For more than a year I searched for a mid-century wood table to fit under the vintage mirror in the "entryway" of our 1950's ranch house - but none of the tables we found were right for our space.
As always, I turned to my favorite solution: Build a custom mid-century modern inspired table.
I knew I didn't want to have metal screws showing on the outside of the box; I wanted a smooth, seamless, screw-free finish. The Kreg Jig offers a way to join boards when building by creating pocket hole jigs hidden on the inside sides of the furniture, but I didn't own one at the time.
Instead, I used a Doweling Jig Kit from my local hardware store. When boards are joined with both wooden dowels and wood glue, an incredibly strong bond is created and you really don't need screws!
Lowe's had gorgeous Red Oak boards in 4-foot lengths, perfectly sized for our 4-foot mirror.
I knew that the design I was going for would require a slender rectangular "box" of wood for the top of the table. I didn't have strong feelings about box size, so when I found a 6" wide boards, I decided that the box would be 6" tall.
A variety of round wooden legs - a very mid-century modern style - can be found on Amazon and other websites in a variety of lengths.
- 2 long red oak boards (4 ft long / 12" wide / 3/4" tall)
- 2 side boards (12" long / 6" wide / 3/4" tall)
- Safety Goggles
- Doweling jig kit
- Wood Glue
- Stain & Sealer
This project broke down into three main tasks: Building the box, attaching the legs, and finishing (staining and sealing).
1. I laid out the boards for the box, and then labeled each seam where boards would join with numbers.
2. I measured and marked lines where the dowel holes would go. I chose to do three doweled joints for each seam.
3. The Doweling Jig Kit came with dowels, dowel drill bits, and dowel drilling guides - all in 3 different sizes. I chose the largest size because the red oak boards were very heavy.
4. I used my Doweling Jig Kit to drill three holes in the top and bottom of each side board. Pay close attention to the instructions that come with the Doweling Jig Kit. When drilling the side boards, ensure the jig is lined up with the outer side of the board, not the inside side. Otherwise you won't get a flush external fit.
5. Next, I used the jig to drill three holes at the ends of the top and bottom boards.
6. Next I tapped the corresponding dowels into the holes I'd created, then fit the box together to make sure it worked. A few of the dowel holes weren't deep enough for the dowels to go in all the way, which meant that the sides did not come together flush, so I had to tweak them by drilling just a bit more in the holes.
7. Once I was sure my box was fitting together perfectly, I took it apart one last time, added a thin line of glue to the sides (as well as in the dowel holes) and re-assembled it a final time.
8. I set the box on my table and clamped all the seams to ensure a smooth, tight seal. If there was excess glue seeping out of the seams, I wiped it off quickly with a damp rag. Glue rejects stain, so don't let any dry on the outside of your project.
9. I waited a full 24 hours before attaching the legs, to ensure the glue had fully dried.
10. Attaching the legs: The tapered wooden legs come with a threaded metal screw ticking out of the top. I marked the bottom of the box where I wanted the legs to go: about 1" inside the outer corners. I found a drill bit that was the right size (slightly smaller than the threaded screw) and drilled holes, being careful not to drill too far through the wood.
11. I screwed the table legs into the holes after adding a little bit of glue for extra strength.
Attention to detail is key to a great finish on wood furniture. I was meticulous in my attention to detail, and followed the advice on the Minwax "How to Finish Wood" site.
I used Pre-stain Wood Conditioner, followed by the Minwax Colonial Maple stain, and finished with the Fast-Drying Polyurethane applied with a natural bristle brush. I took th time to carefully sand and wipe down the table between coats of each product, and the sanding is key to a solid finish.
The table looked perfect when it was done, and was well worth the effort.
The box top is very heavy compared to the legs. Therefore it's a little wobbly for standing alone. However, it sits flush against the wall and is not an issue for us since it just holds books and car keys.
Now that we have a toddler, we're going to attach the table to the wall with an anti-tipping hardware, just like with all the other tall furniture.
I love how the final stain results tie in perfectly with the rest of our living room.
Photo by Laura Metzler