I’m going to build myself a table!

26 Sep

I have a problem. My desk is too small. This has nothing to do with programming, except, there is no space around me and I always feel bad when I sit on my PC. There is another thing too: between the wall and my desk, there’s 40 cm of space filled up with cables and a printer. It’s not too pretty like that. So I decided to cover it up and fix my problem at the same time: I’m building a table! After that, I’m going to use this table for my new monitor! It will be spectacular!

But why not just buy a table?

Where I live, if you want to buy a table (or rather a desk) you have to spend at least a 100 euros. If you want it to be a decent one – 300. It isn’t too expensive, but I can do better. Or at least cheaper. Also have you tried to find a 40 cm wide table in the furniture shops? It isn’t quite a standard size.

Further, buying an entire table means you either have to bring it home alone, which is hard if you don’t have a car, or you have to be at home when it is delivered. I’ve tried both scenarios previously, and they are both ugly. Once my sofa stayed for a few hours outside of my house, because I missed the e-mail with the exact date and time of delivery. I don’t want this type of stress anymore.

And lastly, it is a bunch of fun! You get some weird pieces of equipment and you have to deal with them yourself: legs, board, screws, all those have to fit with each other in a sane manner, to get something useful from them. Sure, it isn’t some great mental feat, but if you haven’t tried something like that yourself, you don’t really know what you’re getting into.

What to expect when you are building a table

First of all, I know all of you live only in the virtual world, where you only subscribe and the product is on your screen already. This is not how tables work. They are actually made of real stuff, you know – atoms. Atoms usually don’t move too fast. They don’t go through the fiber with 3e8 meters per second. And also they actually cost money. So, if you are like me, and decided to make a table on Sunday, you might have a slight problem. Here in Middle Earth, not a single shop works on Sundays. Not even the grocery shop, let alone the hardware store. Once the weekend is over, and finally everything is open, you can go and buy whatever you need.

Also, don’t forget tables need to have a board on a certain level, which is comfortable for your arms and the rest of your body. Nobody really thinks about the ergonomics of a table, but let me tell you: I don’t like it when my whole body aches because of a stupid mistake long ago. Get a measuring tape and check how high the table should be. Do it before you buy the legs.



Now, since we established the clumsiness of a table, let’s proceed with its buying its parts. Despite of what I said two paragraphs above, I sat on my computer and went to a hardware store web site (Bauhaus). There I looked for a set of furniture legs, the cheapest ones, a board and screws.

What I found isn’t actually what I wanted. I need a table which is 75 cm high, but the only type of legs I found which is somewhere near that number is 70 cm. To be honest, I don’t need 75 cm legs either, because there should be some space for the board itself. After all it is probably going to be 2 cm thick.

Speaking about the board, there were surprises there too. I thought I would make just a small “filling” for the free space between my desk and the wall. This means size of 55cm x 40cm. However, all I found is boards which are at least 80 cm long. At least there are ones that are 40 cm wide. I guess I’m getting more table than I thought.

Back to the legs. The board is 18 mm thick. That means I have about 3 cm left to fill up, to level the new table with my desk. Luckily, on the page of the legs there is a link to another product: adjusting screws. Perfect! I have all I need now. Let’s go to the shop!

In the real world

Well, I went to the shop and found what I search for. That wasn’t too hard, honestly. Now transporting is a different story. I don’t have a car as I mentioned earlier, so I have to use public transport. This is all good, except for the fact that I need to carry everything by hand, and it isn’t really that easy.

Luckily, this time there wasn’t too much of stuff I needed to carry: four legs, board and some screws. The screws went into my backpack, so that’s easy. Thank God the board is not too wide, so I could carry it too. The problem was the legs, and more precisely, their number. 4 is a lot of legs to carry. I’ve put them too in the backpack, but that wasn’t really too comfortable.

Unfortunately, there was no other choice, so I needed to be careful walking.

Note to self: next time finish work in other shops first, before buying huge wooden board to carry around.


Oh, I almost forgot to mention the prices. As I said in the beginning, it will be much cheaper than buying an actual table, right? Well, if you don’t count the time you’ve spent. But the fun is worth it!

The legs were about 15 Euro. I got the cheapest ones of course, I’m not going to be exporting the table after all. The board needs at least to try and match the one on my desk. It is a wood imitation. That would be expensive… Nope, 6.80 – nice!

Screws and adjusting screws: 6 Euro.

Total: 28 Euro. Give or take. Sweet!

Assembling the table

Now at first my table looked like this:

Table parts
Table parts

Now, if I have even learned something in the Technical University, it is that you need to take measures first, then do stuff. That’s why I took out the measuring tape and started marking where the screws would go.


First I chose to put the legs 2 cm away from the edges. This way there would be enough space between the legs, to get as much stability as possible, but it won’t let me ruin the edge of the table if I screw the screws badly.

Once I marked 2 cm from each edge inwards, I remembered, that marking only one screw per leg would lead to screwing the legs most likely unaligned with each other and the edges. Therefore I measured the distance between two holes on the legs and continued marking the second set of positions for the screws.

Now was the time to check what I’ve done. And here it is:

Measuring mistakes, exposed by the table's leg
Measuring mistakes

Oops! That’s why I’m doing this. And it wasn’t just once to mess up everything:

Bad marks on the board.
Final marks on the board

Anyhow, I was finally done with it.

Fixing the legs

Now was the time to fix the legs to the board. It isn’t too hard, right? You get the screwdriver, you get the screw and you put it in the leg’s hole on top of one of the marks. It is especially easy if you have an electric screwdriver like me.

Well, I did that, but I chose a board made of beech. It isn’t too easy to work with it. My screwdriver decided it can’t do it anymore and gave up halfway through the screw, leaving the leg attached to the board, but not secured. I tried unscrewing and screwing again, but the result was the same.

This is bad. It means now I need to buy a more powerful electric screwdriver, which would make the cost of the table so high, that I better had bought a standard one.

At that point I was already too tired to continue with this project for the day. So I left it. On the next day I talked with my father about how to resolve this problem and he gave me some good advises: use a nail and a hammer to first make a smaller than the screw hole and then use it; screw in and out a thinner screw then use the bigger one, etc.

I listened to him and started searching for thinner screws at home. What I found was actually shorter ones. That’s actually better! I found exactly 16 (as much as I needed) and used them. Everything went perfectly this time.

Aligning the table with my desk

After all this hassle, I finally had a table! But it was over 3 centimeters lower than my desk. This is not too big of a trouble, but I want it to be as inconspicuous as possible. Therefore I bought adjusting screws.

I needed about three more centimeters, and the adjusting screws were about 4 cm high, so everything was fine. The trouble was, that they needed to be almost completely out of the legs. This made them very wobbly and I didn’t think this is good for the table.

I needed a way of making the screws slightly tighter. I decided, I can use some type of thread to put on the screw, which would make it fit better into the leg. Since I don’t have an entire garage of handyman materials, I used dental floss. My dad said I could have screwed a nut on the adjusting screw’s bolt, but this is too complex for me :)

Finally here’s the result:

Finished table
Finished Table

Maybe you’ve noticed, the wood isn’t really treated. That’s because I didn’t want to put myself into too much trouble. I’m sure if I do it some day it will be a series of mistakes and failures – in other words a lot more fun. However I’ll leave that for another time.

Well you’ve seen what I did. Now would you like to go and make your own furniture too?


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