How to Build a Table Top? — Try This Easy and Simple DIY Project

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Woodworkers build tabletops using different approaches. Building may sound easy in theory, but it can be a case of easier said than done. If you don’t employ the correct steps, your hard work will amount to zero results and more damages. 

Drawing from my expertise, I’m here to guide you through the essential steps to construct a tabletop successfully. Through this shared knowledge, you can navigate the intricacies of woodworking with increased confidence and precision.

How to Build a Table Top

Building a tabletop may not turn out well, especially if you are doing it for the first time. Mistakes can occur if not properly educated on how to proceed from one step to another. 

Below are the steps to follow to make this woodwork project turn out great.

Determine Dimensions

When I start crafting a tabletop, my first move is to determine the size and shape that aligns best with my vision. You’ll want to ponder: Do you lean towards a shorter or longer design? Perhaps narrower or wider? These choices are crucial in ensuring your project turns out just as you’ve envisioned.

measuring dimensions of wood for a table top

To help with your dimension, cut a ½” plywood and use it for practice. Saw the board to the size you want. If satisfied with the size, then move to the next step.

Choose Preferred Board

Choose lumbers with tight joints. If they are longer than five feet, it’s a big plus, as the fitting will be better. 

Use a jointer to align the 5/4 or 8/4 lumbers’ joints tightly if available. Typically, some edges fit more tightly than others. So you may not be needing a jointer after all.

However, if the lumber joints aren’t as tight as you want them, try sanding off the edges. You must ensure that you sand them lightly to prevent a flatter tabletop. 

If the boards aren’t aligned, gluing them will be challenging, even if the boards are small. That is why you need to ensure the edges of the boards fit perfectly.

selecting wood for table top

With all the boards aligned at the edges, it’s time for some gluing. Put the boards under the pipe clamps, and attach small clamps around the edges and board ends. 

Apply hardwood cauls along the lengths of the boards inwardly to glue up each board. Adjust each clamp to draw the boards’ ends together. For final glue-up, adjust the pipe clamp holding the boards at the center to draw all the boards together. 

Remove all the clamps. You should have a well-aligned tabletop by now.

Sand the Board (Optional)

It’s not impossible to see some misalignments even after doing a perfect glue-up job. This is where sanding comes in.

You could leave the tabletop as it is, but that won’t be satisfactory. Naturally, you would want to make the job look perfect and finished.

Based on my extensive experience and countless projects, I recommend starting with 80-grit coarse sandpaper in a belt sander for the initial stage. It’s essential to work across the grain of the tabletop first and then along its parallel side. This technique not only removes wood more efficiently but also ensures a smoother and more even surface. Trust me; this approach sets a solid foundation for any woodworking project.

sanding wood with hand plane

Sand further using 120-grit sandpaper for a more flatter surface.

For the final stage, sand by hand using 180-grit and then 220-grit sandpapers. Sand across the wood grain. Avoid using sanders, especially orbit sanders, as they leave behind streaks.

Refine Edges and Smooth Out Cracks

Once you’re done sanding, refine the edges. Clamp a guide strip on one edge and trim using a hand-held circular saw. Apply the same process on other edges, until all the edges are refined. 

Once the process is complete, sand the edges carefully using the best belt sander. It removes all the marks and smoothens the edges.

Add Pocket Holes

Whenever I’m crafting pocket holes or joints, I can’t stress enough the importance of cutting the boards with precision and ensuring they’re perfectly square. Any oversight here can lead to those unwanted gaps between the boards. It’s the meticulous details that make all the difference in a project’s outcome.

setting up Kreg 5

Drill pocket holes on the edges of the board with a pocket hole jig like Kreg K5 or K4. Then, screw into the hole at a 15-degree angle to join the second piece. 

Pocket holes jig makes drilling more straightforward, faster, and quicker. Also, it drills holes at perfect angles compared to other drilling tools.

When making pocket holes or joints, it’s essential that the boards are cut precisely and squarely to prevent gaps between the boards. 

Drill pocket holes on the edges of the board with a pocket hole jig like Kreg K5 or K4. Then, screw into the hole at a 15-degree angle to join the second piece. 

Pocket holes jig makes drilling more straightforward, faster, and quicker. Also, it drills holes at perfect angles compared to other drilling tools.

adding pocket holes to wood

Adding pocket holes will hold the joint together. The screws and the glue will prevent gaps from forming on the wood, as it shrinks and expands.

Stain Board

Choosing a finish is probably the most interesting part of building a tabletop. There are two main ways to get around this — you can stain the wood with urethane or apply an oil finish [1] . Each process has its pros and cons.

Staining the board with urethane will create a smooth and cleanable surface. However, stain wears quickly, and there’s no simpler way of re-staining the board unless you sand it to the bare wood.

staining table top

Contrarily, oil finishes take time to apply — more than staining. However, they can easily be repaired when they wear out. 

For frequent applications, they are the best to use. You don’t need to sand the tabletop to its bare wood before application.


What kind of wood should I use for a tabletop?

You should use woods like walnut, birch, oak, pine, mahogany, and maple for a tabletop. These woods are hard, strong, and durable.

How do you glue boards to a tabletop?

To glue boards to a tabletop, firstly, you should lay the board on the tabletop. Ensure that you align and pinch them together properly. Then, put some glue on one of the boards. Use clamps to attach the board to the tabletop and hold them together. Put a third clamp above to reduce pressure and squeeze out excess glue. Wipe extra glue and leave the board and the tabletop clamped for approximately six to eight hours.


Building a tabletop doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s a fun project in woodwork that most would love to undertake. Having navigated through the numerous stages myself, I’ve distilled the steps to make them more straightforward for a clearer understanding. 

Like most woodworking projects, following and completing each step is a prerequisite to achieving success. With the various steps on how to build a table top explained, you’ll have no issue completing this woodwork project successfully.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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