Making a custom piece for your work space
Studio work space furniture often needs to serve several purposes at once, and it can be impossible to find commercial pieces that meet all of your requirements. Building this table was only slightly more difficult than putting together a piece from a big box store, but so much more satisfying, both functionally and aesthetically.
It took me a few months working in my current studio space to really understand what kind of piece I needed. I wanted a big, flat expanse to spread out my new ideas and works in progress, but I also wanted to be able to hide my mess in a hurry in case I need the space to meet with clients. Standing height was also a priority because I do better creative work when I'm on my feet, and so I can vary my posture throughout the day. Visually, I wanted the table to look light, but be sturdy.
- Pick your height. This project would make an equally excellent dining table, coffee table, or bar.
- coffee tables are 16"-18"
- desk height is typically 28"-29"
- dining tables are 28"-30"
- bar height is 40"-42" (this table is 40" tall)
- Decide on your building material (I used 1" A/C grade douglas fir plywood).
- Determine your storage height (mine is 4" - tall enough for the trays I wanted to use, plus room to get my hand in to pull them out).
- Calculate leg height. Legs = overall height - x2 material thickness - storage height (these legs are 34")
- Choose the top size. (this one is 36"x72" - because that's the widest that fits in my car!)
legs (I got my hairpin legs here - they are 1/2'" raw steel, 34" tall)
wood or plywood
cut your wood, or have it cut for you (usually available where they sell plywood for a per cut fee)
plot out your cuts on paper ahead of time
I bought 2 sheets, and had the top + center pieces cut from one, the bottom cut from the other. I kept the leftovers for other projects
- hardware - screws to attach the legs, and angle brackets or pocket-hole drilling screws if using a jig
- wood sealer (I like a water-based satin finish), varnish, or paint to finish your wood
sandpaper (100, 200, & 400 grits)
drill (with an appropriate bit for your screw size, and a screwdriver bit)
clamps (if you like to be precise)
safety glasses! hair ties! dust mask!
The only really labor intensive part of this project is preparing the wood pieces. When you get them home, you should choose which piece is your top (remember that most plywood will have a good side and a less good side).
- Wearing your dust mask and safety glasses (!), sand all of your pieces on the faces (along the grain please) with 100 and then 200 grit sandpaper, and on any edges that will be exposed.
- Clean up the sanding dust with a vacuum followed by a damp towel. Leave your pieces flat on the ground until they are dry before painting or sealing.
- Apply 2-3 coats of paint or sealer to all sides of each piece, EXCEPT the long edges the 3 small support pieces (which will be flush against the top and bottom).
- Let dry completely between coats, and sand lightly with either 200 or 400 grit sandpaper if you spy any bubbles or paint brush streaks. Remember to wipe away sanding dust between coats as well.
Sealing or painting will help to protect your plywood from warping, which you definitely don't want. Let your pieces dry completely.
Now you are ready to assemble
- Lay your top flat on the ground (unless you have an appropriate workbench for this purpose, which I don't).
- Making sure everything is square and aligned, attach the two side pieces with angle brackets, or through your pre-drilled pocket holes (if using angle brackets, be sure to pre-drill your screw holes, and use screws appropriate for your wood thickness).
- Measure to the center of your table top, and attach your center support piece using the same method as for the end pieces. Use a square to make sure it is straight across.
- Attach the bottom of your table. Pre-drill holes straight through the bottom into the support pieces, and screw together.
- Determine the placement for the legs. I measured in about 6" from each corner. Screw on the legs.
Have a friend help you turn the table right-side up, and enjoy your new piece of furniture.