Learning how to build furniture is a satisfying way to get going in the world of DIY. The project outlined here will give any beginner an idea of how to build a reclaimed wood table and steel base from scratch. Prior to building this table I had no experience designing in metal or welding steel. And now I’ve got a brand new, one-of-a-kind, statement furniture piece right in my dining room. If I can do this anyone can!
Making a DIY table is a pretty safe place to start, as the design elements can be very simple compared to other furniture. To get started, one must first consider the household needs. How many people would you like to seat at your table? Shape is another design choice. Does your space work best with a round, square or rectangle surface? Have you always wanted your table to be dramatically long? Now’s your chance!
The base shape is another very interesting choice. Although this is a guide on how to build a reclaimed wood table and steel base, there is not just one way to get this done and you have many choices! In my design process I considered both the material I wanted to use (steel for the base) and more pressing domestic issues… AKA… my dog. While I knew I wanted a metal table base, I also needed to design a base that would allow my dog to continue sleeping under the table in his safe dog place. After 13 years we couldn’t think of displacing this guy!
These concerns led me to consider a design with an empty space in the center. However, I wanted to avoid just making four plain legs. So, I decided I would work out a way to use two or three legs in my pedestal-type design.
Secondarily I thought through options for the table surface and finally decided on reclaimed wood to offset the metal legs. The plastic chairs were added in to the design to provide some difference from the natural table materials, as well as a clear view of the sculptural legs.
Start Here > How To Find Your Base
The first place I started was finding examples of designs I liked that met our needs. Some visits to a few furniture retailers is in order. Be sure and get underneath them to see how the base is attached to the top. This will help you determine if it’s something you can achieve as a beginner. You’ll be surprised at how simple most of the construction is! Here’s some images I snapped in my journey.
Next > Draw Some Designs
Unfortunately I threw my drawings out before writing this story so I can’t show you how awesomely bad they were. But! they were really helpful in the shop. The most important element of the drawings is understanding the dimensions of what yo want to make, regardless of how well the drawing is executed. Since I settled on a 3-leg design, I had to figure out the height of the table as well as how large of a radius should be between the legs on the floor. (More on how to fudge this later…)
Got Your Designs > Get in the Shop!
The best way to start is to start. Since I’m a beginner and I don’t have a shop, I signed up for a welding class at All Metal Arts in Seattle. By the end of this multi-day class I walked out with my welded table base! First I had to learn how to use the MIG welder and, then added in other shop equipment along the way. This was also a good time to experiment with cutting the angles I thought I would need.
Tip: Buy a little more material than you think you need and use the excess for practice. It’s easier to cut than add (although the great thing about metal working is that adding material can be done too!)
Here are some images of pieces I used to test angles for the legs. The first angles were much too steep and the legs extended from the ground too horizontally. I had to re cut the lengths at a more gentle angle to get the legs at the right height.
Mock It Up > Prototype Elements
If there are certain elements you want to test out in steel, make a mock-up with pencil steel (small round rod). It’s cheap and goes together quickly. When I was deciding how large to make the mounting base that the legs would attache to, I first made a mock-up in pencil steel. It was super quick and I determined the right sized equilateral triangle to make in tube steel that would put the legs at the proper radius on the floor.
The final pieces I had to work from turned out to be quite simple, but something of a mathematical challenge. The lesson learned is that all you need to put together a table is the legs and a means of attaching them to the top.
Assemble > Elements Combine
In my case, I fabricated a triangular base, then attached a table leg to the center of each triangle leg. The triangle base is constructed from 2″ steel square tube. Each leg is 12″ long. After cutting each piece at 60 degree angles, they were welded into a triangle. I used a drill press to make holes for attaching the base to the table surface.
Welding The Legs > Almost Done
With the base complete, and the legs cut and tested with the prototype, it was time to attach the legs to the base. Figuring out how to set the materials up and hold them in place is one of the biggest challenges I’ve found in welding. I know what the teacher means now when he says “welder” means “professional jig maker.”
The outside pieces were easy to weld, but reaching the inside seams was a bit more difficult, resulting in less than smooth beads. (My teacher said those inside welds could actually have been skipped and the table would be just as sturdy. Another lesson!)
Acrobatics > Vice Grip & Grinding
Reclaimed Wood > Building the surface
I chose to make my table top out of reclaimed maple. I had access to some pieces that had been milled vertically, leaving rough edges on the long sides. My idea was to suspend the wood in resin to get a somewhat transparent affect and to accentuate the warm tones of the wood.
The make the surface we made a fiberglass mold (help from a neighbor) and floated the three maple panels in the fiberglass resin. If I were to make a table in this style again, I would join the wood pieces closer together in order to get a tighter fit. The pieces we used were very rough, so it took an extraordinary amount of fiberglass resin to complete the project. The result is that the table top is nice and substantial, but was a bit more costly. It also weighs about 150 pounds! No joke.
At the end of the project I’m very happy with the results. Certainly by learning how to build a reclaimed wood table, and how to fabricate the steel base I gained many new skills. In addition I have a beautiful piece of furniture to enjoy every day.