How to Make My Wood Table Tops

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We entertain a lot and I tired of renting plastic tables. So I built my own wood table tops that look like our expensive dining room table! Today I am sharing how to make wood table tops.

Table with Lights

You all know how much I love to entertain. Three years ago I came up with an idea to solve my shortage of tables. I  designed and made wood table tops that fit over regular plastic folding tables.  (The cheap kind.)

The photo above is not an expensive wooden table. It is two homemade table tops sitting on top of two cheap folding plastic tables. Look closely at the table(s) below.

Setting the Table

I think this just might be one of my best ideas ever.

Hundreds of you have asked about this DIY. I am so happy to share it today.

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How to Use the Wood Table Tops

Three Ways to Use My Wood Table Tops

In the two years since I made these wood table tops, we have used them dozens of times. You can also see them here, here, and here.

How to Use My Wood Table Tops

Why Do These Wood Table Tops Work so Well?

Honestly, these work well for a lot of reasons. 

  • They look nice enough to use without a tablecloth.
  • These table tops fit snugly over the plastic tables (there’s a  frame underneath) and are very secure.
  • They sit 6 – 8 people each.
  • If you make two tabletops, they can fit together to make a square or a long table and sit 12 – 14 people.
  • Storage is easy. We store our two table tops behind the armoire on our covered back porch.  (Although if you look closely at any of our back porch photos you can barely see them behind the armoire.)

You can barely see Andrew and Dave carrying the wood table top outside from the back porch in this photo.

Table Top from Wood

I did have help making these table tops.  My handyman (who is used to my crazy ideas and helped build our outdoor planters) has the tools and carpentry knowledge. Between the two of us, we make the perfect team. (Case in point …  I had no idea what a biscuit joiner was. I mean, it kind of sounds like a cooking tool. But apparently, it’s not.)

We bought the lumber at Home Depot and brought it home.

Getting the Supplies for the Wood Table Tops

When I dreamed up the idea to make these, I thought I was making table tops that would always be covered with a table cloth. Thus, I chose to use cheap lumber. But once I stained them I realized they looked really nice and didn’t need a tablecloth.

I have used our table tops in the dining room many times and friends always ask when I got a “new dining room table”. They have a very farmhouse look and look great with our dining and outdoor chairs.

If I ever make them again I will likely upgrade the lumber. But it certainly isn’t necessary.

What You Need to Make Wooden Table Tops

Two – Sanded Plywood (FSC Certified) (Common: 19/32 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft.; Actual: 0.578 in. x 48 in. x 96 in.) 

Three – 1 in. x 6 in. x 8 ft. Premium Kiln-Dried Square Edge Whitewood Common Board

One  – #20 FSC Wood Biscuits (and a biscuit joiner tool)

Three – 1 in. x 2 in. x 8 ft. Select Kiln-Dried Square Edge Whitewood Board

One can – Fast Dry Wood Stain (I used gray.)

One six foot plastic folded table.

The finished size of the table is 94′ x 44″. This includes a 1″ trim around the outer edge around the entire table. 

Cut Lengths

Cut the plywood into three 14″ x 64″ lengths and two 14″ x 42″ lengths. 

Next, cut the 1″ x 6″ boards (for the underside frame) in two 92″ lengths and two 30 1/2″ lengths. (These measurements are based on using a 72″  x  30″ plastic folding table. I suggest you cut the two 92″ boards but wait to cut the shorter boards until later.)

Cut the 1″ x 2″  boards based on your finished tabletop size. Once the table is assembled, remeasure the outside frame and incorporate the mitered edges.  The finished table top should measure roughly 94″ x 44″.

Wood for the Table Tops

The overall design of the tabletop is three vertical long pieces of wood and an additional vertical piece at each end. I copied this from our Pottery Barn table. I think many dining room tables have this same design.

Obviously, we used the nicer side of the wood for the top.

Making the Wood Tabletops

This is the underneath side.

Measuring the Frame for the Plastic Tables

My favorite part of these tables is the underneath side. I wanted the table top to fit snugly on the tables so I put a frame on the underside that would sit perfectly on top of a cheap foldable plastic table. 

That might be my most brilliant idea ever.

You can see one of the plastic tables through the gate. Yes, it is one of those cheap tables that many of us already own.

Adding the Frame to Wood Table Tops

Because of the low-grade wood, there was a lot of sanding involved. With nicer wood, this might not be as necessary. (Note to self for next time.)

Sanding the Wood

Building the Wood Table Top

Even though there is a frame on the underneath side of the table top, you still need to secure the three vertical pieces of wood to the horizontal ends. That’s because the frame doesn’t lay directly below the seam. 

To attach the three horizontal boards to each end board, we used a biscuit joiner (which is not a cooking tool).  (Please see below as there is a different way to do this without the biscuit joiner.)

Tools to Add the Wood Biscuits

You do need a biscuit joiner (or sometimes plate joiner) and it is a woodworking tool used to join two pieces of wood together. It actually cuts a special hole (or slot) at the end of the wood. And yes, I did use this tool! First, I cut two biscuit slots at each end of the longer (vertical) boards. (Don’t try to cut the corresponding slots in the side of the shorter horizontal boards till later.)

Then I gently tapped one of the wood biscuits into each slot.

Cutting the Holes with the Biscuit Cutter

I didn’t want the boards to be too close together so we added a quarter width between them. (This is certainly not required and caused quite a bit of angst for my handyman. You would think that by now he is used to my crazy requests.)

Next, cut the slots in the smaller horizontal boards.

So how do you get the slots to match? Lay the boards flat and mark a centerline on both sides of the biscuit and cut the slots on the smaller boards accordingly.

Joining the Wood Biscuits

Once the slots are cut, place some wood glue into the empty slot and tap the boards together. Let dry.

Putting the Table Together

In case you aren’t too excited about using a biscuit joiner, you could use metal straps to joint the boards instead. The only thing you need to figure out is whether the straps will cause the table to not fit snugly on top of the plastic table. I think if you placed them evenly throughout the underneath side then this might work. It certainly is easier!

Making the Wood Tabletops

The next step is to attach the frame underneath.

Lay the tabletop right side down and mark the center lines with a chalk line. Then place your plastic table on top. Confirm the size of the frame by adding  1/4″  around the outside of the table. Make sure the frame size is in the center of your table and straight on all sides.

Attach the 1″ x 6″ boards to the underneath side of the table top with screws.

Adding the Frame to Wood Table Tops

Nest, we added a mitered frame around the outside edge.

Adding Molding to the Table Top

I wanted the frame to drop down a bit so that it made the tabletop look even thicker than it was. So we used the 2″ side for the drop. 

backside of the wood table tops

The last step is to stain the tables. I used gray stain but you can use any stain you want. I also didn’t seal the wood but I suggest you use some sort of protective coating as well.

When you are done, your table tops should look like this!

Table Lights

Besides the lumber, here is everything else you need to make these wood tabletops.

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How to Make Wood Table Tops

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  1. When you used these for the bridal shower – how did you convert the large table to 2
    long narrow tables !

    Is this all one big piece
    ? Or ???!

    It a wonderful idea !!!! N

  2. Love so much! Thank you for sharing your wonderful idea!! I’m bookmarking !!! Saving to Pinterest ! Whatever I have to do to refer back to this! Thank for for the thorough list and instructions!

  3. Love this idea Leslie, I love your blog/Insta etc. I will be getting my husband to do this. It is exactly what we need for our entertaining needs. The ability to change it up! I was also wondering about your beautiful arbor around the table in these photos? I have a feeling you’ve talked about it before but I’m not sure. Is it somehow locked into the ground or is it just sitting there? Do you have to be careful that no one leans on it? Will it fall over if they do?

  4. Absolute genius. Sure wish I knew about this idea a few years back when we hosted two weddings in our backyard in two years. We rented reclaimed wood farm tables – VERY expensive. You could legitimately host weddings and other events in your backyard. A lot of work? Yes. Profitable? YES YES YES. I love every single thing about every single one of your homes. You are so talented.

  5. What a brilliant idea! Thank you so much for sharing. I have been following you on Instagram for quite a while. I just subscribed to your blog and am so happy to be following you here as well.
    One other way to join boards together is with a pocket hole jig. Just thought I would throw that out there for future brilliant projects!

    1. Hi, Vicki! I am so glad you are here to follow along with me on the blog and thank you SO much for the feedback 🙂

  6. My question is this, if you cut the plywood at 92” and then the 2 end pieces at 14” how do you come up with the total length of 96”? Did I miss something?

  7. Love this idea – quick question. If someone leans on one end – what keeps the table from flipping up? Maybe the boards are just heavy enough and it won’t do that. Thank you for the idea and the info!!

    1. There are dining table locks on the underneath of the table to snug the tabletop pieces together and prevent any lifting!

        1. Sorry, this is confusing but the only locks we used were the tabletop locks in Waco. We made them in three pieces so we could store them easier and we added locks to make them stable!

  8. This is a great project. I agree with Vicki that more people probably have a Kreg pocket hole jig to attach the pieces. I have made a similar top that snugly fits over my ironing board to iron large sheets and tablecloths. That seems up your alley. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Years ago I bought a vintage Samsonite card table that came with a 60 inch round wood top that was also framed out to fit over it snuggly. My elderly, now deceased, cousins had entertained often and I found these at their estate sale. They had two of them and I regret not buying both. I have gotten so much use from it and in fact, I will be using it this weekend for a garden party for my mother in law’s 84th birthday! I even bought the vintage round table cloths they used to cover them with!

    1. Oh wow, that sounds so amazing! And so much history in those pieces. I hope the party goes well and is a wonderful celebration for your mother-in-law!

  10. Hi Leslie

    Thank you for sharing the table tops.
    Would you be able to share with us some of the beautiful outdoor chairs you show in your photos

  11. I really like the way you made these tops. They could be quite versatile. I would probably use table covers most of the time but I really like that you basically made these in 5 pieces on the top and I do like the wood look so they would be a little fancier than just plywood in one piece.

  12. I don’t have a handy man or the time to do all those steps to build your amazing outdoor table. But I will tell you what I did and it still looks very elegant. I had a small, wood, pedestal table (they are pretty easy to find used). You could use any cheap wood table, I like the sturdy feeling. Then I throw a big piece of plywood over that (sorry I don’t know the dimensions but it looks similar to yours). My piece is a bit thicker than those thin plywood pieces that warp.) It’s sturdy but it’s nothing to look at. However, no one sees it, I throw a table cloth over it! Voilà! Elegant table that seats 12. By the time all the pretty table wear, table decorations and glasses are added… no one knows they are eating on a piece of plywood.
    In it’s off season I put a plastic table cloth over it and use it for a scrap booking table in the basement. Lots of space to spread out.

  13. Great table idea. Back to Valentine carnation
    Gesture, can you share how are your presenting the carnations, as an arrangement, wrapped or etc? Thought it was a lovely idea so I purchased several bunches from Trader Joe’s yesterday and want to share with friends today. Hoping to hear back from you shortly.
    Leslie you have inspired me into so many of your projects. Have giving me a reason to wake early just to see what you have for us to plan on doing with our extra time. I’ve done the apples, snowflakes, Pom Pom pillow, dining tables and moved from Christmas time to blue and sage then on to Valentines decor. I’m 82 and a retired stager so now have time for my creative juices to be directed in a didn’t way.
    Carnation idea this morning would be greatly appreciated.
    Can’t wait to do you calligraphy learning and gardening along with you this spring, both sound like new challenges.

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