Friday, December 14, 2018

American Trestle Table - Part I: The Plan

The Frau and I flew in to Germany yesterday for the holidays. We need to spend a few days during Christmas with the Schwiegereltern (in-laws), but the rest of the time I'll be home with access to my shop.

As a reminder, I followed The Frau to Spain when she was offered a temporary position there. We'll likely stay there another couple of years before we come back to Munich, where we own an apartment with my shop in the basement storage room. While we're away, a friend has been looking after our apartment, which is really nice, and removes the stress of wondering if our apartment is doing OK.

Since she is really hooking us up with this, I had no problem offering to make her a dining table when we found out she bought a new apartment that is being built.
Future table.
In other (shorter) words, I have a client who wants a table.

After collecting some information from her, I found out she wants a table that is approximately 160cm x 80cm. She is putting it in the corner of her kitchen/diner, between two benches that are being reupholstered.
The benches that this table will go with.

I thought that a four-legged table would make getting in and out of the benches difficult, so the client agreed (to The Frau's horror, because she hates this design) my idea of a trestle table similar to the one Christopher Schwarz built for Popular Woodworking a few years back.

I'm extremely excited because I've always wanted to build this table, but have never had a reason to. The client absolutely loves the look of this table, so it's a win-win.

The client was really excited when I showed her what I had in mind for a table top. She agreed to buy a solid slab of maple that I sourced from a friend here in Munich. It looks awesome in the single picture I have of it, and I can't wait for it to be delivered to me later today.
Solid maple slab.
My friend is a carpenter and his hobby is collecting slabs of wood to make dining tables. He agreed to let this one go, even though it's already been flattened with a CNC machine and given a coat of oil.

Unless I can talk the client into a little longer of a table, I'll have to lop off about six inches from one end. This slab is 190cm x 80cm x 4cm. It's a little thick for this table's design, so I'll likely lighten up the look by beveling a wide chamfer on the underside. This is a trick I've used before to make a thick table top appear thinner than it is.

The client also wants the corners to have a heavy rounding so it doesn't hurt when it is bumped into.

All of that is no problem, and with the single slab table top, there is not much that has to be done to get the table top ready. Nearly all of the effort for this table will be in the base. At least, that's the plan.

The client surprisingly liked the idea of the base painted black. This is great, because I then won't have to worry much about what the actual wood looks like for the base. I'll stick with CS's idea of laminating pine boards together to make the square beams for this table. Since it'll be painted, my plan is to use scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) because it is light and easy to work.

The main difference for my table, is it will have to be adjusted from the one in the magazine by making it substantially shorter.

Luckily, I remembered that CS posts SketchUp files for all of his projects online, so I downloaded the one for this table.

I suck with SketchUp, but I was able to get something that vaguely resembles the table in the correct dimensions (see the first picture in this post). I adjusted the table top in Sketchup to the desired dimensions of 160x80, and then adjusted the base. I chose the dimensions of the base by making the negative space of the base a golden rectangle. It seems to look pretty good to my eye.

I often don't work with plans or cut lists, but if I have a project with definite parameters, I find they help.
My cut list. Kiefer is the German word for scots pine.
Luckily the client's new apartment is still under construction, so if I don't finish this by the time we leave for Spain after the holidays, I'll be able to finish it up next time.

Wish me luck!


  1. Sounds like a great holiday, have fun!

  2. I’ve been wanting to make this table since I saw it at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. Thanks for linking to the Schwarz article. I've often wondered about the two brackets on the inside of the legs. In the museum version, they look to be screwed on. They're made from the same board as the main cross beam and don’t look like they were glued up and planed flush before assembly. I guess they're added in case the joinery isn’t absolutely perfect or the draw boring pulls things out of alignment? Also, the top is pine with hardwood breadboard ends and attached to the frame with wooden pins (I'll be using buttons myself). Anyway, here's a flicker set I did if you're interested.

    1. Hey Paul, thanks for the comment. Also, thanks for your pics in the flickr album. I'm not sure what brackets you mention. Are you talking about the corbels added to the stretcher? I'm pretty sure those are just decorative, and they very well might cover up some joinery sins. One of the tables you show has some rails that look to me like they once were for a hanging drawer that is no longer there. I'd love to see a photo of your table when you're done.


    2. Yes....corbels is the word I was looking for. I agree with you that they're likely decorative -being attached with screws seems to undermine any sort of structural rigidity they could offer.

    3. Looking forward to this. It really is an excellent looking table.

    4. That table to the left has runners for a middle drawer and an end drawer as well. It's held together with bed bolts, so comes apart for moving. When I get a bigger place, I'd like to make something like it too.

    5. I hadn't considered bed bolts. Hmmmmm.

  3. Brian I look forward to seeing the end result. That is a beautiful slab. By the way the “in-laws” have more letters in their name than I do. ��
    Fröliche Weihnachten ����

    1. Haha! Thanks, Ray! The slab is stunning, and I have yet to take a photo of it that does it justice. As soon as I do, I'll post some pics.

      BTW, "Schwiegereltern" is the German word for "in-laws." My way of saying The Folks of The Frau. :)