If you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy a really nice table saw blade — or at least get your old one sharpened — this is the project. While these tables are simple to build, precision and a sharp saw blade will make the difference between a relaxing weekend project or a frustrating exercise in gluing up miters.
I made these tables using three sheets of plywood. Essentially I ripped each sheet down the middle and glued the two pieces from each sheet together to make a 1-1/2″-thick slab. Then I beveled the front edge and glued thin solid-wood pieces to cover the slab’s plywood edges. Finally, I cut the legs and top for each table from the slab and biscuited the pieces together. This method allows the grain on the top to continue uninterrupted down the legs.
Make a Slab
Start the tables by ripping three sheets of plywood in half to just under 24″ in width. You won’t need all that width, but it will come in handy later. As for the lengths, using the full 96″ is a little wasteful, but it makes gluing the two halves together easier.
After ripping the sheets, determine which three faces are most attractive and mark these as the outsides of the tables. Next glue the pairs together. To keep the sheets from sliding around during glue-up, pound a nail into each slab about 1″ from the ends. These ends will be cut off anyway, and it makes glue-up much easier. Stack the three pairs together, then clamp across the stack using stout wood braces to spread the pressure.
After the glue is dry, square off one end of each slab. Then cut the slabs to 68″, 62-1/2″ and 55″ in length. Don’t pitch the fall-off pieces, they’ll be useful later. Next rip each slab to 23″ wide to give you one flat edge. You could run one edge over a jointer, but the adhesive in plywood is murder on high speed steel knives. When you have one square edge, set the table saw’s blade to bevel at 33° and rip the three slabs to 21-5/8″, 20-5/8″ and 19-5/8″ wide respectively. Again, save the fall-off.
You’re now ready to run some solid lumber to cover the plywood edges. I used soft maple edging on my birch ply tables.
Run out six lengths of 3/16″-thick solid wood for the edges. To plane wood that thin, you probably will have to put an extra board over the bed of your planer — most planers aren’t designed for wood that thin.
With the strips ready, it’s time to glue them to the slabs. Go find the fall-off from the bevel cuts and grab a couple other sturdy solid strips. Use the fall-off as a caul for clamping. By gluing the edges on the slabs with the bevel facing up, gravity is on your side. I also cheated a little by tacking the edge strips in place with a few small brads at either end. Once again, the extra inch in length will be cut off, so the nail holes won’t show.
Glue the edging to the three slabs, then trim the edging flush to the plywood. I used a router with a flush-cutting bit for the back edges, and I used a jack plane to get the beveled edges nearly flush. Then I used a random orbit sander to flush the edges perfectly. To soften the edges I used some 120 grit paper and a block of wood to round over the sharp edges.