Date:1 December 2012
A sheet of plywood, a few basic power tools, and a free afternoon (or two) are all you’ll need to turn a sheet of plywood into a stylish table. By Ted Kilcommons
Plywood has been used to build furniture for decades. I think this project is right for the busy digital age because the design is reduced to its most elemental parts. I used one sheet of Baltic birch; I cut it into pieces and screwed them together. The biggest challenge was connecting the legs to the apron in a way that was elegant, strong, and easy to fabricate. The result? A compelling project that an experienced woodworker could complete in an afternoon and beginners could build in a weekend.
Make the parts
Crosscut the tabletop to the dimensions shown in the drawing. First, wrap a strip of masking tape around the panel and place the tabletop good side down on a work surface. Mark the 1 830 mm cut line on the tape, clamp a straightedge across the panel, and cut using a circular saw with a 140-tooth blade. Use the same procedure to rip the panel to 915 mm wide, or use a table saw (1).
Next, take the long offcut, place it good side up, and make three rip cuts on the table saw to produce the apron stock (2). To prevent chipping the veneer, I use a special 80-tooth blade; its teeth have an ATB (alternate top bevel) profile that makes a smooth cut.
Stack two pieces of apron stock and crosscut them on a mitre saw (3). This creates the two long apron pieces. Make the two shorter pieces by taking the third piece of apron stock and cutting it twice on the mitre saw. Using a stopblock clamped to the mitre-saw table ensures consistent lengths.
Take the 610-mm-wide offcut piece and rip it into four 127-mm-wide pieces on the table saw. Each piece (or blank) will be cut into a leg. Stack the four blanks on the mitre saw and crosscut them to length.
Mark out the cut line on the back of the leg blanks as shown in the drawing. For each blank, drive two screws through the waste area to hold it to a sacrificial surface, such as a scrap piece of plywood, and clamp a straightedge parallel to the cut line. Now simply run the saw along the straightedge (4). Sand the cut edge of the leg with a sanding block and 120-grit sandpaper. Using an orbital sander, carefully sand the face of each piece with 120-and 220-grit paper. Apply three coats of wipe-on polyurethane to the faces and edges of the top, aprons and legs (5). Allow each coat to dry, sand it lightly with 220-grit paper, and wipe off the dust before applying the next coat. After the piece is assembled, you can also add a fourth coat or buff on some paste wax.
In almost all cases, furniture is built in stages where subassemblies are created, adjusted and fitted together; you almost never cut parts and then fasten all of them at thewsame time. This table is so simple, it’s an exception to that process.
Bore pocket-screw holes in the apron lengths and then fasten them to the apron widths with screws (6,7).
Next, centre the apron assembly on the tabletop and attach it with screws and L-brackets. Complete the assembly by clamping each leg into the apron corner, and drive two screws through the back of each leg and into the apron (8).
Your table is ready and in good time for the busy holidays: this design can comfortably seat six people.
||Full (1 200 x 2 400) sheet of plywood (tabletop, apron and legs)
||Kreg 30 mm coarse washer-head pocket screws (apron and leg assembly)
||50 mm x 16 mm zinc L-brackets (apron-to-tabletop assembly)
||No. 8 20 mm zinc flathead screws (apron-to-tabletop assembly)
||Litre wipe-on satin polyurethane finish (clear)