Step-by-Step Instructions to Build Your Own Arts and Crafts-style Dining Room Table

If you are a woodworker with moderate woodworkering skills, with access to a modest set of tools, you can build this table.

My wife and I designed a dining room table to match the sideboard I built for her a few years ago. I promised her I’d have it built for use for Thanksgiving dinner this year. Unfortunately, work (etc.) conspired against me and I didn’t start building until it was already November, so I really had to hit the ground running.

Sketchup Plans for Wooden Dining Table

Downloadable Plans

The “must haves” for this table were that it needed to be big enough to comfortably seat eight people, with room for food down the center.

100 board feet of quartersawn white oak

Quality Stock

The design is in the Arts & Crafts style, so I purchased 100 board feet of quartersawn white oak in keeping with the tradition of Mission furniture.

A jig for straight-lining rough lumber

Straight-Lining

All of the lumber needed straight-lined and the easiest way to do that was to build a jig with two toggle clamps secured to a straight length of plywood. Clamp the board to the jig, run it through the tablesaw, then clean it up at the jointer for a perfectly square edge.

In the past, I’ve straight-lined with a router or handplane, but this was by far the fastest and easiest way to tackle this particular challenge.

Selecting the best boards for the tabletop

Top Board Selection

The best way to begin building a larger table is to start with the top. This way, you can build to approximately the designed dimensions, then adjust the base to suit as necessary. In this case, my top ended up a half inch wider than originally designed, which is fine. No need to go through the extra machining steps—just adjust the base dimensions accordingly. After selecting the prettiest boards for the top, it was time to start gluing them up.

Selecting the best boards for the tabletop

Alignment Slots

Modern glue makes an edge-grain to edge-grain joint stronger than the wood fibers themselves, so there is no need to add reinforcements to the joint.

However, biscuits do make it easier to align the joint when gluing up, which is why I bothered to spend the extra time machining slots into each board.

Managing a large glue-up

Glue-Up in Progress

When tackling a glue-up of this size, I prefer to work one seam at a time. Clamps are placed every 12 inches or so and alternate orientation to apply even pressure.

I built cauls to apply vertical pressure, keeping the tabletop flat. The top caul was planed in a slight curve, with the center 1/8” proud of the ends. This applies even pressure across the entire width of the tabletop.

Full tabletop gluing up

Glue-Up Completed

Even after the clamps are removed, I continued to keep the cauls in place whenever possible. Wide glue-ups like this have a tendency to cup and the cauls kept the unfinished tabletop dead flat during the entire build process.

Squaring the ends of a large tabletop

Squaring the Ends

Once the glue was dry, a simple straightedge and a circular saw were all that were needed to square up both ends.

Routing tenons

Breadboard Ends

I designed this table to include breadboard ends for the top. To cooperate with the seasonal movement of wood and to make these as sturdy as possible, I decided to machine three tenons into each end.

Only the center tenon will be glued and all three will be pinned with an oak dowel through its center. This process began with routing a three inch long tongue onto both ends of the tabletop.

Completed tenons

Tongue and Groove plus Mortise/Tenon

Each of the tenons is six inches wide and a constant half inch tongue spans the length of the joint.

Jack plane for smoothing

Smoothing the Top

With the major machining of the top complete, all that was left was to plane down any imperfections along the seams.

Drilling mortise holes at the drill press

Preparing the Breadboards

The boards for the breadboard ends are initially cut to be longer than they need to be. This allows me to cut the mortises, dry-fit the ends and then mark exactly the length to which they needed to be cut.

Shop made dowel pin depth stop

Pinning the Tenons

With the ends dry fit, three holes were drilled into the bottom of each end, centered on each mortise and stopping as soon as the bit passes through the tenon. Then the breadboard end wass removed and all tenons, except the two in the center position, had that hole widened into a slot-like shape.

This will allow for movement along the joint, while helping to hold everything steady year-round. Cut the ends to length and they are ready to glue up, remembering that the joint is only glued around the center tenons.

Gluing solid wood pins

Dowel Pins

The two center pins were glued along their entirety, but the other pins were only glued where they come in contact with the breadboard ends—not where they touch the tenons. After the glue dried, they were flush cut and sanded smooth.

Clamping breadboard ends into place

Clamping the Ends

A tabletop of this size is longer than any clamps I own, but this was easily overcome by hooking two pipe clamps together. This simple trick saves a lot of money when compared to purchasing special clamps for this job.

Reclaimed lumber for table lets

Reclaiming Fence Posts

A few years back I acquired a couple of fence posts that lived a life of duty on a farm in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. My wife really wanted me to give them new purpose as legs for this table.

Milled lumber for table legs

Milled Legs

A few passes through the jointer, planer and tablesaw and these humble chunks of wood are ready to be showcased in our home for a long time.

Creating tenons on long table parts

Tenons on Long Parts

Long aprons introduce a challenge when it comes to machining tenons. I turned again to my router to cut the cheeks. Once I have a tool set up for a cut, I prefer to use it on everything.

So, while the short aprons could have been cut at the tablesaw, I milled everything with the router so that the depth of cut was consistent along all pieces.

Cutting tenon shoulders with a handsaw

Cutting the Shoulders

Length of parts are an issue when cutting the tenon shoulders, too, so I marked them up and cut them by hand, which was far more simple than anything I could have tried with a power tool.

Bandsawing Arts and Crafts style arches

Lower Rail Arches

The next step was to bandsaw the arches into the two lower rails. Then everything was sanded and ready for assembly.

Lower assembly glue-up

Base Assembly

To make my own life easily, I moved everything from the shop to the main living area of the house and did the final assembly there. Taking time to make sure everything fits properly ahead of time makes the glue-up surprisingly easy.

Using a tablesaw to create dovetailed bracing

Dovetailed Cross Bracing

With the base assembled, I could get an exact dimension for the cross bracing. This features a dovetailed end that helps combat racking and is really simple to create. After cutting the bracing to length, the tablesaw blade was tilted to 8 degrees.

For safety and convenience, I clamped the part to a shop-made tenoning jig and cut the dovetail cheeks. Then, without changing the tilt of the blade, I cut matching edges along the ends of the blocking. The blade was then returned to zero for cutting the shoulders along the dovetail and the blocking to length.

Assembled cross bracing

Assembled Bracing

With very little effort, the base is now as rock-solid as an Abrams tank.

A biscuit cutter for creating tabletop hold-down slots

Slots for the Top Brackets

The final machining task was to cut slots for the brackets that hold the top to the base, while allowing for seasonal movement. I’ve found the simplest way to do this is to outfit my plate joiner with the tiny faceframe blade and mill them as needed.

First steps to a great finish

Beginning the Finish

Arts & Crafts furniture is marked by a few key elements: a form-follows-function design, wood selection (often quartersawn white oak) and a rich, dark finish. This finish was traditionally created by fuming the wood in a tent that captured ammonia vapors, creating a reaction with the wood.

My wife does all of the finishing for the pieces I build. How’s THAT for a good deal!? So, here is where she stepped in and made things beautiful.

Top coat for a traditional finish

The Perfect Recipe

Without resorting to fuming tents and other nonsense, she’s worked through a recipe developed by renowned finishing expert Jeff Jewitt to recreate this effect. The process began with a coat of dye, followed by a coat of boiled linseed oil, which was then sealed with two coats of shellac. She followed this by applying a coat of glaze that filled the wood pores and really brought out the richness in the finish.

This was then sealed with an additional coat of shellac and finally a layer of wax was applied and buffed. Since this is where we will eat each day, the top will require additional protection. So, she applied multiple coats of Waterlox to the top instead of the wax.

You can access Mr. Jewitt’s step-by-step recipe for this Mission Oak finish by clicking here.

Completed Arts and Crafts dining table

Completed Table

Breadboard end detail

Breadboard End Detail

Through-tenons detail

Through-Tenons Detail

Ready for duty

Ready for Duty