David Benton

When I first started the challenge I set out to create a game table with two benches. The requirements I received from my wife were that the benches must be stored underneath it and it must have a drawer.

After asking her many questions I realized that she was describing a table that we currently own, and that she uses everyday.

It turned out for the best but I was back to the drawing board! I bought a copy of 500 Tables from Amazon, and sat down to ponder it for the next couple of days. I researched some of the contributors online, and got a better idea of what I wanted to do for this design. After about a week of sketching, and re-sketching, in my off hours, I took the design from


The entire process took a couple of weeks from start to finish. Looking back the work was heavily influenced by some of the work in the 500 Tables book.

Normally, I do not make full size drawings. But this time I took Neal’s advice and printed out the front view of the table at a 1”=1” scale. I am really glad I did. This allowed me to see that the arches on the table would be too short for my legs.

Originally the arches on the ends of the table would be 3” from the bottom of the table top to the top of the arch. This made for a shallow arch, and not enough leg room. After putting the drawing up on the wall, I lengthened the legs by an inch, and narrowed the rails. Once I was happy with the look on SketchUp, I printed out the rails, and put them aside. I would later use these printouts to help shape the first set of rails that I made.

I must confess that I was not able to devote all my shop time to this project. During the first month, most of the time was devoted to working on a crib that I am just now finishing.

I thought that I would be done with it BEFORE this challenge, but due to the complexity of the build, it took much longer than I expected. Once the crib was at a stage that it was ready for finishing, I put it aside, and started working on the table. I used my wife’s camera to record my cleaning the shop. Take a look at the video.

Last year I participated in a group buy with the North Carolina Woodworkers Board. I was fortunate to buy 100 board feet of #2 common cherry for $1.15/bdft. I used this wood for the legs and rails on this project. After having worked with Sapelle for so long, cherry was a pleasure to work with.

The top, on the other hand, will have to count as a laminate. It is a remainder from the bathroom sink cabinet I completed for our house the year before.

This top turned out to be more work that I expected. My plan called for 5” bevels on the ends, and 4” bevels along the sides. I took awhile to figure out how to cut these bevels out of the 1 ½” top. Eventually I settled on clamping the top to the side of my bench, and used my circular saw to make the initial cuts. Then I took my handsaw, climbed up on my bench and sawed and sawed and sawed. After taking a breather I got out my jack plane and smoothed the bevels. For a prefab top it took a lot of work to modify it.

One of the most challenging parts of this build was the rail system for the base. Up until now most of the projects I have done are straight and square. This project has four arches and the smaller curves above the legs. Most of this work was done with the band saw and drill press. Then I refined the curves with my spoke shave, and scrapers. Once I got the curve in a pleasing line I chamfered the corners of the arches and then smoothed them over with a rasp.

I have never cut haunched through tenons before, so getting the mortises just right took a little longer than normal. But I like how they turned out in the end.

After the rails where done I cut the mortise in the legs. I then cut tapers on the legs to emphasize the arches in the rails. It is hard to see in the pictures of the final project, but the legs have a 1 degree taper from just below the mortises. To put it all together, I glued and pegged the tenons into the mortises on the legs. Then I screwed in corner blocks to reinforce where the rails join together.

I sanded the entire project up to 220 grit and then finished the base with General Finishes Seal-A-Cell. Once the seal-a-cell dried I sanded it down and then finished the table with General Finishes Satin Finish Arm-R-Seal. The base of the table received 3 coats, and the top 4 coats.

The finish went on with ease. I just wiped in the varnish, and sanded between coats. After the final coat, I rubbed down the entire surface with a brown paper bag to remove and nibs.

The top is attached to the base using 2 guide pins (3/8” oak dowels), and 4 expansion clips. I manufactured the expansion clips to hold the top on, to allow for expansion and contraction.

We have had some L brackets lying around for years…well, now we have 2 less!

After I filed down the sharp edges I made a notch for each that would allow 30 degrees of movement or so.

The table now resides in our living room. It will at times be used as a game table, but most of the time, it will be used as an end table for our Big Green Chair.


Here is the breakdown for materials I have in this table:

  • Cherry Lumber $1.15 / bf.  I messed up one board, so I probably used 10.5 bf in the base.  So I have $12 in the base.
  • The top from Ikea was originally $80 when I bought it for the bathroom vanity. The remnant I used was about half the original size so about $40.
  • I used a little seal-a-cell on the cherry base. So $2 is sealer.
  • I used general finishes Satin Arm-R-Seal Oil and Urethane all over the table.  3 coats on the bottom, 5 on the top.  I figure about a cup or so.  $7
  • Sandpaper.  $5
  • Remnant of a walnut dowel.  $1
  • 8 brass screws, 8 steel screws, and 2 sacrificial metal brackets, and a little glue… $???
  • So my cost in materials for this table is around $66 – $70.  Not bad for something that should last us a long time.  Besides, the only thing I had to buy during this whole project was 220 grit sandpaper, cause I ran out. Other than that, all the materials were laying around the shop.
  • The final dimensions of the table are 28.5″ tall, 26″ wide, and 30.5″ long.

Thanks, Rick, for putting on the Sawdust Chronicles Challenge this year. It has been a lot of fun, and I have picked up several new skills along the way. I also got a chance to use some of the tools that my wife has been buying me over the years!

David Benton
October 31, 2010

Also, there is additional information on my blog which gives the day to day about what I did when.

You can also check out David’s original sumbission in MS Doc form here.

1 Response to David Benton

  1. Robert Dixon says:

    Good Morning David,
    Robert and I are very impressed with your woodworking projects. Robert says keep up the good work and keep us posted on your projects. Loved the baby bed also. Have a great wk-end. Libby and Robert

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