Old Projects #12: Build a Tile Topped End Table Tutorial

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Blog entry by Madmark2 posted 12-22-2020 01:08 AM 498 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 11: Folding Game Table Part 12 of Old Projects series Part 13: Cross Box Tutorial »

I made several variants of this table, all with the same tiles. If you think the oak prototype is nice you should see it in jatoba (I’m still looking for more pics)

Oh yeah, its been 20 years since this original build post and that table is still going strong. One of the bottom slats got trod upon years ago but otherwise it is holding up well. Its been used so much that the pattern on the edges of the tiles has begun to wear off. It’s had no end of spills and slop on it with little effect other than the aforementioned tile wear.

All of the joints are made with biscuits including the ends of the bottom slats (FF size).

Build an End Table
February 27, 2000


Side View

3/4 View

Top Detail

Recently I went to the 25th annual Mt. Dora Art Festival. This is one of the largest art shows in the area and starts off the tourist season. This year, I took my sketch book. One of the booths had a table who’s design I copied and slightly modified to make this table.

The table has three, 8”x8” ceramic floor tiles set into the top. The rest of the table is made from only two pieces of oak. A 10’ 2×2 and an 8’ 1×8 were used to form all of the components of the piece. Because all of the pieces were cut from the same large board, the color and grain matching is excellent. The only other component in the piece is a 8×24x¾” piece of particle board for the decking under the tiles.

The project was built in two parts, the top and the base. The top is attached to the base with poly seam seal so the top can be removed and to provide a somewhat flexible joint to allow for expansion and contraction.

There is limited end grain visible (the two endpieces of the top are showing some) and absolutely NO metal. The piece is completely assembled using biscuits and yellow glue.

The piece is finished in one coat of Minwax “Natural” polystain followed by two coats (it could stand a 3rd) of semi-gloss polyurethane finish.

  • 1, 8’ Oak 1×8
  • 1, 10’ Oak 2×2 (1¾” square)
  • 1, 8” x 24” x ½” particle board
  • 3, 8” x 8” x 3/8” ceramic tiles
  • Biscuits
  • Carpenters Yellow Glue
  • Minwax “Natural” stain
  • Minwax Semi-Gloss polyurethane finish
  • 1 tube poly seam seal construction adhesive
Well this project used:
  • 10” Table Saw
  • Chop Saw
  • Biscuit Cutter
  • Random Orbital Sander
  • Table Router

I’d actually used my planer to shave 1/8” off the particle board decking because all I had in the shop was 5/8” instead if the ½” I really needed and I didn’t want to run out and buy a sheet for a lousy 8×24 chunk. But you should be able to build it without the planer if you get the right stock to begin with.

Besides I’d just bought the planer and had to use it on SOMETHING! (grin)

I needed both ¼” and 1/8” rounding bits for the router.

I used both 150 and 220 grit sandpaper for the finishing.

You’ll need several bar clamps and blocks to hold the pieces while the glue dries.

A 2” brush and some mineral spirits.

A tack cloth, some #0000 steel wool, and a damp shop rag for glue cleanup.

That’s about it. It’s a nice looking project and not too hard to make.

Assembly Instructions:
The table is built in two parts, the top and the base.

Making the Top
Since the top is built to fit the three ceramic tiles, you may have to adjust your dimensions if your tiles are slightly differently sized. We used a wood width of 3” as a nice round number and a good proportion of an 8” tile. The base is designed to be 1” smaller than the top on all four sides. Thus once the tiles have been selected all of the other dimensions just fall out. In my prototype I’d found that although the tiles fit well during the dry fit of the top, after the glue had dried under pressure from the clamps that the tile opening was about 1/32” too small for the tiles to fit! Fortunately you can lightly sand the edges of the tiles to true them up and get that much off their edges so the fit into the top was very tight. The tiles are not glued in place until final assembly.

Rip the 1×8 oak into two, 3” wide pieces. When you cut all of the pieces to length on the chop saw, stack both 3” boards atop one another to insure that all of the pieces are paired to the same length. A little variation in any of the dimensions generally isn’t fatal as long as they’re all paired. The only spots where the dimensioning is critical is the sides of the top and the base deck under the tiles. You should “sneak up” on the dimensions removing a little material at a time until the fit to the tiles is tight.

The first piece I cut was the decking for the tiles. This was a piece of ½” particle board trimmed to fit the tiles. Once this was selected I cut the sides and ends of the top. The ends are biscuited to the deck with three biscuits and to the sides with two. This is a little tricky because the biscuits for the sides are 3/8” from the bottom to center on the ¾” thick oak side rails, but the biscuits for the deck are only ¼” up from the bottom to center on the ½” thick particle board. Take it slow and easy and you’ll be OK. The sides are attached to the decking by five biscuits on each one. You assemble the sides first, then the ends. Be sure to dry fit all pieces and clamp to check the fit around the tiles.

Once the top has been glued, round the top edge with a ¼” rounding bit in your router. Use a 1/8” bit for the bottom edge and the edges of all other pieces.

Making the Base
Start the base by rough cutting the 2×2 stock to 26”. Better a little long that short here. The 2×2 stock I have is finished to 1¾” square. This was a little “heavy” for the legs so I decided to rip them down to a more slender 1¼”. Be sure to save the cutoffs from the first pass thru the saw. These pieces will be used later to form the bottom shelf and back bookstop rail.

Having ripped the legs to the 1¼” dimension, trim them as a set to 25¼”. This will give a finished height of 26”.


Be sure to trim for length AFTER ripping for size.
The cutoffs from the ripping operation need to be at least 25½”

Cut all of the other pieces according to the schedule shown. Round the bottom edges of the top of the frame, all four edges of the bottom crossmembers and all four sides of the legs and one end of the legs with a 1/8” roundover bit in the router.

Number the legs and make a dot on the inside corner of each leg to insure you don’t get lost during the biscuiting. Be sure to adjust your biscuit cutter to center on the 1¼” square legs.

Leg Biscuiting
Biscuit the tops of all four legs at ¾” and 2¼” down from the top.
Biscuit the legs at 6” and 7½” up on the inside of all four legs to receive the lower ends of the base.
Biscuit the back pair of legs at 13” up on the inside to receive the back bookstop.
Reset your biscuit cutter to center on ¾” stock.
Biscuit all six of the 3” frame pieces at ¾” and 2¼” down from the top on both ends.

Route the long edges of all four cutoffs from the legs with your 1/8” rounding cutter.

Biscuit the two lower end pieces 1” up from the bottom in three places. One centered and the other two 2” in from either end.

Time to sand everything. Start with 150 and work up to 220. The oak, being a hard wood, should finish smoothly and rapidly.

Begin the gluing process by making the two ends. For each end, lay out all four pieces and dry fit. Glue and clamp for at least an hour or overnight.

Dry fit all of the frame except the bottom slats and the back bookstop rail at this time. There is no way to get an accurate dimension for the slats and back rail without clamping up the rest of the frame at this point. Carefully measure the slat lengths and cut to a slight friction fit. Try and cut the bottom three slats as a set to insure that they are all exactly the same length. Any variation in the slat length will impact the fit of the entire base.

Once you have got the slats and the back book stop to the right length, biscuit them on each end.

You’ll need a helper to perform the main assembly. Start by laying one end on the bench, inside up. Dry fit the biscuits and long side rails. Have your helper hold the other end on the top of the side rails and place at least one of the slats in place. You’ll find that you can prebiscuit both ends of the slat and only slightly lift the end up to slip it into place. This is really a four handed job. Once you’ve completed any adjustments revealed by the dry fit process, glue the pieces in and clamp overnight.

I found it easier to finish the top and base separately and then glue them together to form the final table. I make a paint stand out of an old 5 gallon bucket and a “lazy susan” swivel base I had kicking around the shop. This allowed me to turn the top for easy access while staining and finishing.

When I stain and for my first coat of poly, I stain EVERYTHING. Top, bottom, sides, ends, you name it, I coat it with stain and at least one coat of poly. I do this to prevent the wood from warping because it can absorb/release moisture on an unfinished surface but not from a finished one. By finishing even the back and undersides I’m reducing the chance of warpage as the seasons change.

After each coat of poly except the last, lightly rub the poly with #0000 steel wool and then follow with a tack rag to remove any lint from the steel wool. Use a foam brush for the last coat to avoid leaving brush marks in the poly.

Final Assembly
Once the finish on the top and base is cured, it’s time to assemble the tiles into the top and the top to the base. Both of these are held in place with poly seam seal. Be sure to dry fit the tiles and to sand the edges if necessary. Once the tiles are fitting right follow the outline of the tile about ¾” in from the edge with the poly seam seal adhesive. Also make an X in the center. Press the tiles in place and put a weight on each tile to set the adhesive.

Place a bead of poly seam seal (use the clear) around the perimiter of the top of the base. Gently place to top on the base leaving a 1” overhang on all four sides. You should check the spacing to ensure it’s even. Once the spacing is right press the top down on the base to set the adhesive. Wipe off any excess adhesive before it has a chance to set. The poly seam seal is removable with water — until it cures.

Stand back and admire your new table!
Let me know what you think!

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

2 comments so far

View Foghorn's profile


1039 posts in 396 days

#1 posted 12-22-2020 09:59 PM

Nice table Mark. How did your planer blades hold up to the particle board? I’d always heard it was pretty “gritty” and could be hard on tools?

-- Darrel

View Madmark2's profile


2306 posts in 1598 days

#2 posted 12-23-2020 12:07 AM

Yes, it was nasty dust and smell. Fortunately I only needed to pull 1/8” off.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

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