136 – Trestle Table (Part 3 of 3)

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Once the cross-members are milled to length and width, I’ll use the Domino once again to create the mortises on the ends. I then use a hand-held router and a round-over bit to give the cross-members their final shape. During the routing process, I noticed a small knot that was easily repaired with some epoxy.

Dry Assembly

At this stage, we are ready for a critical dry assembly. Putting the pieces together gives us a good perspective on the final look of the piece. This is pretty much our last opportunity to fix any major issues. Are the feet too wide? Are the ankles blended well enough? Are the cross-members too thick? There really aren’t any right or wrong answers here but you should take your time and think critically about your choices.

Finishing Touches

The top receives a nice low roundover from a special table top bit. This is not quite the same thing as a regular round-over bit as you’ll see in the video. It creates a profile that is not only pleasing to the eye, but also to the touch. This is very important for a surface that will have to support my arms for a long period of time. The top will also receive two relief cutouts in the back for wires. This will allow the table to be pushed right up against the wall.

Attaching the Top

The top is secured to the legs with screws in elongated holes. The elongation is necessary because the top will expand and contract with seasonal changes. Since these screws are going right into the leg tops, it’s a good idea to cover the screw heads using a plug. Instead of using an end grain plug from a dowel, a face grain plug will provide a much nicer effect. If you match the grain properly, you might never even notice the plug.

The Final Finish

The finish of choice for my trestle table is General Finishes Arm-R-Seal, a very high quality wiping polyurethane. Prior to applying the poly, I apply a single coat of dewaxed shellac to help speed up the finishing process. A coat of 1 lb cut shellac dries within 30 minutes or so and helps seal the surface nicely. This helps the varnish build faster and cuts some time out of the finishing schedule. Four to five coats makes a terrific durable finish.

Bonus Stuff

I included two additional discussions in this episode: one focused on lung safety and respirators and one focused on pore-filling products.

Categories: Finishing, Projects


  1. Daniel December 22, 2010

    As always, great video. I’m definitely gonna have to get me a couple of those long parallel clamps, didn’t know they made them that long.

  2. MolecularCarperter December 22, 2010


    Fantastic…well worth the extra wait! The profile from that router bit really made an aesthetic improvement to an already beautiful design. It was cool to see the before and after on the cross members. The opening of the screw slots from the top face, that registered a pucker factor. My question is, let’s say you got too aggressive and marred the countersink edge, what’s the repair for that, CA, filler, etc.? I also appreciated the discussion on pore filling. I’ve not done this but was wondering what if you don’t shellac first, but rather pore fill with the dyed filler and then sand the surface…do you still get staining of surface and an overall change in the final finish? Are these topics covered in your finishing DVD?


      Extra wait? I think I released these videos in record time! lol. Don’t get used to this pace. :)

      As for the counter sink edge, I would probably fill the hole with the plug, flush it to the surface, and then fix the remaining flaw with a little sawdust and CA glue. Another option would be to use a commercial filler. Just remember that its on the underside and will rarely, if ever, be seen.

      Now if you don’t seal the surface first, you wil indeed stain the wood. I have done this in the past and as long as you don’t mind a little color, it works out just fine.

      And the DVD really covers one thing, the wiping varnish finishing method.

  3. Andrew Raastad December 22, 2010

    Great video series, the finished table is just spectacular. Thanks for letting us come along to see how it was built from beginning to end!

  4. Justin December 22, 2010

    Looks Fantastic Marc! I am sure you will enjoy that for many years to come!

  5. TJ71 December 22, 2010

    Really nice table!!, i wonder if it would be more comfortable if the legs were spun 180degs to give you more leg room under tha table (vertical pieces sloped the other way). Those long raiding times can leave your legs a bit cramped :). Merry Christmas!

  6. Jeremy Silsby December 22, 2010

    Very Nice Marc. You have inspired me to build my own, maybe not so big lol. Where did you get that hand sanding block that takes orbital sanding paper, at least that what it looks like. Thanks again for another great video

  7. Stan December 22, 2010

    Hey Marc,

    Great video as usual! I agree that you got this series out in record time. Especially considering the length of each episode! I always appreciate the effort you put into all your videos.
    I have just a quick question regarding your recent videos…in the closing music, is the woman singing “Like Marc M. Spagmolo…The Wood Whisp-air…” Am I hearing things? Is she really saying an “M” in the middle? Is it just a random phrase that I’m hearing that way because, you know, you are the Wood Whisp-Air? I realize your name is not “Spagmolo”, but I’ve listened to it several times and just can’t hear it any other way. This is a silly question…but inquiring minds and all that…:)

    What is she singing???

    Again, thanks for a great website and video content!


  8. OfficeSpaceWoodworking December 22, 2010

    Why CA glue for that small knot repair instead of epoxy? Color?

  9. Kevin December 22, 2010

    Marc, best video yet. You da man.

    Question, you mentioned that you gave the finish about 4 days to cure… can you still smell the finish if you really sniff it? I have some finished bookcases (covered in Arm-R-Seal) in the garage that still smell. I’m afraid to bring them in the house. I read that it can take up to 4 weeks for it to really dry?


      Well it can take definitely take weeks for the odor to dissipate. But the finish is certainly dry enough to bring into the house after a couple days. If the smell offends your nose, you are probably best leaving the project in the shop for a couple weeks with a fresh air supply (not the band). :)

  10. medfloat December 23, 2010


    Another successful project and video series. I enjoyed the series and thank you for sharing. Did you get bit by the flush cut saw when you cut the plug on the leg? Looked liked you flinched a bit…anyway, thanks and Merry Christmas to you and your family.


  11. Joe Corda December 23, 2010

    Great “finish” to a another great project series…

    I especially like your foresight in considering the ways the wood will age and darken while making your coloring choices(or lack of coloring in this case).. I’m with you, I prefer natural finishes .. just adding some protection .. and just let the wood ..be wood.

    Thanks again for sharing your projects with us!
    Merry Christmas.

  12. Claude Stewart December 23, 2010

    Hello Marc Thanks for the videos. You mentioned having over a hundred videos on your website. So I thought would check my Woodwhisperer folder: 132 videos 27.7 gigs.I know there were a few I didn’t download or save. So once again thanks.

  13. Wilton M December 23, 2010

    Great series. You really cannot find better woodworking videos on the internet.

  14. Mike M (http://www.mmader.com) December 23, 2010

    Great video as always Marc!

    That pattern making bit reminds me of an end mill that is used. Where are those available for purchase!

  15. Fred Morady December 23, 2010

    Great video, Marc. Quick question about epoxy- can a tint dye be added to the epoxy to match the color of the wood? To date the only thickening agent I have been able to find is a very white silica product.
    BTW- I’m sold! Will be joining the guild.
    thanks- Fred


      Howdy Fred! The filler material I use is white too. But fortunately epoxy takes dye quite nicely. Transtint concentrated dyes work great. Since I frequently use epoxy to fill knots, I stock up on the dark brown colored dye. Looks very natural and resinous when done properly.

  16. This is one of the best woodworking videos I’ve seen in awhile; watched it all the way through without stopping. You startled me when you suddenly switched to “speed-finishing” there.

    Rockler sells a clear pore-filler called CrystaLac; have you used that? I used it on a small picture frame and it worked well but I’m thinking of using it on a large maple bed, but it’s water-based so I may not have as much working time.

    Such an awesome table. I want to make something like that for my entry.

    Thanks Marc for kicking off my vacation with a woodworking video!


      You know, I haven’t tried CrystalLac yet. But I imagine if you use it over a sealed surface, you might stand a good chance of getting it applied to the entire surface before drying. Apply it to the raw wood and you won’t be able to move as quickly.

  17. did you use satin finish for every coat, or just the last 1 or 2? i always heard to build with gloss so that you don’t mute out the wood.


      If I am doing a “light finish” (3-4 coats), I will sometimes just go with satin the whole way through. The effect on the clarity is really negligible. Now on a thicker finish, its probably a good idea to start with gloss and finish up with your sheen of choice. Even more than clarity, I have seen streaking become a major issue with too many coats of satin.

  18. Tim December 23, 2010

    The table looks amazing! I’m looking forward to building one someday when I have a little more space + cash. Any tips on getting rid of burn marks from router bits quickly? I noticed some burning on those recesses you made for the cords (which I get all the time even from my excellent quality bits) and it usually takes me an eternity of sanding on that end grain to get rid of. Is that just the nature of the beast?


      Definitely the nature of the beast, but there are certainly a few tricks you can employ to get rid of the burned areas. Any time you can use a card scraper, instead of sanding, you are better off. Burns run pretty deep so with sanding you’ll be there for a while. A good sharp scraper will make quick work of it. Also, on this table, I used a slightly more risky method involving a chisel. Now I wish I would have kept that footage in. The video was running way too long already so something had to go. But on a tight curve like the ends of the recesses. I will use the chisel with the bevel down, and sort of scrape/slice the contour. Its something you have to see to really understand but I take advantage of the nice sharp chisel edge to get the job done.

  19. rab December 23, 2010

    Great vid. What was the model # of the special Eagle tabletop edge bit?


    Just wanted to throw out a big THANK YOU for all the great support on this series. I am glad it was so well-received. It gets old saying thank you to each person individually so here’s a big wet virtual kiss for all of you. You sure know how to make a woodworker feel good! Keep the chips flying friends, and happy holidays!

  21. Dave M. December 24, 2010

    Great video and finished project! Really like the look of this table.

    Did you get your inspiration from one of the tables in the 2009 AWFS Fresh Wood Student Competition? Your tables’ legs reminded me of one I think.

    Keep up the videos….I (and many I think) really look forward to them. I myself am spoiled coming on this journey so late I had three years of videos to watch without waiting. LOL

    Newbee from Chicago

  22. John December 24, 2010

    I?ve been contemplating a table project, in a very similar yet very different aesthetic style, so this has been an interesting series.

    You?ve possibly answered a dilemma I have in putting a high gloss finish on an Ash (very open grain) table top. No matter how I tinted the filler for the test pieces, the final finish just wouldn?t come out both natural looking and the right color. You mentioned a thin shellac sealer before filling, and that looks like the answer that hadn?t occurred to me. Thanks for that.

    Now about those two Amax monsters. That’s a serious gaming household. Or do you use them as very pricy space heaters?

  23. Mike G December 24, 2010

    Nice Job, Marc!

  24. Jared December 27, 2010

    Nice table videos, love the style of your work. I noticed your Cyclone is going through a filter. Didn’t it go straight outside before?

  25. Rick December 28, 2010

    Excellent 3-part video series. An incredible amount of your personal knowledge provided to those of us who are part-time woodworkers. Thank you for your inspirational instruction.

  26. i just saw a TV show that built a trestle table in about 20 minutes… the show pales in comparison to your video series and the table didn’t look half as good in the end.

    Thanks again for the top notch quality.

  27. Grant Gush December 31, 2010

    Hi Marc – Brilliant Videos!

    What are the ratios to dilute shellac, and with what?

    I often use oil based finishes, wipe on & brushes, would it be advised to use a respirator similar to yours when finishing?

    The woodworking files you use mostly, are they specially graded for wood? or are they metal/ wood files?

    Possible joint solution for the underside of the trestle table would be a sliding dovetail joint, something similar to what you did with the keepsafe boxes… if you can imagine that…

    South Africa


      Hey Grant. Shellac is diluted with denatured alcohol typically. As far as ratios, it depends on what concentration you want, which is referred to as “cut”. So a 1lb cut is a more dilute solution than a 2 lb cut. For sealing purposes, most folks use either 1lb or 2lb cut. For a quick way to calculate shellac dilutions and ratios, check out the WoodShop Widget: http://woodshopwidget.com/inde.....p3=1&
      A very handy tool!

      The files I use are known as cabinet-makers rasp and they are specifically made for wood.

      And that’s a great idea for attachment to the table. The only issue I would have with it is the fact that I have an overhang on both sides of the table. So the design would have to be modified to accomodate the sliding dovetail. But definitely a great way to go.

      Thanks for watching and best of luck with your woodworking!

  28. David December 31, 2010

    Hi, I’ve been enjoying your skills and try to emmulate them as best I can…
    I do have a question/concern though about the leg-glue-up and dominoes, the leverage at the joints might separate the pieces in time.
    First though, I see that you at this time are using the table in a lite-duty-fashion.
    I think that a more positive connection for heavy-duty-use would be to drill about a 7/8″-hole into the side of the middle-leg-member about a quarter of an inch-shy of going through & 2″ from the joint, insert a piece of 7/8 dowel, then using a 3/8′-lag-bolt from the bottom(recessed of course) into the dowel, drawing-up the glued-joint..


      Of course I can only speculate based on my experiences so far in the world of woodworking, but I do think this joint will hold up as is. Between the dominos and the epoxy, there’s quite a bit of strength there. And using lag screws would certainly strengthen things up, but if I can get away with NOT doing it, I’d like to try. On personal projects I don’t mind experimenting a bit.

  29. Hi Marc. Great videos as usual and great looking table.

    Question: Is there a particular reason you use a water dampened cloth to remove the residue from the sanding. I often sand between coats of finish as you did on the table top and use a tack cloth to remove the powder residue.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.


      I just use a dampened rag as a sort of “tack cloth”. The water tends to pull in the dust nicely but I don’t have to worry about buying anything special to get the job done. Not quite as effective as a true tack cloth but a nice compromise.

  30. Chuck Di Perri January 1, 2011

    Do you think that a pneumatic bladder sanding would give you some additional flexibility in sanding those natural flows that you are seeking. I recall that I’ve seen woodworkers using the Pneumatic Bladder type of sanding drum that offers flexibility to shape to the curve you are working with?
    Just a question for thought

  31. Eric January 3, 2011

    Looks fantastic! Won’t be long till there isn’t a single thing in your house that wasn’t made by you!

  32. noumenon January 29, 2011

    First off I have to say Nicole is awesome! I mean a wife that’s a fellow gamer and to top it off a wife that’s willing to help lift a couple hundred pound project off the table with you. Go Nicole! I’d really like to see a picture of you guys side by side gaming at the table to be included with the notes so I’d have some proof to show my wife that there are couples that game together.

    Love the table nice work! Your videos are great and it’s wonderful to see how another woodworker approaches his project and what decisions he makes along the way. The other thing I really like is the systematic approach you show on creating the curves of the piece. That’s usually a big hurdle for beginning woodworkers who want to add those organic shapes to their pieces.

    I also would like to say you’re kind of like Google in the way you give us such great free content to keep us coming back for more and then wham were becoming guild members :) I’m not yet, but after I get done enclosing my carport to become my shop I will be.

    One other thing is you’ve been gaming on this table for a while now and I was wondering how the ergonomics are working for you. Would you change anything? I’ve always wanted a computer desk with one of those keyboard trays that adjust to about every position you can think of, but I couldn’t bring myself to add something like that to a fine piece of furniture.


      Thanks for the kind words, and sorry about the late response. Sometimes a comment slips through and I miss the question. But concerning the comfort level, I LOVE it. Nicole and I both are very happy with the ergonomics and find it to be incredibly comfortable for long gaming sessions. The height is just right, the stretchers are perfect for resting your feet, and the wide roundover on the top is very comfortable on the wrist and arms. So at this point, I wouldn’t change a thing.

      And personally, I can’t stand keyboard trays. For some reason, I am never comfortable working with one. And you’re right, it would be a crime to add one to the trestle table. :)

  33. Rick Uster February 6, 2011

    Nice Work Mark, table looks great! The series was awesome
    Keep the tools humming my man.

  34. Doug Hoffer March 4, 2011

    I love the table. I have always loved trestle style tables and that fact that you kind of morphed that style with a desk is really cool. I love your idea of angling the legs and cross braces to accommodate knee space. I can’t wait to build one for my gamer station. Great Job!!!

  35. josh bucher April 20, 2011

    Nice job.
    What server do you guys play on? :P LOL.

  36. Bryan V June 30, 2011

    That is a great table, it would probably also make a great dining room table with a little modification. This was a great series, I can’t wait to catch your future series.

  37. mntbighker August 12, 2011

    What sort of maintenance is prescribed for this table? What sort of “products” if any? What do you clean the arm gunge with?


      I generally don’t use any products on my furniture. A light dusting with a clean damp cloth is about all it takes. Haven’t really had any arm gunge to deal with yet. I guess I clean that with soap and water in the shower. :)

  38. Josh December 16, 2011

    You mention that the mahogany will naturally change color over time. If you leave the monitors and keyboards exactly where they are for long period of time will you get unchanged spots due to the wood not being exposed to light?

  39. keith January 7, 2012

    Mr. whisperer,
    This table for me is like your coffee table. I’ve done a coffee table and a kitchen island on wheels and caught the bug but since watching your videos and more so the trestle table i’ve caught the fever. My next project is going to be a dining table. I was going to use either maple or ash and do just a basic four leg design. which wood would you use and do you have any suggestions for design type. Thanks for doing all the great work and keep pumping out the vids.


      Hi Keith. Glad you getting fired up! Unfortunately, I am not really all that good at making general recommendations like this. Both maple and ash would be great for a dining room table. And style is a very personal choice. I can think of hundreds of table designs I wouldn’t mind seeing in my house. My best recommendation is to look around the web and find something the whole family likes. Then simply use that as a starting point and build your own version. The sky is the limit. :)

  40. Alex July 10, 2012

    I think I first watched that video when you published it, and I often have questions that can be answered by just re-watching it. Your videos really have a ton of content that I can’t soak up in one or even two viewings!

    The technique you showed on episode 3 part 5, where you sanded with an oil/varnish mixture / danish oil to fill the pores, would it be the best way to have a natural color wood filler on a wood like mahogany that changes color?

    Speaking of color change, could you post pictures of the table now that it had time to change color?


  41. Javier Petrelli December 19, 2012

    Impresionante amigo!!!! haces que fabricar esta hermosa mesa paresca armar legos!!! keep up the nice work! Saludos desde Venezuela

  42. Pitipong January 9, 2013

    Hey, I have been watching your video for a year now. But I just spot that your trestle’s leg was assembly in opposite way.
    Am I correct?


      Opposite of what exactly?? I think I need more explanation to answer your question effectively.

      • Kyle April 17, 2013

        I think what Pitipong is asking Mark is did you initially mount the legs in the opposite direction than intended?

        By the way I have been watching you videos for quite some time and love them. I have been at home that last few days with a hurt back and have gone over several of your videos that I have not watched in a long time.

        You are doing a great job! Keep up the good work.

  43. Neil January 11, 2013

    Marc, I can see that you rounded over the corners on the front and sides of the top-side of the desktop. What about the undersides? Did you round those over well? In some shots it looks like you did and in others it looks like you didn’t.

  44. Ralph Young May 5, 2013

    Loved your video so much I have just built a trestle base for a large walnut slab top table.

    Two observations from my experience:

    Your admonitions about a random orbit sander only apply to a round pad machine. A quarter sheet sander is the perfect sanding AND shaping tool. The straight edges allow you to get right up to the edge of the grain junctures and to even cross them in the finish sanding phase, without worry about grain direction. The paper is substantially cheaper in whole sheets, very easy to install on the Bosch model 1297D, and the 1/4 sheets are quickly and easily cut on a cheap Ofice Depot paper cutter. (If one is to busy, or lazy, Klingspor will even sell them to you already cut.)

    Hogging out the the wood at he junctures can more easily be done by hand than with a grinder that has a tendency to run over and ruin the adjacent piece of wood. I found that Flexcut #11 and #6 palm gouges were faster, more accurate and even easily formed the “scoop” needed . It is quite easy to get an absoluly perfectly smooth joint between the two different thichneses by first “hogging out” wood with the gouges to near the final depth. Then place the blade of the gouge flat against the thin piece and apply an upward rolling pressure to the thick piece. Repeat across thejuncture. The gouge and a rasp can then form the rest of the rough profile. Smooth the profile by holding the straight edge of the random orbit sander parallel to the juncture, with an 80 grit paper, and smooth out the rasp and gouge marks.

  45. Brian August 1, 2013

    Hi Marc,

    I’m just finishing up a trestle table of my own, and I have a question about applying the wiping varnish. How do you deal with wiping on the varnish at places where the grain changes direction (i.e., the intersection between the “feet” and the “leg” or the “leg” and the “arm”)? It’s not as big a deal in your trestle table because the leg portion is so narrow, but I have a very wide leg portion, so it meets the “feet” portion at 90 degrees, so how do I wipe on the varnish without going across the grain at some point? Obviously the first coat doesn’t matter because it will absorb right in, but the subsequent coats would have streak marks, right?

    I did buy your DVD, and it was very helpful, but it doesn’t really answer that question (and this trestle table series only shows you applying the first coat to the base, which just absorbs like I said). Any advice?

    Thanks a lot!

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