Rustic Farmhouse Table: There is no better way to give thanks than to gather family and friends around a large table to share a feast. A farmhouse table would be the perfect place. You can build one in a couple of days with construction lumber and common hardware. We are not talking about exact woodwork here.
If you can handle a circular saw and a chisel, you can do this. Farmers made these tables themselves, not furniture makers or carpenters, so it’s okay if it turns out a little rustic. That’s half the fun. The other half is sitting down to eat at the table you made yourself.
Prepare your wood.
Construction wood has more moisture than the wood used to make furniture, so let it sit inside your home for several weeks after you buy it to dry out a bit.
To start, you’ll want to cut out the pieces. Cross-cut the top pieces, breadboard ends, stretchers, and legs. Note that the ends of the breadboard are slightly wider than the tabletop. It’s a rustic detail with a practical side. This will allow the braid to expand and shrink with moisture and never be wider than the ends of the breadboard.
There is also a slight overhang on the stretchers for a similar reason. When you cut the legs, double-check that the length is appropriate for your dining room chairs, especially if any of them have arms. Armchairs should be able to slide easily under table aprons.
Cross-cut both short aprons but don’t cut the long apron yet. You will measure the legs and stretchers after they have been added.
Build the foundation
To begin, make the base assembly from the apron, legs, and stretchers. Attach a leg to either side of one of the smaller aprons. Drill two holes for pocket screws on each side of the back of the apron, four in total (Image 1). Close the legs with aprons, but add a ⅛-inch piece of wood to the front as a spacer (photo 2). This will push the face of the apron away from the face of the leg, pushing it back a bit to create a nice dimension. Insert the pocket patch into the leg through the apron. Repeat the same procedure for the other leg – apron assembly.
You are going to connect the two leg-apron assemblies to the stretchers using cross-lap joints. These are the easiest and most forgiving wood joints to make, and they are also quite strong. Mark the joint positions on the legs and stretchers. Start the half-lap joints by marking the two outside lines on the legs with a circular saw to a depth of 1½ inches.
Guide the saw using a triangular rafter square. Make a series of relief cuts ⅛ inch apart between the two outer cuts (Fig. 3). Then use a sharp chisel to cut away the waste (photo 4). When you cut half-lap joints on a short stretcher, set the saw depth to 1⅜ inch deep. This will raise the stretcher ⅝ inch above the level of the leg when the table is finally assembled. The offset will give you a table that looks like it was built by a farmer instead of West Elm. That would be nice.
Before joining the pieces, follow the same procedure to cut a 3½-inch wide x 1⅜-inch deep notch in the center of each small stretcher. This is where the long stretcher will sit.
Spread glue on the marked face of the short stretcher and the marked face of the leg and press the pieces together. Make a counterbored hole through the back of the leg and into the stretcher. Drive a 2½-inch coarse-threaded pocket screw through the leg into the stretcher to lock the pieces together. To cover the hole, insert a dowel, chisel it, and smooth it.
Glue the long stretcher onto the short stretcher in its notches, and check that both leg subassemblies are square on it. Drill a counterbore screw hole into the end of the long stretcher, and drive screws to fasten it. Now measure and cross-cut the long apron. Attach the long apron to the leg subassemblies using pocket screws.
To make the top, line up three pieces of 2 x 12. Fit them as tightly as you can. Drill four pocket screw holes through the bottom faces of the top pieces then spread glue over each adjacent edge. Fasten the pieces together so that the ends are flush, with 2½-inch pocket screws. The glue will run out of the joint. Wait a few minutes for the glue to rubberize, then shave it off with a sharp chisel. Lay the top flat as it dries—I like to clamp both ends to increase stability. Cauls are 2 x 4s or other pieces of thick wood on their edges.
It is important that the top ends are straight and square. If the top shifts as the glue dry, trim it with a saw, using the ends of the breadboard as a guide.
Use a doweling jig to drill holes in the ends of the tabletop and in one side of each breadboard piece. After test-fitting the ends of the breadboard spread a little glue on the dowels, connect the ends, then use three ratchet strap clamps to apply pressure while the glue dries.
Next, use right-angle brackets to mount the tabletop to the base. Make the top bracket holes slightly longer to allow the wood to expand and contract with changes in humidity.
The Finishing Touch
Sand the table smoothly. Start with 80-grit sandpaper, and move to a finer grit for each pass. You should end up with 220 grit. I finished the table with two coats of Jacobean-colored polyurethane, then buffed on two coats of wax once dry. The dark color hides any scratches or nicks and it also looks like it was made a century ago. On that note, you can forego your coasters—a little wear will make your table look better.
If you like our table but want something that looks a little more polished, simply extend the finishing step. Start by sanding carefully and thoroughly, then apply a pre-stained wood conditioner. This will highlight the grain of the wood and prevent the stain from absorbing unevenly. Apply your chosen finish in thin coats, carefully sanding each coat and removing sanding dust with a tack cloth before applying the next.
Are farmhouse tables out of style?
Farmhouse style isn’t going away in 2021, but it’s changing. The country chic design combines farmhouse decor and furniture with clean, fresh colors and finishes. Instead of looking distressed on wooden pieces, you’ll find options in colorful painted designs or simple smooth wood finishes.
How long are most farmhouse tables?
While many farmhouse tables are large and rectangular, some—especially those less than 50 inches long—only seat up to four. For ample seating — something that fits up to 10 — look at 90- to 100-inch-tall options.