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Turn simple wood parts into a contemporary table you can build in a weekend. Use it year-round or store it between special occasions.
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Cut two 3 x 3 x 36 poplar boards to length for the dowel caps (A) (Project Diagram, Cutting List). Lay out the holes on one face of each dowel cap. Two of them will have one hole drilled in the center of one face. The other two will have two holes drilled on one face (Project Diagram, Drawing 1).
Drill the 1-1/4-inch holes 1-1/4 inches deep. Use a tape flag to mark the depth on your drill bit. A small benchtop drill press would work great for this project. If you’re not using a drill press, use a square as a visual reference to check that the holes are 90 degrees to the surface (Photo 1).
Clamp a single-hole and a two-hole dowel cap together. Double-face tape a 12-inch continuous hinge centered on the length of the caps and centered over the joint between them.
Place a self-centering drill bit sized to match the screws that come with the hinge and drill six pilot holes -- two at each end and two in the middle (Photo 2). Drive the screws in the six holes to hold the hinge firmly in place.
The self-centering bit will drill a pilot hole centered in the holes of the hinge. If you try to drill these freehand, the bit will wander and cause the hinge to shift and bind.
Drill the remaining pilot holes, but do not drive the remaining screws. Mark the caps so after finishing you know which caps and hinge go together.
Cut the dowels to length for the legs (B) and sand all of the components with 150-grit sandpaper. Glue and clamp the dowels into the leg caps.
Place the frame on your bench, mark 10 inches from the bottom of each leg, and drill a pilot hole for the eye screws. The holes should be pointed straight up toward the ceiling (Photo 3). Flip the frame over and drill the hole in the remaining leg. Repeat for the other leg assembly.
Cut two pieces of 3/4-inch-thick MDF to the dimensions required for the top (C) (Project Diagram, Cutting List). Apply glue to the mating faces and glue the panels together (Project Diagram, Drawing 2). Drill countersunk pilot holes through the bottom sheet and drive 1-1/4-inch flathead wood screws to hold the panels together while the glue dries.
When laminating parts, lay a bead of glue along the perimeter of the part, about 1/8-inch away from the edge. As you apply clamp pressure and drive screws, the glue will squeeze out slightly. When the glue has set up for about 15 minutes and begins to get rubbery, run a razor blade around the edge to remove the squeeze-out. After the glue dries, the joint will be filled and you won’t need to fill the seam with putty for a smooth edge.
Sand the assembled MDF top and edges to remove any sharp edges.
Draw edge-to-edge lines across the bottom of the MDF top, 10 inches from each end (Project Diagram, Drawing 3). Clamp the leg assemblies to the top with the double-leg cap facing out and the edge of the single-leg cap centered on the line. Use the same process of securing the hinge with double-faced tape, pilot holes, and driving six screws to fasten the continuous hinge to the side of the base cap and to the top.
With the table assemblies complete, remove the screws, hinges and double faced tape and apply a finish to all surfaces of the table parts. We used polyurethane and paint. Apply a primer and two coats of exterior paint to the top following the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply two coats of satin polyurethane to the leg assemblies. With both poly and paint, lightly sand each coat of finish, including the primer on the painted top, before applying the next layer of finish, for a smooth, professional result.
Reattach the hinges, this time installing all of the screws. Add the eye hooks to the pilot holes in the legs. Stand the legs up and place a 3/4-inch dowel under the hinge between the dowel caps (Photo 4) to set the leg angles. Painter’s tape can be used to keep the legs from separating further.
String the cables through the eye screws, and add the cable clips (Photo 5) (Project Diagram, Drawing 4).