Last night the wife and I were watching one of those “fixer upper” shows on the”house channel” (which is what I call it anyway). It was one of those typical episodes where a couple finds a house to fix, they run into major unexpected issues, they roll their eyes at each other, and at the end some happy homeowners are clinking glasses of cheap white wine with their new neighbors. Or something like that. Anyway, during the phase where the significant other is filling the house with furniture and charming antique commode-plant holder decor, a couple of the lackeys haul in this beautiful, rustic dining table. “Wow,” I comment. “That’s cool.” “Yeah,” says the Mrs. “That’s a farm table.” To which I give my usual response, “Huh.” It really was a great piece, and I decided I wanted to build one. Which leads me to this article.
Farmhouse tables (or farm tables) are those warm, rustic benches that makes you think of humble families gathered around American dinner tables in the 18th and 19th-centuries. Instead of being built by skilled craftsmen, they were put together with rough, sturdy planks and their solidity was appreciated scads more than their detail or refinery. Today, farmhouse tables can still bring charm to any home, complementing matched or mismatched chairs, and whatever other furniture you’ve collected. Plus, they’ll take a massive beating and still be worthy of heirloom status when it’s time to pass them on. Furniture stores like Restoration Hardware sell farmhouse tables at a premium, even thousands of dollars. Imagine if you could build your own– just as nice and rugged– for under $100.
There are a number of sites offering DIY plans for building your own farmhouse table, ranging everywhere from extremely ambitious to pretty succinct. The plan I liked the most, as far as taking it and making it your own, is on Ana White’s site. Not only are her instructions refreshingly legible and professionally illustrated, but she only requires five tools in the arsenal to make it happen (excluding tape measure, marking pencil and safety protection, that is).
Another extremely helpful feature, Ana includes a scrapbook of a number of variations others built using her plan. Not only does it reflect how friendly her approach is to personalization, it offers a plethora of ideas to consider when you go for it. As for the tools needed, you probably already have a couple of them.
Ana originally listed a power drill, but I’d like to take it a step further, considering all the screw driving that needs to be done and recommend this 18-volt 3/8″Cordless Drill/Driver by Drillmaster. With 21 clutch settings, a keyless chuck and a reverse, this workhorse costs less than $25 and will give you more than enough performance for this project.
2. Circular Saw
The circular saw Ana used was an 18v 5-1/2″ cordless model with a laser guide. I recommend this Chicago Electric model, SKU #68849. Not only does it have the same size and features as hers, but it’s less than half the price.
3. Brad Nailer
Ideally, you’ll already have an air compressor so all you’d need to pick up is a pneumatic brad nailer. If this is the case, this Central Pneumatic 18-Gauge Brad Air Nailer is a tireless performer that’ll get the job done and be ready for more. And for less than $20, it’ll leave you plenty to keep the cooler stocked.
3a. Hammer w/ Nail Punch
If you don’t have an air compressor and don’t want to get one for just this product, a hammer and nail punch can accomplish the same task. It just won’t be as fast and effortless.
4. Random Orbital Sander
You might say you already have a sander and don’t need another one, but I’m telling you, you’ll want this one. When the dust settles, when it comes to stripping paint from furniture, preparing new molding or cleaning up between finish coats, you won’t get more bang for your buck than with a random-orbit sander. It doesn’t leave swirls or scratches, you can go in any direction (hence the “random”), it’s a lot easier on the hand… it even smooths and cleans metal and composite materials like solid-surface counter tops. Use a Chicago Electric Random-Orbit Palm Sander (under $30) on this project and I’ll bet you a Buffalo nickel it’ll be your go-to sander from here on in.
When building your table, you’ll need to check that the parts you’re assembling are “square.” You’ll want a measuring square for this. A lot of folks like using a speed square, however for a table this size I recommend a triangular rafter square. Pittsburgh makes a really nice one for under $2. If you’re a little fuzzy about the whole “squaring” thing, here’s a nifty guide on operating the rafter square. If you’re the type that’s more confident with a tape measure, you can also go the diagonal-route of squaring your table.
As I mentioned, you can find a clear and basic plan on creating your own farmhouse table on Ana White’s blog site. Whether it be new lumber, reclaimed wood, repurposed bowling lane wood, or what have you, building this signature piece is very doable. And remember to stop by Harbor Freight Tools when you plan to start!