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Woodworking with Will Myers


Building a Trestle Table - part 1

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There are innumerable designs of the trestle table, made of every kind of wood imaginable, every width and length.

Sometimes beautifully made, sometimes on the rough side.

They are a pretty common sight at antique stores and auctions as well.


A simple Google search will turn up thousands of images with all kinds of variations on the design. The table here is not patterned of a particular design but rather incorporates details I liked from several different tables designs I have seen.

There are only a couple of rules (more like guidelines really) for these tables. Height to the top of the table should be around 30 inches and about 12-13 inches minimum for knee clearance from the side edges of the top to any structure under the table.

I started out with the legs first. For this I used 2x yellow pine milled down to 1 3/8in thick by 3in wide and 28 1/2in long. I laid these out in pairs and kept the pairs together in each end assembly. With two legs clamped together, knife in the shoulder lines for the tenons 2 1/2in from both ends.

Then knife the rest of the way around with a square using the first knife line to line up to. Set a mortise gauge to the width of the chisel you are going to use, in this case I used a 3/4in chisel (on this dimension wood 5/8in would be better). Center the teeth on the wood and scribe around to lay out the tenon.

Use a ripsaw and saw on the diagonals working from both sides down to the shoulder line. Next use a chisel and cut a V to the waste side of the knife line to make a nice groove to start the saw in for the shoulder cut.

Once the shoulders are cut remove 3/8in from either side of the tenon creating two small shoulders on either side of the tenon.

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.
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