon down and keep it flat
Breadboard installed
The top is finally finished!
Closeup of how I chamfered the edges on each piece to hide the variation


We were hosting Christmas for my family and I wanted to use the table, but only had a few days after finishing the top.  There wasn’t enough time to apply a finish, so we put down the biggest table cloth we had and asked everyone not to spill.  Thankfully, it turned out fine and we were able to make it through the day without any problems.

The stain is one coat of Miniwax PolyShades Mission Oak.  We brushed it on in a fairly thin coat and allowed it to dry for several days.

The finish over the base is two coats of satin Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane given about a day to dry between coats.  The top received three coats for a little extra durability.  We went with a satin finish to highlight the wood grain and since it is near a window, the Spar Urethane should keep it from discoloring from the Sun.

The finished table ready for Christmas
Christmas Day with a slightly too-small tablecloth
Minwax PolyShades applied to the table top. We did this in the house, and that was a huge mistake. It took several weeks to fully air-out and get rid of the smell
PolyShades on the base.  I learned to do it outside in the very cluttered garage
After the PolyShades has dried, you can see the glossiness of the finish
The third coat of satin Spar Urethane right after being applied
After the third coat has dried, you can see how much less glossy the surface is


Securing The Top

The top is secured to the base with hard Maple buttons that are screwed into the top and sit in slots in the aprons.  This holds the top down, but they are free to slide a little to allow for the wood in the top to expand and contract.  I used a 1/4″ slot cutting router bit to cut the slot in the aprons and 2″ screws to attach the buttons to the top.  The buttons measure 3/4″ x 1″ x 1 1/4″.

Here are several links I found that helped me decide to use this method:

Matthias Wandel’s small table build that uses the same buttons I did:

Craftsmanspace article on attaching tops:

Timber Tech’s PDF of a Fine Woodworking article on securing tops:

Featherboard to hold the blocks against the fence and avoid chopping my fingers off
Blocks cut to size
Small tongues cut out to go into the aprons
1/4″ slots cut into the aprons with my router
Closeup of the 1/4″ slots
Buttons screwed into the top
Blocks screwed into the top
Completed table



The table looks great and we really feel happy with how it turned out!  Although some of the work was frustrating at times, I’m glad we took this on.  Sometimes it just feels good to finish a project that we did from start to finish and will get to enjoy for years to come!

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