Building can save you money. A lot of money.
I built a solid wood table in a week, for about $500.
Your average furniture store would charge about $1,000. Check Wayfair, or Leon’s and you will find wood veneer finished, and plywood.
To get anything from a store, made from solid wood will cost you. The funny thing is, I could have built my table for less, if I hadn’t bought pre-milled table legs for $300.
With a booming DIY culture, there is money to be saved, and pride to be had in building your own furniture.
Whether you repurpose old wood, buy new lumber from your local hardware store, or a local lumber mill ‒ you can save money.
Keep in mind...
You need to know that there are many options, plans and paths you can take if you want to try to make a table...
And there are lots of pitfalls, but hopefully with the guidance I will provide here, along with some smart Youtube-ing, you will be able to create a table where you want to sit and enjoy a meal with family and friends for years to come.
Related: Budget Home Decorating Ideas
I went to a local lumber mill and had wood cut to the proper dimensions on the spot.
I picked the exact materials I wanted: cedar and spruce were my woods of choice.
How much did they cost?
I paid $60 in total for the lumber for my base and table top. And as mentioned above, I splurged on pre-milled table legs ‒ $300 ‒ though I would rethink that now. They look nice. If you want a more refined looking table then it might be worth it for you…
But you can get by with simple, untreated 4x4 posts.
No matter where you buy your lumber, here is what you will need:
The Shopping List
- (3) 2x4 @ 8 foot length
- (7) 2x6 @ 8 foot length
- (2) 4x4 @ 8 foot length
- 2 inch pocket-hole screws ‒ for assembling most of the base ($5.33)
- 2 ½ inch pocket-hole screws ‒ for attaching the tabletop and legs ($6.66)
Related: Pointers On Building Your Stockpile
Buying from a local mill means you get rough-cut lumber. That means more work.
Save time by going to a hardware store. You will find more options, and a variety of prices.
My aim is to show you the high-side of the pricing options for your materials, and also the economy option.
So, let’s price this out:
|Material||Quantity||Expensive Option||Economy Option|
|2x4 lumber, 8 foot length||3||$15.47*||$4.05*|
|2x6 lumber, 8 foot length||7||$21.81*||$6.40*|
|4x4 lumber, 8 foot length (buy untreated 4x4 posts)||2||~$60||~$30|
|Subtotal including screws||$271.07||$98.94|
|Total including 15% tax||$311.73||$113.78|
*These prices are a snapshot from the day this article was written and are subject to change.
Tips to keep in mind:
Pro-tip #1: Go to your local hardware store and look at the wood you are buying. Check each edge for warping, bends, and/or torsion. Straight boards make easy work. If you have a bigger budget, buy hardwood if it is available.
Pro-tip #2: Check for knots. Knots can turn into holes later on.
Also remember that prices will vary depending on your store, availability. As of the date of writing, wood prices have been fluctuating because of NAFTA and softwood lumber deals, which also affect the availability of certain wood types and sizes.
- 7 pieces of 2x6 @ 52” length (tabletop length)
- 2 pieces of 2x6 @ 38-½” length (tabletop breadboard ends)
- 2 pieces of 2x4 @ 54” length (base length-wise pieces)
- 2 pieces of 2x4 @ 32-½” (base center support pieces)
- 2 pieces of 2x4 @ 29-½” (base end supports, connecting legs and breadboard supports)
- 4 pieces of 4x4 @ 29” or 30” (legs, I recommend 29” legs)
If you can rent or borrow tools for this project then you can definitely save some money.
The biggest issue here is with gaining access to a planer. I recommend the planer to make sure your boards are the same thickness, and to ensure a continuous straight edge. This will be less important if you have a hand planer, or if you are buying pre-milled lumber from your local hardware store.
Using a friend’s planer or renting one will save you money. You might be able to rent a planer or any other tools from your local hardware store.
If you want to try to get by with the bare minimum, as most of this process requires very few tools, you can do most of this job with the following:
|Bare Minimum Tools||Notes|
|Standard carpentry kit||This includes tape measure, pencil, t-square, safety gear (steel-toed boots, ear and vision protection).|
|A compound mitre saw||A sliding compound mitre saw is ideal but there can be slight variations in the angles of the cuts, because there are more moving parts involved. Wait for a sale on this if time permits.|
|A kreg jig (pocketholed jig)||This is a necessary tool for a variety of projects and creates a strong joint. There are a variety of models, which increase in price and available options.|
Other tools you will need to improve the quality of your finished product:
|A planer (recommended)||Joining long boards requires that they have smooth and consistent edges. Having a planer will ensure that the boards are of the same thickness and have a consistent edge.|
|A palm sander||You will need to be sure that all surfaces are smooth before you apply a stain and/or finish.|
I have a hard time following plans. So, I drew up a set, based on an outdoor table, made by a friend. You can see it in the picture below:
I added breadboard ends ‒ horizontal boards that are attached to both ends of the table.
The plans I made became my shopping list...but when I got to the lumber mill, I fell in love with a piece of cedar that was 12 inches wide.
So I modified my shopping list and bought extra wood. (I was already saving a lot, buying from a lumber mill.)
But changing material means I would have to change some widths…
I knew that I could cut it to the right width on my table saw, and then use the planer to get a nice straight edge. What that means is that the table you see in my pictures looks slightly different from my original plans.
My initial plans
For simplicity, here are the plans I drew up to start the project. You can use these and you should have no troubles.
(You can also find a wide variety of plans for tables for free, so don’t feel like you have to follow my plans. There will be a curated list of links at the end of this article to help you find something that fits your style.)
I can’t stress enough how much I saved by buying from a local mill.
I was able to get different types of wood and used different widths as well. In the end, I was able to create a pattern that was my own.
But it should be noted again that it takes more work to get the wood ready to work with.
Tips to keep in mind:
Pro-tip #3: If you change the width or length of your table-top, adjust the base accordingly. For example: if you shorten the table-top by ¾” then you would shorten the 54” length 2x4 by ¾”, to 53-¼”.
Pro-tip #4: If you are new to carpentry, stick to the plan.
Step 1: Measure, mark, and cut
Measure and mark your wood. Be sure to measure twice before making a cut.
Measure. Mark. Cut.
One piece at a time.
Measure and cut each piece individually. Don’t mark all of the cuts at once.
The blade will take a fraction of an inch with each cut, leaving your boards uneven.
Pro-tip #5: Place the saw blade on the outside of your measured and marked edge, before you cut. Don’t cut on the line, cut the outside edge.
Step 2: Assemble the base
1. Use the Kreg jig to drill the pocket holes.
2. Drill two holes, evenly spaced ‒ ¾” from each outside edge. Do this for both ends of the each 2x4.
3. Follow the guide in the plans. Each purple line is a guide for each pocket-hole.
Step 3: Assemble the table-top
1. Set your boards against the breadboard end while you fasten the long boards. If you push the ends firmly against the straight-edge of the breadboard, then they will align properly.
2. Drill the pocket-holes for the table-top.
3. Assemble the tabletop.
Step 4: Sand, stain, and finish
This process is the most time consuming. Before you begin the finishing process, you will need to sand every surface of the table ‒ base, legs, and tabletop ‒ on all sides.
- If you are using rough lumber, or lower-grade material, begin with a rough sandpaper (60-80 grit). Work up to 200 grit or higher. Sand all surfaces patiently, with a random-orbit sander, or a palm sander. Sanding by hand is time consuming.
- Choose your stain wisely and test it on a scrap piece of wood.
- Apply the stain by putting a small amount on a cloth. NO DRIPS! Then lightly rub the stain evenly across the entire surface. If you apply more stain to an area, it will be darker.
- Once your stain is finished and dry, apply a finish. I recommend a spar varnish ‒ either minwax gloss or satin finish ‒ especially if you have children. The durable finish will hold up to any spills, heat, or moisture.
- Paint or stain the base if you like. I recommend staining the base the same as the tabletop, and then adding any finish or paint color you like. If you chose to distress the base with sandpaper later, then the wood stain will show through and create a beautiful match to the tabletop.
Step 5: Assemble
Your table is ready to assemble. Following the guide above. Use your kreg jig to drill pocket holes in the base. Use 2” screws to attach the base to the tabletop.
This project can look good with a fine and deliberate finish, or with a more rustic look.
You can even leave gouges in the wood, and little nail holes. Distressing the tabletop can help to hide the tiny mistakes made by first-time DIY-ers, or the bangs and scratches from children, over the years.
With a project like this, you have an opportunity to develop a passion for woodworking, and save some serious cash. This is a project where people who already have the tools can save hundreds, and people who invest in the tools now can save money in the future.
Related: The Year You Start Investing
Pro-tip #6: $1 Spent on tools = $10 saved on furniture. If you buy good tools, they will last. If you buy cheap tools, they will break. Buy good tools. Comparison shop and read reviews. Then you can use your tools to save money on tables, bed frames, shelves, fences, and more.
Pro-tip #7: Take your time and watch lots of how-to videos. Measure. Think. Then measure again. Don’t waste material, and don’t get hurt.
One of the biggest challenges with woodworking is moving too quickly. If you rush any aspect of a DIY project, costly mistakes can happen. You could cut a piece of wood to the wrong length, when even a fraction of an inch will compromise the final fit and finish.
Working with power tools requires care and precision. Do not rush a cut, and always keep your hands clear or moving parts. Do not wear loose clothing that may be caught in any part of your tools.
Above all, whether you buy or build, make the decision that is right for you. But as for me…
I love my table!
DIY wood projects 7 pro-tips
- Popular Mechanics ‒ Rustic Farmhouse Table
- Rogue Engineer ‒ DIY Farmhouse Table
- Bob Vila ‒ 5 DIY Farmhouse Table Plans
Tips on staining
- DIY Network ‒ Tips on Staining Wood
- WikiHow ‒ 4 Ways to Stain Wood
- Minwax ‒ How to Stain Wood & Wood Staining Tips