You can’t go wrong making your own DIY dowel table. With it, you can stack countless things, have a place to eat, or simply kick your legs up on it after a long day, or, yeah… MAKE OTHER THINGS.
Using 1” dowels, a stack of 2x4s, some 4x4s, and barrels of glue, Rob from Make Things shows how you can make your own high-end, super sturdy 2×4 dowel table for under $100 in materials:
1. Mark The 2x4s On Center
Since the tabletop will be made from 19 2x4s stacked side by side via dowels, he marks each piece of wood on center and places marks 8-inches apart for eight of the dowels and 2-inches off the edge for the two end dowels – all for a total of 10 dowels – hefty.
2. Cut the Dowel Holes
Using his drill press, Rob meticulously drills 170-ish holes into the 19 2x4s using a 26mm diameter Forstner drill bit. To make sure the holes are perfect, he does a couple of things:
First, he adds support to both ends of the 2×4 to give it a clean, straight cut. As he uses the drill press, he makes sure to clean out the drill bit regularly and dip the bit in water. These two steps lenghten the drill time, but save your bit.
3. Start Assembling The Tabletop With Your Glue And Dowels
Using modified dowels with evenly spaced 1/8th-inch grooves (for the glue to seep through easier), Rob starts assembling the tabletop. He applies a hefty coat of glue to one side of the first 2×4 as well as on the tips of the dowels before hammering them in.
With the first 2×4 set, the second and third 2x4s are placed under the first but not before coating them similarly in glue. Once good and sticky, Rob hammers the dowels down. To ensure it’s solid, he applies glue to the dowels each time.
4. Continue Hammering And Gluing Those 2x4s
The succeeding 2x4s are hammered on top of the first panel… one at a time.
Just as with the second and third panels, hammer down these pieces gently. As they get closer to the rest of its glue-slathered brethren, be sure to apply glue to the new piece as well.
If all goes well, soon you’ll have yourself a wall of glue-oozing, interconnected 2x4s for your tabletop.
5. Smooth The Top Using A Router
After giving the glue some time to dry, Rob takes his router and uses the router rails from one of his previous videos to smooth the top and sides of his stack of 2x4s – now it’s starting to look like a table.
6. Make The Table Legs
You can’t call it a table if it doesn’t have legs, so Rob made and provided a Sketchup file for the different sections of the table base.
The legs are 30” 4x4s with mortises in the middle. Each square hole is made by drilling three small holes with a Forstner bit and chiseling out the rest of the square by hand.
To make the sections for a bottom stretcher (more on that later), Robb first cuts the bottom portion with a table saw to make lap joints. These make it easier for him to hammer down, chisel out the excess wood, and sand for connecting later.
7. Slot Tenons Into The Mortises
To keep the legs from collapsing, you need to fit tenons into the square mortises.
These are basically 2x4s with the similar connectors as on the legs. The process for making them is the same as well: use a table saw to cut out lap joints, hammer them out with a mallet, chisel, and sand down.
Just apply glue to the connecting parts and hammer them into the table legs!
8. Make The Stretchers and Half Flaps
With the two pairs of table legs more or less secure, Robb adds 2x6s on the top portion of the legs. Using the same hammer and chisel method, he makes connectors that can easily be glued onto the legs.
He uses a number of long wood planks he calls “stretchers” to connect the two leg pairs together. These are placed near bottom and top of the legs and are glued to make the table base sturdy.
With the tenons, 2x6s, and stretchers all glued, Robb safely clamps them down and let the glue do its magic.
9. Add Runners, Biscuits, and Table Wheels
To add a shelf for your tabletop, you’re gonna need runners and screws. This supports the shelf base beneath your tabletop.
The shelf floor however is made with individual rectangular wood planks glued to the top of the shelf base. For a stronger shelf and to reinforce each plank, Robb adds biscuits (small, half-circle-shaped tabs of wood which match slots on the adjoining wood plank).
While he could have just used glue to stick the planks together, he says adding the biscuits felt satisfying and added to the sturdiness of the base.
Adding wheels to the table is completely optional, but it does make lugging this large table around the shop a heck of a lot easier. After a year with his dowel table, Robb says he was thankful he added them.
10. Attach The Tabletop
This project started with dowels, so it’s only fitting it ends the same way. Robb connects the tabletop to the rest of the table by drilling in six dowel holes (6” each), coating in more glue and hammer the dowel into each with a mallet. Pro tip: put a bit of tape around each dowel hole to keep glue from soaking into the surface.
Once the glue is dry, he saws the excess wood from the dowels and uses a sander to sand them smooth.
11. Finish With A Few Dog Holes And Some Danish Oil
Since Robb uses his table for woodworking, he adds three ¾” dog holes at the top for tools and the like. He says that has been more than enough for him over the past year.
He slathers on some Danish oil to give it a film finish and his dowel table is finally complete.
This is just a short summary of the dowel table’s design process. Robb has made an in-depth guide (complete with images and side notes) here. To see more of his work, be sure to check out his YouTube channel, Make Things.