Five Minute Project: College Table

Thanksgiving Photo copyright the Five Minute Woodworker
Photo copyright the Five Minute Woodworker

So, Thanksgiving is coming up. Got someplace for everybody to sit? Not worried ’bout the food, because we are a creative culture – we can find just about anything to eat. But having a place for people to gather, to set dishes down, to do writing at… now that’s something that causes some stress.

There are plenty of people who worry about knocking their plates over at times other than just Thanksgiving. The family reunion. Tailgating parties at home. Housewarming parties. Inviting the boss over. Moving to a new place. Having new carpet put down. College graduations. I could go on, but you know all these moments happen. (Maybe not to everybody, but someone out there might find a familiar one.)

Not everybody is comfortable balancing a plate on one knee while cutting food on the plate. And keeping a glass of beverage at your feet is dangerous with pets or kids around… or clumsy guests. Not everybody has space or funds for a full size table. And let’s face it: college kids aren’t always interested in matching furniture or coordinated styles. Nor should they be. There’s a lot going on in the college world. So the average college student doesn’t have a massive amount of time to spend getting a table.

But if you have just a couple of minutes, a need for a medium sized table, and a desire to try to build something yourself, I’ve got a project you just might like.

It is built from basic construction lumber you can find at any home improvement center or lumber yard. While you can find better quality plywood at select dealers (hardwood, lumber, furniture, specialty, etc.), some time spent looking for a flat piece of decent plywood can be done at any of the DIY stores. You will need to take some time to find straight boards and plywood, and while that might be intimidating, it is definitely worth the effort. (Plus, for those who have never done it before, you get to look like you know what your doing.)

The first thing, if you’ve never shopped for wood before, is to get a cart. Not a shopping cart, but one of those metal lumber dollies. You will only need one sheet of plywood and two 2x4s, so don’t go overboard. But try to find the straightest 2x4s and flattest 4×8 sheet of plywood you can.

Stay away from the pressure-treated or outdoor rated stuff. You are looking for a 3/4 inch sheet of plywood, 4 feet by 8 feet, that is “cabinet grade” or similar. (Preferably free of voids – holes – or knots, but it’s not necessary.) For the 2x4s (two inches by four inches), look for straight, knot-free boards in the Select or Select Stud category. (If you can find better, by all means use it.) While these types of 2×4 are more expensive, they still can be purchased for under $2.50 apiece.

As for tools, you will really only need two: a saw, and a drill.  While the drill is straight-forward, you have a couple of options.  I’d suggest a corded one, because you will need to drill holes, then drive screws.  The saw should be either a circular saw or a jig saw, both of which can be found used on places like Craigslist for as little as $20.  (Obviously, newer means more warranty.  Please, make sure you understand the dangers and manufacturers instructions before operating the saws.)  While more tools can only help, they are not absolutely required.

The last two required items are fairly easy to come by.  The first is a pencil (so you can mark out your lines to cut/measure/drill), and the second is some blue painter’s tape.  You could use professional clamps, you could use packing tape, you could use even duct tape.  But the painters tape holds long enough, and doesn’t pull the plywood apart when you remove it.

End view of the assembled Five Minute College Table
End view of the assembled Five Minute College Table

Well, enough teasing.  Stay tuned for the instructions, in just a few.


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