I’ve always loved the look of the farmhouse tables and have dreamed of building one someday. Well, someday has finally come and what an adventure this project was! This project brought tears to my eyes when it was complete because it is built with pieces that came from our Grandfathers, and what a treasure it is.
It all started with a trip to Keith’s Grandparent’s farm on a beautiful day, in search of some wood that his Grandaddy had cut from trees on his property about 60 years ago. I know we could have bought some boards from the local home improvement store and it would have been just fine, but the quality of these boards can’t be found now and they are a reminder of his Grandaddy’s hard work and pride he had for his home and land. His Grandaddy had these boards cut in his Uncle’s sawmill to use for building materials. Such a labor of love and now part of a wonderful story right in our own home.
It’s been over ten years since his Grandparents passed away and most of what is left are signs of a simple, but laborious life once lived. Buildings filled with rusted farm equipment his Grandaddy operated and a home that his Granny cared for with walls of shelves in the basement that were once filled with canning jars, and seasonal blooming shrubbery surrounding the house. We drove out through the thick grass just beyond the gate to the pasture and made it, slowly but surely, in our mini van.
I was so excited to go in and find pieces we could use for the table…until I saw a barn rat scurry along the wall. Yuck! I am not a fan of rodents but they are commonly found in barns…it made me think of Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web. Thankfully, my sweet husband got the boards down and handed them off to me as I stood back.
Once we got home I lined the boards up in the carport (aka- my workshop), along with my other projects in waiting, to get an idea of what the table would look like. Now this is the part where memories of my Grandfather come into this project. They sat perfectly on top of his old hand-built sawhorses! I have always liked the look of his sawhorses, but they were stored away in the shed, only used for projects. Well, that’s what they’re used for…but now they were about to have a better purpose.
It was already looking good, especially with the chairs I found on Craigslist that needed some work. I thought these ladder back chairs would look perfect with a farmhouse table and I love ladder back chairs because they seem to never go out of style…timeless, really.
I started to sand the boards but then realized what a task I was facing with these strong, solid boards. Luckily, I found a local man who planed all ten boards for me for $50. He said the boards were oak and I’m not sure what kind of wood the two extra boards are that I used for the end pieces. Learning the types of wood/ wood grain is something I haven’t mastered yet.
Here they are after they were planed…much better!
I cut the boards exactly at 8 ft. I say exactly, but I still had plenty of sanding to do to get them level once they were all together.
One tool I couldn’t have completed this project without is the Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System! This thing is awesome and worth every penny (it was my early birthday present this year). I don’t know why I didn’t get one sooner. It made the job so much easier and connected the boards very securely.
These boards varied between 3/4 in thickness and 7/8 in. thickness, so I used the lower setting at 3/4 in. just in case. If you have never used a Kreg Jig before and are interested in learning, check out this YouTube video from Shanty 2 Chic. They did a great job explaining everything, and it was perfect for me as I am a visual learner.
Since this was my first try at a dining table, I really had no idea what I was doing. While I can show you what I did, I would suggest you start with the plans from Rogue Engineer. His plans helped me get an idea of what I wanted to do with a dining table and how to drill the pocket holes on a tabletop that was just under 9 ft, but I had a big space to fill and a plan that was different. If you are planning to build a dining table yourself, start there!
This is what the pockets looked like before we set the screws. Just gives you a general idea. I could only get a little over half the table in this picture.
I tightened vice grips at the end to try and keep each board level, and then added the larger clamps horizontally to tighten the boards together, side by side. I moved the clamp down to each section I was screwing together to try and stay consistent. I got frustrated a few times when it didn’t line up exactly. My husband reminded me that if I wanted something that looked perfect, I could go buy a dining table from a big box store that was lower quality. He put things back in perspective and I kept going, remembering that I was supposed to keep the rustic look anyway.
This is what the underside of the table looked like as we were constructing it. I snapped this picture below at 1:00 in the morning. We had the lantern light hanging and could see our breath, it was so chilly. I thought getting rid of our old kitchen table would motivate us to get this done as soon as possible. I’d say we were motivated, staying up that late. Thanks to some Stevie Wonder tunes that kept us going!
We used the Kreg Jig to make pocket screws in all the boards, including the horizontal boards in the middle, making pocket screws at the ends to secure them to the frame. We also made corner braces and since these boards weren’t as good of quality as the tabletop, they were bowed and warped in some places….well, because we did get them from a local home improvement store and they were inexpensive pine boards. I was worried they wouldn’t come together like they should because of that, but thanks to the pocket screws from the Kreg Jig, they came together beautifully! We did add corner brackets in the mitered corners, and those gave the corners a little more security.
I was able to do some sanding to smooth the top before finishing. I used an 80 grit sandpaper to sand the raised edges and the rough spots on the wood, then I followed it by sanding the whole surface with a 220 grit to smooth it all out.
The wood was really dry, so before I finished it I applied a wood conditioner from Minwax. It was easy to apply and the instructions called for the stain to be applied within two hours. After several samples of stain at the bottom of the table, I finally decided on a stain called Ipswich Pine from Minwax, in their Wood Finish line. I was pleasantly surprised that it matched perfectly with the stain color my Grandaddy had on the sawhorses!
I decided not to finish the table with a polyurethane because of the wear that can have over time. The man who planed the boards suggested I use Tung Oil instead because the wood absorbs it instead of sitting on top of the wood like poly does. He said if I had a scratch on the table with the Tung Oil, I would just need to buff out the scratch with some steel wool, then go back over that spot again with the Tung Oil and that would take care of the scratch. He is really knowledgeable when it comes to wood finishing and it seemed like a great low-maintenance option for a quick fix, but will need to be refinished with the oil every year or so…so I understand.
I ended up applying three coats of Tung Oil and plan to add another in the next few days after I give my arm a rest. I applied the Tung Oil on the surface generously as the directions called for, but it was the buffing I did with a cloth afterward (after three coats) that wore me out!
Here it is, all finished and set for entertaining! Like I said, it’s just under 9 ft. long and about 4 ft. wide, so I will definitely need some more chairs! I plan to find two different chairs to place at the ends just to give it some contrast/variation…and because I only have six of those chairs I found on Craigslist. I plan on following up with a post about how I refinished the chairs with all the damage they had.
I love the way my Grandaddy’s sawhorses look beneath the table! I am so happy to be using them like this and that they aren’t stuck in the shed anymore. I know I don’t have good sturdy sawhorses anymore to do my projects, but I can get another set…or build them like my Grandaddy did.
Just a side note- we made the frame of the table to go snug against the top of the sawhorses so if we ever needed to move the table, we could still take it apart. Although I feel what we did is still secure, I would suggest that you attach yours in some way with screws or brackets for added safety.
Setting the table…
It was very simple to set the table like this, and since our budget is pretty limited, I did quite a few things to save money. I spent some birthday money I had on these green salad plates and pretty patterned napkins from World Market. The colors go great with the accents in my kitchen and added color to the table.
I still haven’t mastered any photography or photo editing tricks, so please ignore my camera face in the spoon.
I did not have napkin rings that matched the rustic feel, so I just used some jute twine to tie around the napkins and tucked a sprig of rosemary inside. Speaking of the rosemary, my sweet neighbor Judy let me come cut some rosemary from her herb garden to add a little greenery to my table. I just placed it around the mason jars that belonged to Keith’s Granny, and lit some tea lights. So simple, inexpensive, and pretty!
I prefer the tea lights in the mason jars rather than the votive candles. The tea lights don’t last as long, but they just evaporate instead of dripping wax down into the jars. Plus, they aren’t expensive at all…just a few dollars for a bag full. They are good to keep around and have handy for the next get-together. I used them this past weekend during my sister-in-law’s baby shower and everyone loved that simple touch to the decor!
I’m so happy to have this special piece in our house now and it makes us appreciate all the hard work our Grandfather’s did so we could have this. Most of all, we will cherish it because enjoying time with their family was so important to them, and what a great way to continue on with that by gathering with our own friends and family around our “new” table. I hope we enjoy it and that it stays in the family for many, many years to come.