The architectural salvage trend has gained a huge amount of steam in the last several years. Personally, I think it’s a great way to reuse existing materials, as well as showcase antique/vintage styles. A client asked if I would help turn an old door into a dining room table. Of course, I said “Sure!”
Here’s a step-by-step guide to make a stable, functioning table out of a classic, reclaimed door. After the build, a tempered plate glass top is all you’ll need to finish off the piece!
Step 1: Find Your Door
My client supplied an awesome five-panel door for our project. I didn’t have to go hunting for one.
Are you looking for something to re-purpose? If so, head straight to your local Habitat For Humanity “Restore”.
Companies like Habitat have large, warehouse-style architectural salvage stores all over the country. Basically, they work like consignment shops. People donate reclaimed materials that they have pulled out of houses undergoing remodels or demolition.
Unsurprisingly, you find all sorts of stuff at architectural salvage stores, including hardware and furniture. So find a store near you and stop in. The doors are grouped together in one section. (Here’s a link for Habitat Restore locations.)
If you live in a historic neighborhood, ask your neighbors if anybody has an old door lying around. I’m always amazed at how many I come across in pre-1950’s homes.
Step 2: Choose Table Legs
This is another step I didn’t have to worry about. My client supplied legs as well as the door. In this case, they were pieces of old handrail that we simply cut to length. (Yet another salvaged article!)
The handrails worked really well. But they were tricky to attach. Probably, it would have been easier to find some old table legs.
Of course, you can order new table legs. Generally, they come unfinished. Paint or stain them as you wish. They vary widely in price, so shop around.
Step 3: I Cut My Table Legs
Normally, tables sit at a height of 28-30”. Most new, ordered legs come at this height. As will legs that you pull from another table.
If you’re making legs out of salvaged materials, you can’t go wrong with 28” legs. Use a miter saw or a circular saw to cut four legs at an even height. Definitely add pads to the underside of the leg to protect your floor.
Step 4: I Needed Table Apron Pieces
Often, people get this part wrong. They build their table and leave out the “apron.”
Table aprons, or “skirts”, are horizontal table components. They sit flush to the underside of the table and connect to the legs.
Aprons add lateral stability to tables. They create a square surface that legs can attach to, effectively trapping the legs in place.
Aprons only need be 3” wide, or even less. If they’re too deep, they take up too much room beneath the table. You bang your knees into them. Ouch!
In this case, I made the apron for our table out of reclaimed poplar out of an old door opening. I ripped it down to 2-1/2” on the table saw.
A Note on Wood Species
Almost any species of wood will work for your apron if you’re going to paint it. You can reclaim some like I did, or buy some new from the lumberyard. If you don’t feel like ripping any down, you can simply buy 1X3 material.
I Took Measurements for My Apron
First, I figure out how long my apron pieces had to be. To do this, I flipped my door over onto it’s “top”. I positioned the legs on the underside, in the corners. I didn’t want to attach to the door panels. Instead, set them on the solid, thicker wood around the perimeter. (These components of the door are called “rails” and “stiles”. We screw into this thicker lumber for greater strength).
Next, I traced the outline of my table legs at all four corners. Finally, I measured the distance between the pencil lines. That gave me the measurements for the four apron pieces.
I cut the apron pieces with a miter saw. Note: I was sure to “square up” one end of each piece first (like in the picture above). In other words, I made a clean cut near one end of each apron piece to start. Then I pulled my measurement from the squared ends. I made my cuts and the aprons were ready.
Step 5: I Attached the Table Apron Pieces
I test fit my apron pieces and legs. As mentioned before, I wanted the apron to ride around the perimeter of the door, set a few inches from the outer edge. Fortunately, everything looked good.
(Note: If your door still has hardware on it, that might prevent your apron from sitting flat. Remove these metal components by just backing out screws and pulling them off.)
Kreg Jigs Are Great!
I used a tool known as a “Kreg Jig” to connect the apron to the door. It’s not absolutely necessary that you have one. BUT, I can’t stress enough how invaluable these gadgets are. With the Kreg Jig, you attach the edge of a board to the face or edge of something else. All in all, this tool pretty much changed woodworking.
I used a Kreg clamp (included in the kit) to clamp the jig to the board. (I did this where I wanted screw holes.) Then, I used the Kreg drill bit that comes with the kit. I bored through the jig and backed the bit out a couple of times to clear the waste.
This left me with elliptical holes, with little seats inside. I placed pocket holes like every foot or so across the long run of each apron piece.
Now, Drive the Pocket Screws
Next, I attached the apron pieces to the legs with glue and 1-1/4” pocket screws.
As I said, it’s not absolutely necessary to use a Kreg jig. You can accomplish the same thing with angle braces and wood glue. The Kreg jig is just the best method.
Step 6: I Cut And Attached Corner Braces
To finish the project, I cut short pieces of the apron material, with miters on both ends. The pieces were just long enough to reach across the inside corner to the aprons. (I used a miter saw to do this. If you don’t have one, you can probably manage it with a backsaw and a miter box.)
I attached the four angle pieces to the apron with 1-1/4” screws. Then, I pre-drilled and drove one longer screw through the corner brace into the leg. This really helps the leg fight the leverage working against it.
As I mentioned before, get a custom piece of tempered glass to finish your table.
Smaller doors can be converted into tables in much the same way! Also, half-doors make great end tables. The method is always the same.
So, what are you waiting for? Go find your door!
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