When it comes to home furniture, the dining table can be a magnificent centerpiece. For those who want to entertain guests regularly, a harvest table is a perfect accent, as it allows for larger groups while maintaining an intimate vibe. Because these tables are not very common, the best option is to build one yourself.
So, with that in mind, we’re going to illustrate how to build a harvest table out of reclaimed wood. Reusing old wood is ideal because it adds to the rustic and natural vibe of the table. Also, old-growth lumber is naturally thicker and heavier, meaning that the table will last a lifetime. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- What You’ll Need
- Step One: Finding the Wood – Cross Beam
- Step Two: Finding the Wood – Trestle Ends
- Step Three: Finding the Wood – Table Top
- Step Four: Cutting the Mortise and Tenons
- Step Five: Fitting the Trestle Ends
- Step Six: Measuring and Cutting the Table Feet
- Step Seven: The First Setup Test
- Step Eight: Making the Table Top
- Step Nine: Coating and Staining the Table Top
- Step Ten: Coating and Staining the Rest of Your Reclaimed Wood
- Step Eleven: Bringing the Pieces Inside
- Step Twelve: Adding Felt Pads
- Step Thirteen: Setting Up the Table Base
- Step Fourteen: Inserting the Mortise Keys
- Step Fifteen: Placing the Table Top On
- Step Sixteen: Finishing Touches
What You’ll Need
Most of the pieces for the harvest table can be cut by hand. However, depending on the size of the wood beams and tabletop boards, you’ll likely have to use power tools to make the job easier. Additionally, epoxy or some other strong adhesive is necessary for gluing the boards together. Here are the essential elements you’ll need to complete this project.
- Hand Saw
- Circular Saw
- Reciprocating Saw
- Hammer and Chisel
- Two or Three Saw Horses
- Shop Vacuum (for removing wood dust)
- Power Sander (you could sand the table manually, but that will take forever)
- Clamps (for holding the glued pieces together)
- Level and Measuring Tape
- Epoxy (both for gluing and coating the tabletop)
- Wood Stain
Step One: Finding the Wood – Cross Beam
Because you’re making this table from scratch, you can design it however you like. That being said, most harvest tables are constructed with as few elements as possible. First, there is a cross beam along the bottom, which braces the trestle ends and provides stability. When sourcing the reclaimed wood, it’s best to get oak or pine. We also recommend buying a beam that’s a bit too long for the table so that you can cut your trestle ends from it. It’s usually better when all of the pieces match, but feel free to get different reclaimed wood for the trestle ends.
Whenever buying reclaimed wood, be sure to check for large knots, as they can reduce its strength. Also, cutting through knots by hand is incredibly hard, so be aware of their location.
The length of the cross beam should be slightly shorter than the tabletop. Before getting started, we recommend measuring the space where the table will go, so you know how long it should be by the end. There is no right answer – only what fits best. For example, if you want a 20-foot table, the cross beam should be about 18 feet. This will give space for people to sit on the ends without running into the trestles.
Step Two: Finding the Wood – Trestle Ends
If you can cut the trestles from your crossbeam, that will help save time and money. You will need four pieces in total to ensure the stability of the final product. Otherwise, just make sure that each piece is cut identically.
The trestle ends will dictate the height of your harvest table. On average, tables like this should be about two to two and a half feet high. Any more than that and it will be uncomfortable for you and your guests (unless you use barstools as seats). We recommend cutting one trestle and then using that as a guide for the other three to ensure they match.
Overall, the trestle ends should be about six inches thick, which means power tools will be necessary. If you have a planer, that can give you sharp, clean edges. Otherwise, you’ll have to sand them after cutting.
Step Three: Finding the Wood – Table Top
You won’t be able to get a single piece of wood for your tabletop. Instead, it’s better to glue boards together. To help make this project a little easier, we recommend using as few boards as possible – three should suffice. On average, the width of your table should be around 36-40 inches – much more than that, and it will be too wide to reach across. So, if you have 12-inch boards, that will be perfect. Also, be sure that they are the full length of the table (i.e., 20 feet). If not, that will create a ridge in the center where the boards meet, which can be annoying. Finally, the boards should only be about two to four inches thick.
Step Four: Cutting the Mortise and Tenons
If you’ve done woodworking before, then you should be familiar with a mortise and tenons joint. For this harvest table, you’ll have to create a three-pronged tip on each side of your crossbeam. One prong will go between the trestle ends, and the other two will be the tenons for the trestle mortises. Hand saws or a reciprocating saw can help you maintain precision.
We recommend cutting the tenons first before chiseling out the mortises. Be sure to measure the width and depth of your trestle ends and mark them accordingly on the crossbeam. Also, watch out for any knots, as they can get in the way.
For the mortises, a hammer and chisel is the best way to get through the wood. Then, a reciprocating saw can help you clean up the edges afterward. As long as the tenons fit, you shouldn’t have to worry about sanding the inside. Just clean up the visible parts of the trestle ends, so it looks good when everything is put together.
Step Five: Fitting the Trestle Ends
Once your mortise and tenons are complete, put the ends onto the crossbeam to ensure they fit correctly. If there is too much space for a tight fit, you can use keys to help strengthen the joint. We also recommend installing one side completely before moving onto the other side. This way, you can take notes of any mistakes and correct them on the second try.
In addition to ends, you’ll likely need to add inserts for the middle of the table. Otherwise, the tabletop will sag over time, and could potentially break. Depending on the final length you decided on, one may be sufficient. However, it’s always better to have more support than less, so don’t be afraid to put two center trestles as well. Just make sure that the tops will be even with the sides.
Step Six: Measuring and Cutting the Table Feet
To help stabilize your harvest table, you’ll have to install feet on the ends. One of the best methods is to create identical pieces that can fit on the top and bottom. The bottom feet will prevent the table from tipping over, while the top portion will support the tabletop. Also, keeping them identical will make the whole table look more appealing.
Like your mortise and tenons, we recommend cutting into the trestle ends to install the feet. Because this table will be quite heavy, wood joints are going to hold up a lot better than attaching pieces via nails or screws. If you do everything correctly, you shouldn’t need any metal pieces at all.
Step Seven: The First Setup Test
Once all of your pieces are cut, it’s time to put the base together. Here is where you can pinpoint any problems, such as the tops of the trestles not being even. Make any adjustments necessary now before you move the whole thing into its final space. This is the other reason for using wood joints instead of screws – you can disassemble it for easy transportation.
Step Eight: Making the Table Top
Epoxy is excellent for bonding pieces of wood together. You’ll have to use clamps to make sure that they stay in position overnight, as it takes several hours for the epoxy to harden. When gluing the boards, don’t worry if some of the material bleeds out of the edges – you can sand it off later.
Speaking of sanding, be sure to sand the entire surface so that it’s smooth. Also, be sure to round out the edges so that guests won’t hurt themselves while dining. Sanding the surface will make the epoxy coating bond better as well.
Step Nine: Coating and Staining the Table Top
Once the boards are set, you’ll want to add a thick layer of coating to the top. The reason for this step is to ensure the longevity of your table. Dings and scratches won’t be as much of an issue. You will have to re-coat the table every few years to get it back to its pristine condition.
If the wood you’re using has a beautiful grain, then it can be a good idea to stain the surface first. However, keep in mind that this will make the wood appear much darker, so test the stain on a small section before coating the whole thing. Once again, the epoxy has to set overnight, so we recommend applying it in the mid-afternoon.
Step Ten: Coating and Staining the Rest of Your Reclaimed Wood
Although the tabletop is the most significant piece, you should also stain and coat the other parts. This way, the whole table will have a gorgeous finish and shine to it that will last for years. Just be sure to avoid coating the mortise and tenon joints, as that can make it harder to put them back together.
Step Eleven: Bringing the Pieces Inside
Once everything is stained, you can bring each component into the final space. Remember that the wood pieces will be heavy, so you’ll likely have to enlist help from another person to get it in. The crossbeam is going to be particularly cumbersome, as will the tabletop. Fortunately, your trestles and feet should be pretty easy to bring in and set up. Make sure you have plenty of room to spread out since you won’t be assembling it immediately.
Step Twelve: Adding Felt Pads
Realistically, your harvest table will be too heavy to move once it’s in place. However, it’s always best to plan for it, just in case. For example, if you want to sweep underneath the table, you should be able to move it slightly. To ensure that sliding the table is easy and won’t damage your floors, we recommend placing felt pads on the trestle bottoms and the feet (they should be flush). Once the pads are glued on, we recommend letting them sit for an hour or so to help solidify the bond. If possible, leave the trestles right side up so that there is pressure on the pad the whole time.
Step Thirteen: Setting Up the Table Base
Just as you did during the test, now you can put the base together. Now is also when you want to insert the center supports to ensure that everything is even. We recommend using string to verify. If you need to make any adjustments, now is the time, since you can pop the center posts out and trim them as necessary.
Step Fourteen: Inserting the Mortise Keys
To help ensure that your mortise and tenon joints don’t come apart over time, you can create simple “keys” that insert into the hole. This way, there is an extra-tight seam that will only get stronger.
Step Fifteen: Placing the Table Top On
Once the base is secure, you can bond the tabletop with epoxy. Fortunately, the boards should be heavy enough to create a solid bond, but we still recommend clamps to hold the supports in place. If you want to go a step further, you can drill holes into the boards and insert dowels for added rigidity. Dowels are much better than screws because they can be flush with the surface and won’t be as noticeable.
Step Sixteen: Finishing Touches
Now that your table is complete and in place, inspect it for any touch-ups it may need. For example, you might have to sand a few edges to ensure that they are smooth, or you may need to add some extra epoxy to fill in thin spots on the surface.