If you need a new table and feel crafty, you can make your own out of plywood. Making a plywood tabletop is relatively straightforward, even for the beginner DIY-er. With just one piece of plywood and a few tools, you can make a chic and attractive table that will impress all your guests!
To create a plywood table top, you must gather the necessary safety gear and a piece of high-quality plywood. Then, you need to cut pieces to build the frame, sand down the edges and the top, and apply a finishing oil.
The rest of this article is a thorough guide on creating a plywood tabletop, including a step-by-step process and answers to some relevant questions. Let’s get started!
- Put On Safety Gear
As with any project, the first and most important step is ensuring your safety while working. For this DIY project, you’ll be using a circular saw and a power drill, so I recommend wearing safety glasses, at the very least. You can also benefit from some ear protection.
When you’re sawing a piece of wood, splinters can cause serious damage to your eyes if you aren’t wearing safety glasses, so don’t skip this step!
I like these BISON LIFE Safety Glasses (available on Amazon.com) because they are extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear for long periods. They also provide a secure fit, so they won’t fall off your face while you work. An added benefit is that they are full coverage, completely protect your eyes, and are scratch-resistant, allowing you to use each pair more than once.
- Select Your Plywood
One of the most important steps in creating a DIY plywood tabletop is picking the right kind of wood for the task. If you pick weak or low-quality wood, you won’t end up with a very attractive, sturdy, or long-lasting table, and all of your hard work will be for naught.
On the other hand, if you start with a high-quality piece of plywood, you’re setting up your piece of furniture for success and longevity.
There are various types of plywood available, and it’s a good idea to understand them before you start making your plywood tabletop.
Plywood is wood created by gluing together different plies, which are veneer sheets. These pieces of wood can be extremely durable even though they cost less than solid wood, making them a popular and cost-effective construction choice.
For your tabletop, I suggest using hardwood plywood. Hardwood plywood is made from woods such as birch, maple, or oak. Plies from these woods are glued together at right angles to create the plywood, and this method creates a piece of plywood that can bear weight, which is a good feature for a tabletop.
All plywood is assigned a grade, which indicates its veneer appearance:
You should buy at least A or B-grade plywood for your tabletop. Grade A plywood has a smooth, knot-free, and defect-free surface. Grade B plywood is slightly cheaper but has a smooth surface that will work for your tabletop.
Most stores sell plywood in 4 x 8-foot (1.22 x 2.44-m) sheets or 5 x 5-foot (1.52 x 1.52-m) sheets. You should get a 4 x 8-foot (1.22 x 2.44-m) sheet of hardwood, grade A or grade B plywood, for this DIY project.
- Cut the Plywood
Now that you have your plywood and safety gear, you’re ready to start the actual DIY part of this project.
Here are the cuts you’ll need:
- Two 1.5-inch x 72-inch (3.81 x 183-cm) pieces for the border frame
- Two 1.5-inch x 36-inch (3.81 x 91.44-cm) pieces for the border frame
- One 36-inch by 72-inch (91.44-cm x 183-cm) piece for the tabletop
You can use a miter or circular saw to make these cuts. Ensure that you’re cutting in a straight line to the best of your ability. If you use a circular saw and don’t trust your hand to remain steady and cut in a straight line, I recommend using a straight-cut jig. You can make your own straight-cut jig if you don’t already have one. To learn how, I recommend watching the following video:
- Sand the Edges
After cutting the wood, you’ll definitely have some rough edges that you’ll need to smooth out with high-grade sandpaper. I recommend using at least 120 grit-sandpaper to smooth out the edges without damaging the wood.
I like using these TR Toolrock Sandpaper Sheets (available on Amazon.com) because the pack comes with ten sheets of various grits, allowing you to use the same package for various DIY projects. The paper is also made of premium aluminum oxide, which is durable and antistatic.
I find that sanding with a sanding block is great because it is more comfortable and encourages a more even and consistent sanding job. This results in the edges of your tabletop having a smoother texture.
- Frame the Underside of the Tabletop
Assemble the frame underneath your tabletop by placing the 1.5 x 72-inch (3.81 x 183 cm) and 1.5 x 36-inch (3.81 x 91.44-cm) pieces you cut from the wood around the underside of the larger tabletop piece. Use wood glue to secure these pieces in place.
My favorite wood glue is Gorilla Store Wood Glue (available on Amazon.com) This glue works extremely fast, so you’ll only need approximately 20 minutes of clamp time, and it fully cures in just 24 hours. Another benefit is that you can use it on hardwood, softwood, and natural wood, making it the ideal wood glue to keep for future furniture projects.
After gluing the framing boards in place, attach them to the tabletop more securely using 1.25-inch (3.18-cm) wood screws. Use a power drill to insert one screw around the entire frame every twelve inches (30.48 cm).
- Sand the Tabletop
Once the frame is in place, you’ve successfully created a plywood tabletop! Still, there are some finishing touches you’ll need to apply to make this table top the best it can be. The first is to sand down the top so it is nice and smooth, and you and your guests won’t risk getting splinters every time you sit around the table.
Once again, I recommend using at least 120-grit sandpaper and that you use a sanding block. An excellent recommendation for a sanding block is the Time-Shaver Tools Sanding Block (available on Amazon.com). This sanding block has a comfortable grip that allows me to sand for a long period without my hand getting cramped. I also like that it cuts down on up to 36% of sandpaper waste, and it’s made in the United States.
Take your time sanding your tabletop. After all, you’ve worked hard to get to this point, so allow yourself enough time and patience to ensure the entire tabletop is smooth.
- Apply a Finishing Oil
Finally, you can improve the appearance of your tabletop and help ensure its longevity by applying a finishing oil. I suggest using a hard wax oil because these oils are designed to combat the yellowish discoloration that so many other oils produce in wood products.
Here are my favorite oils to use on plywood tabletops:
- Flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is a popular option for a wood finish, so it’ll likely be easy to find at an affordable price. It deeply saturates wood grain, which protects the wood from scratches. Therefore, I think this is a great choice if you plan on using the table frequently (such as for your dining table) to prevent scratches for as long as possible.
- Walnut oil. Suppose you plan on using your new tabletop for eating or food preparation. In that case, I suggest using walnut oil as your finish. Walnut oil is extremely food-safe, but it takes a long time to dry, so keep that in mind before making a final choice.
- Danish oil. Danish oil is usually a mix of flaxseed or tung oil with other thickeners and binding compounds. This oil creates a water-resistant, attractive finish that appeals to many DIY-ers and woodworkers.
After letting the finishing oil set in, you can paint the table top if you’d like. I like the look of the shiny, polished wood, but it’s your table, so you can paint if you want to!
Benefits of Making a Plywood Table
Now that you know how to make a plywood table top, you might wonder why you’d want to do so in the first place. Beyond the bragging rights of being able to say you made a piece of furniture in your home, there are other benefits of having a plywood tabletop.
Let’s take a look at a few:
- Plywood is lightweight, so moving the table won’t be a hassle. Plywood is a sturdy material that can handle some heavy weight but it doesn’t weigh too much. This quality is ideal for people who move or rearrange frequently. Instead of having to lug around a heavy, solid wood table, you can easily pick up and move your plywood table top.
- Plywood is more affordable than solid wood. Solid wood tables are durable and can be beautiful, but they can also be expensive. Therefore, plywood might be more realistic for you if you’re on a tight budget.
- Plywood is easy to work with. Some materials are quite difficult for DIY-ers to use and work with. Plywood, however, is pretty easy. As long as you know how to use a saw and a drill, you can make a tabletop out of a piece of plywood.
- Plywood is durable. Even though it isn’t as strong and sturdy as solid wood, a plywood table top can still last a long time and hold everything you need. Unless you have a collection of bricks or free weights you want to display, plywood is a strong enough material for a table.
There are many pros to plywood as your tabletop material, so why not try it?
Plywood vs. Solid Wood for Furniture
Plywood is a great material for a tabletop, but it isn’t your only option. You can use solid wood if you’d like. Let’s compare these two choices so that you can understand which option is best for you.
Here are some important ways plywood and solid wood differ:
- Solid wood is stronger than plywood. Solid wood is homogeneous and dense, which makes it sturdier than plywood. Therefore, if you’re planning on putting a lot of weight on your table, you might want to consider using solid wood instead.
- Solid wood will probably last longer than plywood. Solid wood’s sturdiness also leads to its being more durable and likely having a longer life than plywood. You might consider investing in solid wood instead of replacing a plywood table down the line, and the table could even become a family heirloom that’s passed down through generations.
- Solid wood is more expensive. One of the biggest downsides of using solid wood to make a tabletop is that solid wood is significantly more expensive than plywood in most cases.
- Many people consider solid wood to be more attractive. Natural, solid wood can be beautiful, especially if it’s rich mahogany or oak. On the other hand, plywood all looks the same or similar, and most don’t consider it as beautiful as solid wood.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which material you’d like to use to create a tabletop, as both have advantages and disadvantages. It’ll be easier to use plywood for a DIY project, so I suggest starting with plywood if this is your first time making a tabletop.
Creating a DIY plywood table top is relatively simple. First, you must wear the proper safety gear and acquire a high-quality piece of plywood. Then, you cut pieces of wood to create the frame underneath the tabletop. After sanding down the rough edges and assembling the frame, you can apply a finishing oil and enjoy your new tabletop! Plywood is more affordable than solid wood and can still last a long time if you treat it with care.