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Project: Trestle Table

134 – How to Build a Trestle Table (Part 1 of 3)

Added on November 29, 2010

This is the first in a 3-part series dedicated to the design and construction of a trestle table. But its not your everyday trestle table, since it will have a smooth sculpted look and will be used as a PC gaming desk. Made from solid Honudran Mahogany, it will only get more beautiful with time as it ages to a deep dark red color. And for the first time in a long while, I am knocking a “honey-do” project off the list. Nicole is thrilled!

Trestle Table Anatomy

Trestle tables consist of three primary parts: the trestle legs, the cross member, and the top. Although the concept and principles behind a trestle table are fairly simple, we shouldn’t let that limit us when creating our own unique trestle design. Personally, I admire the work of Sam Maloof greatly and my goal is to bring a little of his influence into this piece. Sam’s work always seems to have a certainly fluidity to it. He had a way of bringing two pieces of wood together so gracefully that it was difficult to tell where the joint was actually located. That’s what I am aiming for with this piece: a fluid structure where one part gracefully flows into the next. Perhaps I’ll make the guys over at the Maloof shop proud….or maybe just embarrassed. ha!

Function First

Although I have a very specific idea of how I want this table to look, I absolutely can not ignore the intended function. If you can believe it, my trestle table will be a gaming surface for Nicole and I. We are big PC gamers and we spend countless hours side by side in imaginary worlds enjoying various adventures, all while our real world counterparts are carefully balancing their computer hardware precariously on a rickety plywood desk. So this new table needs to be sturdy, spacious, and comfortable.

Start with a Sketch

Now that I know the functional and spacial requirements, I can turn my attention to the visual aspects of the design. During this phase, I don’t get too picky. I take a pencil to paper and just start drawing stuff. If I don’t like it, I just cross it out and try again. The idea here is to create the basic rudimentary form that will later be expanded upon and refined. This is really the brainstorming stage of the process. Once I find something that tickles my fancy, I try to recreate it on a larger scale on a piece of 1/4″ MDF. Once the design looks pretty good, I can cut my templates right out of the 1/4″ MDF board.

A Template for my Template

My first round of templates looked good to my eye initially. I used the templates to make a prototype and boy was I surprised at the results! The leg was just too thin and skinny. So literally it’s back to the drawing board, only this time I am using my first templates as the starting point. The legs need to be beefed up in all dimensions. Ideally, I would make a second prototype with my second design, but time is running short. My gut says I am close enough and the show must go on.

Leg Construction

I’m using Honduran Mahogany for the trestle table and the legs will be made by laminating two pieces of 8/4 stock to achieve the desired thickness. Once glued up and milled flat and square, I use my templates to trace the appropriate shapes onto the leg top and bottom blanks. The bandsaw does a find job of cutting through the thick stock and revealing the rough shapes.

Because this piece features some odd angles, a tool like the Festool Domino is going to come in handy. Domino joints are easiest to cut when the pieces are nice and square, so before doing any sculpting, I mark my Domino locations and create the mortises. The Dominos will be used not only for the cross-stretcher joints but also for the connection between the vertical leg members and the top and bottom of the legs.

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Trestle Table

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