Cedar Table Construction

Building a simple wooden table is an easy way to apply classroom academics to real-time manufacturing. The assembly project is based upon a selection from the book titled - Two by Four Furniture: Simple, Inexpensive and Great-Looking Projects You Can Make by Stevie Henderson. 

In this selection of choice, the students are completing a cedar table. The construction of this specific project is currently taking place.  The website and lesson plans will be updated as the project completes specific phases each week.

Past Table Projects

  • Year 2003 - 40 tables built with treated wood
  • Year 2007 - fewer tables built - students presented how the tables were constructed in the breakroom of a local company
  • Materials List

    Part Symbol

    Part A

    Part B

    Part C

    Part D

    Number / Purpose

    (4) Leg

    (4) Leg Support

    (1) Center Support

    (5) Slat

    Board Type





    Board Length

    18' Long

    10" Long

    13" Long

    17" Long

    Step One - Visit your local hardware / remodeling store and compare prices. Students should specifically look at prices associated with different lengths of wood - to include type of wood. Previous tables were made of treated wood. This current table design is using a cedar. It is softer and easy to work with - regarding tools.

    For our purposes, cedar lumber was purchased to construct four tables. Comparing prices took our class several days and involved several math lessons.

    Only a few of my favorite stores! When visiting the business, ask questions. Our students found an assortment of screws. Galvanized screws resist rust.

    Step Two - Measuring the Boards - Students were divided into sub-groups. Each team was assigned boards to mark for cutting. Individuals used the measurements as described above. We discussed the importance of being precise.

    It is important to go slow and not rush your students. This day, the teacher marked the first board as a demonstration. Thereafter, each board was marked with a pencil by a student. A second student verified the length with a tape measure.

    Step Three - Sending the Boards to be Cut - In past projects, the school's FFA department was recruited. Assigning certain parts of the project to outside groups or supporting adults, removes any safety issues when working with students with disabilities. These individuals should be encouraged to independently complete as much as possible - without interference.

    Step Four - Quality Check / Verify Cut Length - Once the wood returns from being cut according to the requirements in Step Two, the students will verify the length of each board and the number of pieces cut. It is important that individuals take ownership in the project. During a past assembly, the legs were not all cut the same length. For this reason, our craftsman / students have learned to conduct inspections during each phase of the construction.

    Step Five - Sanding - Two sessions are devoted to a pre-sanding of the lumber pieces. The 8-pack of sandpaper shown cost $3.68. Students can fold each sheet into quarters and cut the pack to make 32 smaller sandpaper sheets. The group usually sits in a circle and lightly sands the ends of the boards. Students are looking for any jagged edges or imperfections which may cause splinters. Leave the wood's natural grain. Students may have a tendency to sand in one spot of the board. Be careful - this is just a light sanding.

    This lesson allows for good music and conversation. Enjoy this time and learn about your students.

    • Keep track of your sandpaper. Individuals may throw away used pieces and ask for a new one without regard to cost. This is a cost-saving measure. Continue using worn pieces of sandpaper if possible.

    Step Five Continued - Each length of board published had a stapled bar code.  Use pliars to pull the staple containing the price tag.

    Step Six - Painting / Staining - After sanding, an optional step might be to add a stain or paint.  Our choice of cedar will help the table last through outdoor use.  Using a stain or paint increases the durability of the table and adds a preference of color.

    In this demonstration, a MINWAX Wood Finish (Cherry #235) was used.  Be sure to paint with the grain.  During this process, we recommend the use of protective gloves and household aprins.Brush off the excess paint in the can's edge before coating the boards.  Once complete, place the cedar boards outside and allow to thoroughly dry. 

    Step Seven - Building the Table Legs - There are four leg supports - two on the top and two in the middle.  Mark the top and bottom ends with a pencil mark - one inch from the end. Do the same for the middle brace support - only doing one side.  

    This important step will assist with a angled drilled hole - in the next step.

    After marking the board, make a small indention using a 3/8 drill bit.  This is only a slight depth.  Students can assist with this process using a low impact drill.  This develops good fine motor control.  The final product should look simular to the picture below.

    Step Eight - Dowel Rod Support - Cut (4) three inch sections of dowel sticks.  From the bottom end of each leg, measure up 8 inches and drill a hole using a 3/8th inch bit.  Insert a dowel rod 1 1/2 inches into the leg.  Gently tap the dowel rod into the leg.

    Upon completion of all four legs and leg supports, your final product should look like an "H"  You should have two sets.

    Using two of the leg supports, drill a hole into both ends.  Insert the leg support into the dowel rod of each leg.  

    Note - Exterior / Galvanized wood screws resist the outdoors.  This step allows for lots of hands to assist with the holding.

    Caption - Within the picture to the left, students are diagonally adding a three inch galvanized exterior screw.  The individual used the predrilled indention from Step Seven.  Using this small hole marker, the student could make an agled hole into the support.  The hole allows the student to follow the long three inch screw through the leg support and into the leg - without splitting the timber.  During this step, the dowel rod assists the support not to move from pushing the screw deep into the wood.

    Step Nine - Adding the Top Leg Supports - Again, pre-drill the holes for your 3 inch screws.  On both ends of the top legs, Screw together the top leg supports completing the "A" pattern.  Repeat for both sets.

    At this point, two sets of leg pieces should be finished.  See picture to the left.

    Step Ten - Adding the Center Brace - We'll measure the center of the bottom support with a pencil.  This is a great opportunity to use the ruler.  Students should place the center brace in the center and mark both sides.

    Complete a pre-drill between the pencil marks.  Connect the two sets of table legs and the center brace using 3 inch galvanized screws.  Stand the connected leg-set upright and make sure the unit alligns straight.  All legs should balance using a level.

    Step Eleven - Completing the Table Top - Place the five table slats on the top.  Allign the boards on all four sides with an equal edge overlap.

    After predrilling the holes, add two galvanized screws to the end of each board.  This type of screw will prevent premature rust.

    Step Twelve - Signing the Bottom - The students of our program generally sign the bottom of the tables with a sharpie.  This is an optional choice which adds a personal touch.  This present run of tables has nine student signatures.  It is important for our students to practice several times on a "trial board" before signing the finished table.

    Our Finished Product - During this first run, we completed four cedar tables.  Two were left with a natural wood.  One was stain with a red oal tint and the last was given a clear cloat seal (our favorite).