How to Make a Reclaimed Table

FoundRe's mission-inspired reclaimed table and matching bench. 

FoundRe's mission-inspired reclaimed table and matching bench. 

There’s nothing like sitting down for a meal on a handmade, reclaimed wood table. Something about it feels lived-in and history-rich, all while still looking polished. And even though a reclaimed table can have a simple look, a lot goes into making one by hand. In 17 steps, we’ll take you through Raun Meyn of FoundRe’s process for making this mission-inspired table.

1.     Selecting your material. When choosing your reclaimed wood, you want to try to find the straightest boards, with the least amount of warping. We recommend older growth reclaimed woods. Older growth typically has a tighter grain, which makes it strong and long lasting.

2.     Remove any metal. When working with salvage wood, you will inevitably find old nails and hardware in the wood, remove any stray metal—this step will help to protect you from flying metal objects and will help to save your tools.

3. Prepping for planing. Check and see where the board is crowning, that’s the natural arch found along the edge of lumber. Before you begin to plane each board, be sure the crown is facing upward, resembling a frown.

4.     Plane each board. When making a flat tabletop, you have to plane and square up each of your salvage boards. First you’ll want to surface plane the board with a planer on both sides, and then be sure the board is planed to the same thickness, about an inch and a quarter, on the top and bottom.

5.     Edging the board sides. Next you’ll want to edge the sides of each board, this helps to make a perfect seem when assembling the boards into a tabletop. Using a series of sleds with clamps can help to hold the board for you against an external straight edge, then you can run the straight side against the fence of the table saw for a perfect line. You’ll do this for each side of every board.

6.    Joining begins. Once all of the material is square and true, you can begin the joining process.  Pre-joining, you’ll chop the boards on miter saw to a length that is a few inches longer than the desired table length.

7.    Layout the boards. Spend some time laying out the boards to be sure they match up nicely. From there you’ll mark along each edge of the soon-to-be adjoining board (about one mark for every 6 inches). This is where you will put your biscuit joints, which are ideal when gluing boards to assemble a tabletop.

8.    Insert the biscuit joints. After marking the boards, use a biscuit joiner to cut a half-moon shape into the wood. Then, hammer in the biscuits with a mallet, and mallet in the adjoining board (sans biscuit) to connect with the freshly biscuited board. Biscuits are structural, but also lock the boards together so that they match up tight and flush.

9.     Glue the boards together. Using Titebond wood glue, apply a heavy amount of glue on both soon-to-be adjoined boards, around the biscuits.  Then, working quickly (because you want to get the tabletop into the clamps before the glue sets), press the boards and mallet them together.

10. Clamp the boards together.  Using a series of clamps, you want to clamp the boards together, with the top of the table facing up. The tabletop will sit in the clamps for 24 hours to be sure the glue has adhered and dried.  

11. Clean the surface. Right after you place the tabletop in the clamps, you’ll want to clean up the glue that has squeezed out due to the pressure of the clamps. Use warm water and rags to wipe off the excess glue. This is especially important to remove from the top of the table.  

12. Trim the sides. Remove the tabletop from clamps after sitting in them overnight and trim each side of the table with a circular saw and a straight edge.

13. Start sanding. Now the table is ready for sanding. Start with an 80-grit sandpaper, move on to a 125, then to a 220, and work your way down to a 400-grit sandpaper until you have a smooth tabletop.

14. Repeat for 1-13 for the legs. Repeat the above steps for the table legs. We opted for a recessed look, and left an open space in the center panel for a beam. When placing your table’s legs, consider the finished dimensions. In this particular design, we opted to leave a 1.5’’ overhang all the way around the tabletop.

15. Put it all together. Once you’ve decided on your leg placement,  mark where the top will be mounted, glue it, and screw it (preferably with brass construction screws). When attaching our legs, we used a simple countersunk screw technique. The screw holes are pre-drilled using a countersink and bit, then after the legs are attached, we used matching wood plugs to cover the screw head.

16. Add a support beam. For additional support, mallet a beam into place from one side to the other. Be sure to brace the legs while malleting the beam into position. Note: You can also use a 2x4 or scrap piece of wood cut to the inside distance between one leg and the other.

17. Protect with a clear coat. Once the table is assembled, relocate it to a dust-free area (or wait until the dust completely settles). From here, you can use a tack cloth to thoroughly clean all of the dust from the table. Next, you’re ready to clear coat the whole thing, brush one coat of polyacrylic on the entire table, including under the table and the insides of the legs (even the stuff you don’t see because this will help to keep the wood from warping). Give it several hours to dry, then sand the table by hand with 400-grit sandpaper to knock off any high spots, wipe then clear coat again. You’ll do this three times total, after the final sanding, clean the table then finish it with a paste wax.