Using hairpin legs to make a table reduces some of the complexity. You can focus on the table top and then attach the prefabricated legs. Recently we made a kitchen table using some reclaimed wood. It’s always great to try to keep materials from going to a landfill, but using reclaimed materials comes with some challenges. In the article we’ll look at the material we used, where to get some fun hairpin legs, some guidelines on table sizing and some additional thoughts that weren’t covered in the video.
First things first, below is the video showing you an overview of the process I used to make our kitchen table.
Reclaimed Table Top
The wood for this project comes from an old animal corral that I helped break apart a couple years back. It’s some tongue and groove 2×6 Douglas Fir. Between the original installation and just hanging out in our backyard, I’d guess the wood has been exposed for about 15 years.
When you use any type of reclaimed wood, you’re going to want to clean it. I use a wide wire brush for this.
If you don’t have access to really weathered wood, then just use what’s cheap like 2×4 or 2×6 pine. For a cool look use something that will gray the wood. There are products like Minwax Classic Gray or ones that give you that driftwood weathering affect. You’ll see below how my boards looked burnt. You could easily get that affect with a propane torch and wire brush.
Metal Hairpin Legs
In the past, these legs used to be relatively expensive. Now you can get a set of 4 on Amazon for less than $60 with free shipping, plus they come in all kinds of cool colors. I bought some unfinished 28 inch 3 post legs made from 3/8 inch steel. We were looking for the raw steel look, but I am totally looking for another project so I can use some orange legs.
The standard height on a kitchen / dining table is between 28 – 30 inches. When you buy your legs, add up the thickness of your top and the legs to make sure it stays between the standard height.
Hairpin leg length + Table top thickness = 28 – 30 inches (standard table height)
You’re going to need some miscellaneous items like lag bolts to attach the legs to the table top and glue. A lot of these will be specific to how you build your table.
How Big Should You Build Your Kitchen Table?
How big you make your table really depends on a couple of factors:
- How big is the space the table will go into?
- How many people you want to seat?
- Can people move around the table once it’s in place?
The easiest way to see the actual footprint of your table before you make it is to use blue painter’s tape and layout the dimensions on the floor where the table will go.
With the tape in place, you can
- Position your chairs and the pinlegs to figure out spacing
- Try walking around the chairs
I kinda did my layout as an afterthought. Hopefully, if you look at the picture below and imagine blue tape where the table top is, you’ll get a better idea.
Rough Cutting The Lumber
The final length for my table is 5 feet so I rough cut the boards to 67 inches just in case some things went wrong. Better to have extra than have to figure out how to fix a short table.
Gluing Up The Top
Because my boards had a tongue and groove already, I thought I’d take advantage of that for gluing up the top. I used Gorilla Glue, this is the stuff that activates with water and foams up, because I wanted the glue to expand to fill the joint.
There was a bit of a bow up when the boards were in the clamps. Luckily, the set time for the glue was about half an hour. Plenty of time to get some weight on it to keep it flat, including a piece of railroad rail.
Tip: Clamp your project with the top up. This way if when the glue expands and drips down it’s on the bottom.
Even with the weights on top during glue up, the two boards at the edges weren’t straight. There was also some flex between the boards. Instead of working to get a dead flat surface, I went for close enough on the bottom.
The idea was to not worry about the two outside boards as much because whatever perpendicular supports were used those two boards would get pulled straight.
Trimming To Final Size
Funny thing about using hand tools all the time, when you finally have to use a power tool sometimes you forget about things. Things like using a board that’s too thick so you don’t have clearance on the circular saw you’re using.
The final size for our table ended up being 38 inches wide by 5 feet long.
Perpendicular Top Reinforcement
This wood is really soft from being exposed. Four 16 gauge 1 x 1.5 inch metal tube (16 gauge is close to 1/16 inch thick) were used to reinforce the table from flexing. To figure out the length of the metal supports, take the width of the table and subtract 3 inches. This will allow you to set back the metal support 1 1/2 inches from each side. Doing this will make it so you don’t really see the supports unless you bend down to look under the table.
Perpendicular Support Length = Table Width – 3 inches
I used a metal chop saw to cut my rectangular tube steel but you could easily use a hacksaw.
In the video I only drilled a hole for the screw and then glued and screwed the tube steel in place. We’ll probably be fine because we live in Las Vegas where the relative humidity from season to season doesn’t really change. To accommodate for the change in humidity you’ll want to drill a slot in the tube and not glue the support to the table top.
Install the outside supports first since they will determine where the pinlegs are positioned. From there the two interior supports are just evenly distributed.
Plywood Supports For Hairpin Legs
I was afraid if I just mount the hairpin legs into the soft Douglas Fir they’ll get loose. I used 6 inch square ¾ inch plywood as a base to install them on. If you do something like this, make sure you account for this in your table height calculations.
Using a Japanese handsaw may seem mysterious at first, but when you start using one you’ll ask yourself how you got along without it. I wrote an extensive review on the saw I’m using if you’re interested.
The plywood reinforcements were painted gray to help them look more like the steel and not stick out if you look below. Once the paint dried, they were glued and screwed in place.
Compressing The Table Top Fibers
I wanted to smooth out the wood but not lose a lot of the texture of the grain. I’ve seen Japanese woodworkers compress the fibers of sashimono furniture instead of sanding. They take a bundle of bamboo and use it to compress the wood of the furniture piece.
What happened when I used the bamboo skewer bundle was the softer wood compressed and the harder growth ring sections stayed raised. This technique left a really smooth feeling wood, close to 220 grit sandpaper.
Finishing The Top
When the boards were glued together I used the original tongue and grooves. After putting the first coat on the top, I realize the gaps between the boards would be a real pain to keep clean so I filled them with epoxy. I’m using West Systems epoxy, but that’s some really expensive stuff. Next time I buy epoxy I’m going to get some East Coast Resin Epoxy.
It takes 24 hours for the epoxy to cure.
I ended up putting on 3 coats of polyurethane. The old corral wood really soaked up the finish.
Installing The Hairpin Legs
The 28 inch legs were installed ⅜ of an inch from the steel supports and edge of the plywood. This was to make sure there was enough plywood for the screws to bite into.
When people see the kitchen table for the first time, the first thing they do is feel the texture of the raised grain. The variation of color from plank to plank is cool, but what makes this table stand out is the texture.
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