Whether you choose a painted, stained or natural finish, you'll love having this table by your side.
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From a 3/4"×24"×48" sheet of birch plywood, cut the top and shelf (A) to size. Cut the front and back edging (B) to size, making sure the length matches the width of the panels. Cut the side edging (C) 1/4" longer than listed (Project Diagram).
Glue and clamp the front and back edging (B) to the bottoms of the panels (A) with the ends and edges flush. After the glue dries, carefully cut the side edging (C) to fit between the front and back edging. Glue and clamp the side edging to the panels with the edges flush (Project Diagrams).
Fill any voids in the exposed plywood edges with wood filler. Once the filler dries, clamp the top and shelf together face to face and sand the edges smooth.
From 1"×2"×6' poplar boards, cut the slats (D) to length. From leftover plywood scrap, cut 12 3/4"×3/4"×3" slat spacers.
To mark screw-hole centers along the side and back edges of the top, place seven slats on your workbench with the 3/4" spacers between each slat. Align the slat ends flush, and lightly clamp together the slats and spacers. Place the top panel, with its bottom face up, on the workbench, and position one edge against the slat ends. Align the front and back edges of the top with the edges of the front and back slats. Mark lines on the edge of the top, centered on the width of each slat with one exception. To avoid drilling or screwing into the front and back edging (B), offset the screw-hole centers for the front and back slats. Rotate the top and mark screw-hole centers on the back edge and other side. Repeat with the shelf.
Drill 5/32" screw holes in the side and back edges of the top and shelf. Drill from the outside, starting the bit at the glue joint between the panels (A) and edging (B, C) and angling the bit so it emerges centered on the thickness of the edging on the inside.
Finish-sand the top surfaces and edges of the top and shelf and all faces, ends, and edges of the slats. Remove all sharp edges by lightly hand-sanding all edges with a sanding block and sandpaper.
To avoid accidentally rounding the slat edges and ends when sanding the faces, ends, and edges, place three slats face to face on a flat surface and clamp them together with the edges and ends flush. Insert wood scraps between the clamp and slat faces to prevent marring. Sand the edges, swivel the clamps out of the way, and sand the ends. Repeat with the remaining slats.
Natural-finish Table: Apply two coats of finish, following the instructions on the can. Smooth any raised grain by lightly hand-sanding with fine sandpaper after the first coat.
Stained Table: Apply stain, following the instructions on the can. (We used Minwax English Chestnut stain.) After the stain dries, apply two coats of clear finish, lightly sanding after the first coat.
Painted Table: Follow the instructions on the can to apply primer to all parts. With the paint dry, smooth any raised grain by lightly hand-sanding with fine sandpaper. Apply two finish coats of paint. (We used satin white latex enamel.)
Place seven slats, outside face down, with 3/4" spacers between them on a clean, flat surface. Align the ends flush and lightly clamp together the slats and spacers. Check the overall width of the slats and spacers with one side of the top. To compensate for the material removed from the slat edges when sanding, insert thin cardboard shims (pieces of a cereal box work well) between slats and spacers until the edges of the front and back slats align with the front and back edges of the top. Square up the assembly with a framing square.
To position the top and shelf, cut two 1"×15" cleats from a 3/4" plywood scrap. Use double-face carpet tape to adhere one cleat to the slats with the top edge of the cleat and top ends of the slats flush. (The carpet tape adheres tenaciously, so use small pieces.) Adhere the second cleat to the slats with the bottom edge 5-1/8" from the bottom ends of the slats. Place one side of the top against the upper cleat with the top surface against the bottom of the cleat. Align the front and back edges of the top with the edges of the front and back slats. Drive #8×1-1/2" flathead wood screws through the holes in the top and into the slats. Place one side of the shelf against the lower cleat with the top surface against the bottom of the cleat. Align the front and back edges of the top with the edges of the front and back slats. Drive the screws. Remove the cleats and repeat with the other side.
To assemble the back slats, lay out the slats, spacers, and shims as before, but this time adding 1"×2" cutoffs at the sides of the assembly before clamping it together. (The cutoffs provide clearance between the clamp heads and side slats when positioning the top/shelf/side slat assembly on the back slats.) Position the top/shelf/side slat assembly on the back slats. Use the framing square as a straightedge to align the bottom ends of the back slats with the bottom ends of the side slats. Drive #8×1-1/2" flathead wood screws through the holes in the top and shelf and into the slats. Remove the clamps and spacers to admire your finished table.