Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dumbbell Table Revisited

I've had a few people ask about this project (a few as in literally 3, but that's way more than I was expecting, so...).
I finally uploaded the SketchUp file to the cloud, and guys, seven people downloaded it!


Or maybe, you know, one person downloaded it seven times, but still!

So I thought I'd do the whole step-by-step thing, just in case those seven people wanted actual instructions.  Or maybe just that one person who is apparently confused enough to download a model seven times.  Just kidding, anyone who can work SketchUp is totally ON it!

Ready?  Here we go.

******Please note, I did this over two years ago, so please excuse my rusty memory.  Let me know if I make any enormous omissions or gross over/under-estimates.  This plan utilizes pocket hole joinery (this one, not an affiliate), a circular saw, and a miter saw. Also, this build is just the way I did it...of course feel free to modify to suit your building style and the methods you're used to.  Also, perfectionists be warned...this is not a perfect table, and this is not fine woodworking.  Also, if you don't have the sense to use ear protection, eye protection, hand protection, steel-toed boots, and an umbrella in the rain, please don't blame me when bad things happen because that's why they happen. Bonus points for the movie reference. Seriously, don't cut your fingers off.

Suggested purchase list for those who have no scraps:
3 - 8' 2x4
1 - 6' 1x4
2 - 10' 1x2
1 - 3/4" plywood sheet (you could also shorten the table and buy only 1/2 sheet)
I also purchased a pre-fab, edge-glued, pine board (1x16 cut at 62 1/2").  This isn't a necessary purchase (and wasn't necessary even for me, but I didn't know better), but without a separate board(s), you will need the full sheet of ply to complete the tabletop.

The Legs - this is the most time-consuming, complicated part of the build.
  1. Set up your miter saw for a 10 degree bevel (tilt the head of the saw).  Bevel the ends of all three 2x4's.
  2. Cut one leg length from each board.  Measure from short point to long point 36", and make your second cut on precisely the same bevel as the first.  Your ends should be parallel to each other.
  3. From one of your 2x4's, cut one more leg the same as the others.  Set the remainder of that board aside for the moment.
  4. The lengths of the next four cuts are not a precise measurement...but they must be sistered precisely.  In the SketchUp file, they measure something ridiculous like 16 23/32".  By all means, use this measurement if you want, but it really doesn't matter.  What matters is that you have two pieces of each length that are exactly the same and that have non-parallel edges (see pictures, ignore notches for now).

  5. Take these four mid-leg supports, mark their centers, line them up, and clamp.
  6. From the center line, mark 1 3/4" in each direction (3 1/2" total).
  7. Next, I set my circular saw blade depth to 1 1/2". With my four boards securely clamped to each other and to the table, I made a series of cuts in between my mark lines to create a channel large enough for a 2x4 to nest in (you might call this a dado).
     Check for fit.
  8. And go on and pre-drill your pocket holes (in their undersides, which means their long sides).
  9. Now cut two pieces from your 1x4 at 14".  Mark in from each end about 1" (I think), and attach your four long legs with counter-sunk screws (be sure the legs flare outward).
  10. Ok, this is a bit tricky.  Stand your two leg assemblies upside down next to each other.  Slide one of the short mid-supports in between the legs until it fits nicely and is level. Mine ended up being around 10" down the leg, but it doesn't really matter as long as they match each other.  Screw them in place.
  11. Now it's the longer supports' turn.  Make sure you've got the notches going the right way.  Same deal, it doesn't matter exactly where they hit as long as they match each other and are level.
  12. Measure the gap left between your mid-supports.  Mine ended up being 7"...again, the exact number doesn't matter as long as it's your exact number.  Cut your last (2) 2x4 pieces to this length with square ends (no more bevels, yea!!).  *At this point, if you're going to use the big bar, cut your holes in the center of your pieces in whatever way floats your boat.  Again, just make they match each other.  Attach with screws (I might have only glued mine, I'm not sure).
  13. Legs are done!  Consider applying your finish at this point (much easier to maneuver the legs without the table top attached).
  1. Cut your 1x2's into 4 pieces of equal length.  I cut mine at 52 1/2" because I was trying to fit this table into a particular space.  This is where you might shorten your table to decrease your costs...48" is the width of a piece of plywood, so at that length you would only need a 1/2 sheet of ply.
  2. Pre-drill your stretchers for pocket holes, and attach one to each side of the top of the legs (be sure to orient your legs so that the notches of the mid-supports face out).
  3. Attach the second two stretchers to the front legs at the heights you'd like your shelves.  These will be your weight stops.

  4. Cut your table top, if you haven't already done so (mine was 16x62 1/2").  Attach your table top through the 1x4 of the legs (legs should be inset at least 1" from all edges).
  5. Now back to that miter saw.  Set the miter to 45 degrees (swivel the base).  Cut your 1x4 into two pieces with non-parallel ends measuring 14 1/4" from long end to long end.
  6. Pre-drill your pocket holes perpendicular to the mitered edges, and attach through the legs and table top.
  7. Ok, another tricky bit.  Measure the distance from the bottom of your weight stop to the center of the back leg at the angle most pleasing to you. This is the width you will rip for your first shelf.
  8. Drill one pocket hole in each of the back corners (for attaching the shelf to the back leg).  Drill pocket holes along the front edge of the shelf every 6-8" (for attaching the shelf to the weight stop).  Now I would recommend laying the table on its face, screw one screw in loosely to the weight stop, position and screw in the back, and then secure all the screws along the weight stop.  *Be warned, your shelf will not sit flat against the weight stop, and so there will be gapping at the screws.  This hasn't seemed to hurt my own table.  If I did it over again, I might attach another 1x2 at the bottom of the back of the shelf for added support.  But still, we haven't had any issues with it done this way.
  9. Repeat this process with the second shelf.
  10. Now get a friend to help you stand it upright, attach the bar if you're using one, and you're ready to finish!
    Notice my shelves are not at equal angles?  Who cares, right?
  11. I used a simple mineral oil finish here because I knew this table would be abused, and the soft pine will ding up nicely if left natural.  Wax would make a nice finish for this piece too, I think. 
Whew, thanks for sticking with me!  I hope this was helpful and not too discouraging...I ended up really just feeling my way through this process, and I learned a lot on the way.

Next up, I'm finally getting down to work on making a functional workshop!  A REAL workshop!!  I'M SO EXCITED!!!!!  Total mess at the moment, but I totally love it!


  1. Awesome!!!! Nice work, sis!!!

  2. Well, I definitely applaud your project...and even getting it posted, and while I coudn't possibly build that, I can at least get points for the movie. (clever use of it by the way) :-) Where would a drive to MN be without It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?

  3. I like the efficient use of wood. Well done!


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