How to Build and Finish a Dining Room Table

A DIY dining room table can become the focal point of your home. Learn how to build a dining room table from scratch with this step-by-step guide.

How to Build and Finish a Dining Room Table

Rooms decorated with DIY elements can be sophisticated. This build-it-yourself hickory tabletop proves it—and is the star of this light-filled, multipurpose dining room.

The DIY dining table design is relatively simple, keeping this project within reach of most crafters. You'll need a few large tools, such as different types of saws, but many home improvement stores let you rent these for a minimal fee. Expect to spend a weekend cutting, assembling, and staining the table, plus dry times. Though it is a labor-intensive project, the end result of knowing you made your own table is worth it. 

  • Working Time 2 Days
  • Start to Finish 4 Days
  • Difficulty         Select Projects Hard
  • Involves Drilling, Power tools , Sanding, Sawing, Staining/sealing

What you need

Tools

  • Sawhorses
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Biscuit joiner
  • Bar clamps
  • Rags
  • Palm grip sander or handheld belt sander
  • Table saw or circular saw
  • Putty knife
  • Random orbital sander
  • Compound miter saw
  • Speed square
  • Nail gun
  • Drill with screwdriver bit
  • Tack cloth
  • Lint-free rag

Materials

  • Wood glue
  • Biscuits
  • 60-grit sandpaper
  • Wood filler, we used Elmer's brand in Walnut finish
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Finishing nails
  • 1-inch wood screws
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Gloves
  • Oil-base stain, we used Old Masters brand in Provincial finish
  • Clear polyurethane, we used General Finishes High Performance Water-Based brand in a flat finish
  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • Table legs (x4)
  • Spray primer, we used Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover 2X Flat White Primer
  • Spray paint, we used Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover 2X in Semigloss White
  • 1-1/4-inch wood screws
  • No. 10 12x1 pan sheet metal screws

Cuts

  • Hickory wood
    60 board feet
  • 3/4-inch plywood
    4×8 feet

How to do it

Step 1 Create Tabletop

Dining Room Table Step 1

To make a 72x37-1/2-inch tabletop, arrange hickory boards in desired order on sawhorses. Discard any pieces with large holes, knots, or twists, or place these imperfections on the sides and ends of the design so you can cut them away later.

Step 2 Drill Biscuit Holes

Drill biscuit holes

Use the level to draw lines along both long sides of each board every 16-18 inches. You will use these lines as guides to drill the biscuit holes. Line up the biscuit joiner to your marks and cut holes. Do not cut holes on the outer edges of the two outermost pieces. Spread wood glue on each strip of wood that abuts another strip and to the biscuits. Insert biscuits. Use bar clamps to pull all the wood strips securely together. Clean up excess glue with a damp cloth.

Step 3 Sand the Tabletop

Begin sanding the dining room table. If you don't have access to a wide belt sander, use a palm grip sander or a handheld belt sander and gently sand the tabletop in small sections until smooth.

Step 4 Cut Table to Size

Use a table saw or circular saw to cut the tabletop to size. Make sure your edges are straight as you saw. 

Step 5 Fill Knots and Cracks

Fill knots and cracks

Fill knots and cracks with wood filler and a putty knife. This is especially important for a table that will come into contact with food, as bacteria can grow in crevices. Choose a wood filler the color of the darkest spot of the knot. Squeeze a small amount into the area and fill and spread with a putty knife. Allow it to dry at least 12 hours. Sand smooth with a random orbital sander.

Step 6 Make the Apron

Make the apron

Make the apron for the table, which gives the project a professional look and hides the area where the legs attach. Our finished apron measures 4x31-1/2x66 inches. Using leftover wood from the tabletop, cut two 4x31-1/2-inch pieces and two 4x66-inch pieces. Using a compound miter saw, cut the apron corners at a 45-degree angle.

Step 7 Check for Square

Check for square

Apply wood glue to the mitered corners of the apron and press together using a speed square to be sure it's square. Clamp the corners. 

Step 8 Secure Corners

Secure corners

Use a nail gun and finish nails to further secure the corners. Wipe away excess glue with a damp rag. Allow the glue to dry overnight.

Step 9 Reinforce Apron

Reinforce apron

Remove the clamps. To build brackets to reinforce the apron, use a miter saw to cut two strips of 3/4-inch plywood to 3/4x3/4x28 inches and two additional strips to 3/4x3/4x63 inches. Place the tabletop facedown on your work surface; measure and mark the apron's placement on the underside of the table. Use a drill and 1-inch screws to secure the brackets to the apron and tabletop. Cut four pieces of plywood to measure 3/4x3/4x2-1/2 inches and screw them into each corner for extra support.

Step 10 Apply Finish

Apply finish to the tabletop and apron. Test various oil-base stains on scrap wood to choose your finish. In a well-ventilated space, prep the wood by roughing it up with 120-grit sandpaper. Clean away dust with a tack cloth. Wearing gloves and using a lint-free rag, begin staining the dining room table, following the manufacturer's instructions. Wipe away excess stain with a clean rag.

Step 11 Apply Polyurethane

For your dining room table finish, apply water-base polyurethane with a lint-free rag following the manufacturer's instructions. Allow to dry 2 hours, then sand the tabletop with 400-grit sandpaper and apply a second coat of polyurethane. Repeat the process to apply a third coat. 

Step 12 Apply Spray Primer

Apply one coat of spray primer to the purchased table legs. Allow 12 hours of drying time, then apply an even coat of spray paint. Allow the paint to dry 12 hours, then apply a second coat. Apply a third coat, if needed.

Step 13 Attach Legs

Attach legs

Use a table or circular saw to cut two pieces of 3/4-inch plywood to 12x26 inches. Place the tabletop facedown on your work surface. Position the plywood inside the apron along each short side of the tabletop. Use a drill and 1-1/4-inch screws to attach the plywood to the underside of the tabletop. Place the legs on the plywood, making sure they are positioned the same on each end. Drive No. 10 12x1 pan sheet metal screws through the table leg predrilled holes to secure the legs to the plywood.

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