Saturday, January 31, 2004

Inexpensive dining table easy to make

Question: It is a very long story, but I have a dining room with eight chairs and no table. Ten days from now, I am having a dinner party and do not have the money to buy the table I really want. I have any number of oversize table cloths, so whatever table I use will not be seen. Help.

Answer: I can produce the sturdy table you need in one hour for less than $40.

The economy table that will hide under your tablecloth needs to be 8 feet long, 42 inches wide and 30 inches high. These dimensions match those of most dining room tables that will seat eight comfortably: three on each side and a person at each end.

The height of a table is fairly critical and is commonly matched to the height of the chairs. If you have a breakfast or kitchen table in your home, move one of your dining room chairs up to it, sit down and check to see if you feel comfortable at the table. If so, the dining room table you are going to assemble should match that table height plus or minus 1/2 inch.

Least expensive solution

The least expensive solution and the one that can be assembled with minimal ease requires two stops on your trip to acquire material. You need to visit a lumber yard and an electrical parts distribution business.

The electric parts business is one that typically sells products to residential, commercial and industrial electricians. These are the places where you will find circuit breaker panels, specialty switches, etc.

And they almost always have hundreds of large empty cable reels back behind the warehouse. These reels sometimes are available for free or can be purchased for a small fee.

A cable reel is a round object that holds long lengths of electrical cable. It is the same thing you have on a fishing rod, but much larger.

They come in all sorts of sizes and I know for a fact you can get ones that are perfect for your needs. You need two cable reels that measure 29 inches wide and 25 inches in diameter.

When you place these cable reels on their side, they make solid bases for the tabletop.

The 29-inch width becomes a 29-inch-high platform when the reels are laid on their sides. You will then place a 3/4-inch-thick piece of plywood on top of the reels to create the actual table.

The reels should be placed in the center of the room spaced just 1 foot from each other. This will create 81/2 inches of overhang on the sides and a generous 17-inch overhang at each end of the tabletop.

Once the plywood is in place, drive four 2-inch long screws through the plywood into each reel to securely fasten the top to the reels.

When you cut 6 inches off the width of the 48-inch plywood to make the top, use a simple wood rasp to round off the corners of the plywood. If you do not do this, there is a good chance the tablecloth will tear if pulled against one of the sharp 90-degree corners. It is also a good idea to use some coarse sandpaper on the top edges of the plywood to remove any splinters.

Just temporary

If you have time, you can apply stain that matches your chairs to the lower half of the cable reels. This is not necessary, but it will help to complete the illusion. I would not be concerned in the least about the appearance of this temporary table.

When the chairs are in place around the table, there is a very good chance you may not see the cable reels.

If you are worried, use the same slight of hand magicians use. Direct your guests attention to a magnificent centerpiece arrangement in the middle of the table.

Contact Tim Carter by Web site:; mail: P.O. Box 36352, Cincinnati 45236-0352.

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