Jack’s Arts & Crafts Table and Built-in Storage Bench

A few months ago I decided to build our family of 5 a new dining table with reference to the Ana White’s Farmhouse Table plans. We knew we wanted to make the table out of some red oak that I had gotten for free, so I intended to deviate from the plans a bit. Long story short, I deviated from the plans quite a bit. The plan was to make the table essentially with free materials I was given when I began woodworking last year, but that changed when I spent several days squaring up the rough stock and realized with the tools I had, I would be squaring stock for weeks!

The first major mistake I made: jointing a crowned plank in the center of the table-top…whoops! After gluing, Kreg jig screwing, and sanding, I realized there would be no way to get the crown out of the top. So…the first table-top became the bench seat and the other half is going to be used for a computer desk in another room. After a trip to the local lumber yard, I had about $220 worth of red oak: Four 1x4x14ft planks for the legs and Seven 1x6x6ft planks for the table top.

I began by cutting the 14′ 1×4’s to length and then jointing them with lots of glue and clamps to form the legs. Next I set up the table saw to notch out the tops of the legs to receive the box. I prefer this method over using a circular saw or jig-saw as indicated in the plans. My wood-chisel cleaned things up and then I sanded, scraped using a card scraper after following Marc’s podcast on sharpening them, applied two coats of stain, and finished with two coats of wipe-on poly.

I followed Ana’s plans to construct the 2×4 base, modifying it to fit the size of my table and the specific overhang I sought. I also simply used 2×4 scraps to span the width of the box, and then Kreg jigged them to the box and table-top for support. I jointed the table-top planks using a Kreg Jig and glue. Lots of sanding and scraping again, and then I flipped the top, attached the box, and attached the legs. I used more of the 1×4’s for the skirts to hide the 2×4 box.

We decided we also wanted a built-in bench for storage instead of a free standing one to accompany the table. I followed the plan at the following site, modifying it as necessary to match the length of our table. I only built the bench and not the wall unit (http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/how-to/intro/0,,20301255,00.html). My mistake with the first table-top ended up being a blessing of sorts when we were looking for a sturdy bench-top.

All in all, we love it! It took a good deal of time to finish the table in part because I’m a horrible perfectionist and I’m fairly new to woodworking. The bench, on the other hand, was finished in a day.

The table is constructed entirely out of red oak and measures 6’x38.5″. The bench-top is also red oak. The bench is birch plywood and pine.

On future projects, I’d like to try mortise and tenon joinery to be truer to the Arts & Crafts movement and style. Total cost for table: $220 for wood; we already had all other supplies. Bench: $25; again, we already had most of the materials needed.


  1. Thomas Kaiser May 16, 2013

    Simple but very nice. Would have like to see more of the build. Did you make the chest too????

    • Jack Baker May 19, 2013

      Thanks for the kind words Thomas! I did make the chest. The link to it is found in the post–it was a project from This Old House that I modified to fit our needs. My wife sewed together a beautiful cushion to go on top; though, it looks great with or without it. We simply don’t have a great deal of extra space in our entryway, so we needed a place to store things like crafts for our children.

  2. Don F May 17, 2013

    Simply beautiful. Beautifully simple.

    • Jack Baker May 19, 2013

      Thanks Don! One of the characteristics that drew me to Craftsman style was its simplicity. Ruskin, Morris, and the Pre-Raphaelites captured my interest in graduate school, and I’ve gone to them for inspiration ever since.

  3. Buster May 17, 2013

    I agree, Don. It almost looks to nice to eat on!

    • Jack Baker May 19, 2013

      You might not say that if you could see it now!!! Our children do their best to keep plenty of food on it instead of on their plates.

  4. Frank May 17, 2013

    Very nice. I’m assuming that when you talk about the box you are really talking about the apron? From the pics it kind of looks like the method of construction was to form the top, attach that to a specifically sized box (apron?) to allow for a certain amount of table top overhang, then attached L shaped legs to the corners of the box (apron?). I would be interested to know how sturdy you think it to be and maybe hear some updates over time. I like the idea of this project, I have a remodeled kitchen but the eating area is still small, and I think a built in bench with matching table, sized for the area, is the way to go to save space (slide the table into the wall/corner) but still have plenty of room for people to sit around the table when you need it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Frank May 17, 2013

      Okay, not L shaped legs. I see that now.

    • Jack Baker May 19, 2013

      Dear Frank, You’re right on about the process. I joined the top first, attached it to the box/frame, attached the legs, and finally added the apron pieces: the apron is a false one behind which is a box made of 2 x 4’s. A good deal of the structural support comes from this frame. The notches in the legs received the 2 x 4 frame, which was glued and screwed to the legs. I was a bit concerned about expansion and movement, but I’ve not had a problem yet, and we’ve nearly made it through a full year. I added the oak apron to the frame to hide it; I have to say, unless you get on your back under the table, you would never know there are 2 x 4’s holding it together. The frame also allowed me to go with a 3/4″ top because I was able to use pocket-hole screws to attach it to the frame.

      Space was a big concern for us. We have a family of 5, so we needed a table big enough for us to grow into, and the bench allows us storage and seating for 3 if needed. In terms of its sturdiness, I have been very impressed. I have a little one who hangs on the corner of it all the time; it is also fairly heavy; our greatest concern has been with the corners meeting the head of our two smallest. We purchased some of those gaudy corner covers you can get from Target, but they only stay attached for a short time. All in all, we love the table!

  5. Ray May 19, 2013

    Very nice table and bench. I like that you chose to do a built in for the seating. Are you building chairs to accompany the other side? I am working on a bed project currently where I had to decide how I was going to get to the thickness I wanted on for bed posts. I decided to go with a miter lock router bit. I have to say that afterward, while the set-up took a little time, it is a wonderful way to create leg stock for projects.

    • Jack Baker May 19, 2013

      Thanks for the comment Ray (which, by the way, is my middle name!). The built-in has been a lifesaver. I wish I had the skill to build chairs–I’m still a newbie. We bought some cheap ones from IKEA to hold us over until we find something better. It sounds like you have your hands full with your bed project. The legs were by far the most challenging, yet rewarding, step of the build.

  6. Mike May 20, 2013

    Looks great. There are plenty of anti-red oak people out there, but it does work well under a dark stain. You get the benefit of rich color and visible wood grain. Plus, it is one of the few woods that I find easy to stain. Did you kreg screw the table top boards together, or did you give that up after trying it on the bench top? If your edges are flat and you get good glue contact when edge-glueing, I am not sure the screws add anything other than another hour of work drilling and screwing. After using biscuits on my first few panels I finally admitted they were not adding any value and now I just glue and clamp them together. I defies common sense that glue is so strong! But I could see a few pocket screws helping hold things together while the glue dries, rather than having to use 25 clamps.

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