Ah, the humble Farmhouse Table. This type of project is popular with the DIY crowd because there is a large threshold of materials that you can use (home center dimensional lumber, premium woods, metal, whatever) and the designs are typically straight forward. My interpretation of the Farmhouse table is no exception, though I did try to put my own twist on this.
I have an open concept first floor in my house that includes a massive space for a “breakfast nook” that is actually larger than the official “dining room”. Ever the pragmatist, the dining room become the “play room” and the “breakfast nook” became the “formal dining, informal dining, homework table, whatever” room. So, we needed a large, bullet proof, table that could stand up to years of abuse. We wanted solid wood (or metal) and it needed to be large (+4 by +9′). We also did not want it to have removable leafs. We would be leaving the table in its expanded view all the time and did want to see the leaves all the time. I looked at buying something but could not find anything that provided the focal point that the space commanded. I finally gave up and decided to just build it myself. After much research, I decided that I wanted solid hard maple top sitting on a-frame legs and a combination of benches and chairs.
I debated building the top, but I have never attempted to do a glue-up quite this large. I mean, the process is straight forward but this pushes the limits on how tedious I want to get with my consumer grade tools. So i started to look into sourcing the top from one of the local lumber yards. It turns out the cost for something like this was just…insane. And I would still have to do the final sanding and finishing. Plus, I started to become nervous about moving something this large and heavy. So back to the drawing board.
That is when I got lucky. A shop here in Michigan makes solid butcher-board style maple kitchen counter tops finished with a food grade poly. These were in stock through a nearby distributor and sold in various lengths, one of which was 10′. They only came in 25″ width (typically counter width in NA), but would cost was about 1/4 of what a custom top of the same size would be. Shipping would be $45 for however much I wanted to ship on the truck (i.e. a good opportunity to load up on wood for future projects). With the widths of only 25″, I would need to join them together somehow. On the plus side, it would reduce the project costs substantially and I would solve the “how to move this thing around” mobility problem. I was on to something.
I planned on just butting the two countertops together in the middle, but I imagined that they should would not line up as smooth as I would like and would just be a pain to manage. I instead opted to leave a small (1/4″) gap between the tops, turning a design challenge into a feature.
The material here is just 4″X4″ SPF (Spruce, Pine, Fir) from Home Depot. Nothing fancy. The stuff we had here was on the red side, which I believe is fir. I did a sample stain and liked how it turned out, so it was on. I decided to do A-Frame legs that were notched into each other. I don’t think this is necessary, but I think it is a nice design element. I played around with it in Sketch-up until I liked the overall dimensions. The plan would be to set chairs/benches on all four sides so I made sure that leg room was adequate all around.
I wanted to make sure that the table halfs would have full support without any chance of rocking or bowing. I also did not want the gap in the middle to become a crumb-catcher. So, I decided to create two top support beams and add two cross sectional supports (Using 2X4’s instead of 4X4’s to avoid taking away too much lap clearance). This would leave the middle gap mostly open to the floor which I assumed would look pretty cool.
The build was straight forward. I used the plan to layout all the parts and get them to length and to mark the notch locations. The notches were probably the hardest part, but I happen to have a radial arm miter saw that can be locked into a vertical height. Once I set it up to the proper height, it was a simple matter of repeating cuts until most of the stock was removed. Then you a sharp, wide chisel to knock out the remaining bits.
I think it was the easiest, safest, most accurate way of making this cut but I did try a couple of other methods just be sure. A table saw with a dado blade could be used, but now you have to move heavy lumber across the blade over many passes. The final cut was beautiful and eliminated the need for the chisel, but it took longer and required far more effort. I also tried it with my circular saw. This method is not that bad and should be your go-to if you don’t have a sliding miter saw. Note that this type of joint is pretty forgiving, especially if you are going for a rustic look. I did not take the time to make everything absolutely perfect and the final project did not suffer at all.
After make the notches and verifying the fit, I sanded everything down to 120. Then the legs were glued together and clamped. Once dry, I remove any glue runs with a chisel and did a final sand. The stretchers and cross beams are not glued into place for knock down (mobility) reasons, but you should go ahead and drill holes/countersinks for the screws and notches for the figure eights that will hold the tops in place.
Finishing is very straight forward. I pretreated the wood since it is soft fir, sanded, then applied two coats of TBD. I then sprayed on three coats of clear acrylic with a light sand between applications. I was nervous about this steps of the build but it went much better than expected.
Since I would be buying the tops, I needed to think about how to coordinate with the chairs/benches. I knew I would just buy the chairs, but what about the benches? I was fully prepared to glue up some solid maple to match the tops (or buy another countertop and cut it down to size) with matching legs. Then I saw this bench at Ikea. It is made from solid Aracia wood, which is “streaky” like maple, and even had a gap on the seat which plays off the gap in the top (I believe Ikea put a gap in their matching table top for the same reason I did…mobility and ship-ability). When I matched the colors to the legs that I was building it turned out to be a near perfect match. Buying these benches, rather than building, was a no-brainer in my opnion. So bought the benches from Ikea, a picked up a few matching accessories, and then ordered solid rubber wood chairs from Wayfair (TBD in Pecan).
I think the final package really speaks for itself. I am calling this “hybrid DIY” since I used off-the-shelf elements, coupled with custom built parts as needed, to create a unique (and cheaper and faster) final product. I was thrilled with the way it all came together.
(2) Solid Maple Counter Tops (2 @ $430 = $860)
(x) 8 ft 4X4’s (5 @ $14 = $70)
(4) Benches (4 @ $70 = $280 )
(4) Chairs (4 @ $90 = $360)
Sliding Miter Saw
The frame can easily be made in a weekend.