Tile-topped End Table

Lucas Peters, posted on Aug 29, 2018

Completed Tile-top Table

I love this tile-top table because it uses only 5 different parts plus a tile. Since I made it out of home-center red oak, I didn't have to do any milling. So, I only needed a few tools to complete. It's a quick, inexpensive build that makes an impressive gift for family and friends.

Materials or Supplies

Materials or Supplies

Two 3/4 x 7-1/4 x 96" red oak boards
3/8 x 18 x 18" Tile
#8 x 2" wood screws
#8 x 1-1/4" fine-thread pocket-hole screws
5/16" dowel
silicone caulk

Cut the Parts

Cutting Halflaps

First, I cut out all of the parts from 3/4" red oak.

  • 8 legs: 2 x 23-1/4"
  • 4 stretchers: 2-1/2 x 24"
  • 4 frame sides: 3 x 22" (These started oversize to be cut down later).

Then, I cut centered half-laps in the 4 stretchers at the tablesaw. I used a backer board and a stopblock on my miter gauge, cutting one side of the half-lap before flipping the board to cut the other. This ensures the half lap is perfectly centered; then, I just nibble away between the kerfs.

Assemble the Legs

Drilling pilot holes in the legs

From four legs and two stretchers, I assembled the first leg assembly as shown. To make sure everything was square, I clamped a stop to the edge of my bench to butt the feet against. I used a small square to ensure the doubled feet were even. And I used a scrap spacer to make sure the lower stretchers were consistent and would mate with each other. The stretchers extend beyond the legs 1". With everything in position, I drilled two pilot holes in each joint. Then, I glued and screwed the first leg assembly together.

For the second leg assembly, I followed the same procedure except the half laps in the stretcher were oriented the opposite directions. I left the top stretcher out for now, and glued and screwed the remainder together.

Then, I allowed the glue to dry.

Add Dowels

Driving dowels

While the glue was drying, I cut 16 lengths of 5/16" dowel 2-3/8" long.

Once the glue was dry, I removed a screw. Backing the joint with scrap, I used a twist bit to drill a 5/16" through-hole centered on the screw hole. Without moving the assembly, I added glue to the enlarged hole and drove a dowel through the joint and slightly into the hole in the backer board to leave the dowel proud on both sides. Then, I repeated the procedure with every screw. (Don't enlarge the holes for the unattached top stretcher just yet!)

Assemble the Base

Assembling the base

I spread glue on the two lower half-laps and assembled the two leg assemblies, clamping them together at the joint. Next, I retrieved the loose top stretcher and added glue where it meets the legs as well as to the top half-laps. I carefully slid the top stretcher in place and screwed the legs to the stretcher.

I allowed the glue to dry, removed the screws and drilled and pegged the remaining holes as in the previous step.

Then, I used a flush-trim saw to trim the dowels and sanded away the saw marks.

Cut the Top Frame to Size

Marking the frame parts

Tiles vary in size quite a bit, so I cut the frame sides oversized a bit then arranged them in an overlapping pattern to mark their final length. Then, I crosscut them to the mark on the tablesaw.

Assemble the Top Frame

Driving pocket holes into the frame

I drilled pocket holes into one end of each frame piece and joined them together. Be sure to drill parallel to the grain so that the screw threads grip the cross grain of the mating piece.

Attach the Top Frame

Screwing the top frame in place

I centered the top frame on the stretchers and clamped it in place. Then, I drilled and countersunk holes at an angle and screwed the frame to the stretchers.

Measure the Tile Thickness

Since the tile is thinner than the frame, I set it in place and used a combination square to measure the difference in thickness.

Cut Some Shims

Safely cut thin strips

I used the measurement from the previous step as the thickness I'd need for shims to raise the tile level with the frame. I cut two shims from the 3/4" oak at 8" long and one at 17-3/4" long. Cutting strips this thin can be a little dangerous so I used a sacrificial push block with a heel to control the piece all the way through the cut and keep my fingers away from the blade. You can also cut the piece on the outfeed side of the blade where it isn't trapped between fence and blade, but that might take a little more fussing to get the thickness just right.

Add the Tile Top

Completed Tile-top Table

I glued the shims to the tops of the stretchers. When the glue was dry, I added a clear coat. I used a 50/50 mixture of polyurethane and mineral spirits as a wiping varnish. You have to add more coats to build it up, but it's way easier to control drips and runs on a piece like this with nooks and crannies. When the finish was cured, I applied a bead of silicone caulk to the shims and pressed the tile in place to complete it.

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