Walnut Trestle Table

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Project by Mean_Dean posted 04-13-2013 01:22 AM 6249 views 10 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a walnut trestle dining room table. I got the idea, and the plans, from Tommy Mac’s TV show on PBS.

It is solid walnut, and follows the plans closely, except for the tusk tenons on the ends. I got this idea from one of Tage Frid’s books (maybe his #3 book.)

The table top is 60”L x 40”W, and the table itself is 30”H. It seats 4 comfortably, and will seat 6 in a pinch.

All parts, except the top are finished with Danish oil. The top is finished with several coats of wiping varnish (Bob Flexner’s recipe: semi-gloss oil polyurethane, thinned with mineral spirits.)

Now for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good: The wiping varnish finish on the top. Thinning out the polyurethane really makes the finish lay down well, leaving no un-popped bubbles. The finish really has a nice sheen to it, and I think, looks great!

The Bad: Using wiping varnish means you have to put down many, many coats of finish to get it built up to the level you want. Also means a lot of sanding between coats! The top also has breadboard ends, and as I have now discovered, the breadboard ends only line up with the rest of the top on the day you rip the top to width. After that, they are either longer or shorter!

The Ugly: The top is 40” wide, so I used 8 – 5” boards to make it. Some woodworkers believe you should use the widest boards possible, and use only 2 or 3 to make a tabletop. I was concerned about the top cupping if I used 2 – 20” boards (not to mention, where the heck do I find them!), so I used smaller, flat boards, and tried to match the grain as best I could.

Comments and questions appreciated!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

18 comments so far

View vonhagen's profile


547 posts in 3336 days

#1 posted 04-13-2013 01:55 AM

not true using wider boards unless they are quartesawn will cup more if they are plane sliced. by alternating the annular rings up and down it will stay flatter. also i don’t see any stretchers across the bottom as this will stabilize the top from warping and when adding stretchers do not glue them to the bottom as when the wood moves it will not check. i have built tables up to 40 feet long by 8 feet wide and use solid lumber in a lot of places but for the top i use a inert substrate and flitched veneers. most antique high end tables use a closed grain substrate and book matched veneers. also by using a lacquer finish it will flow nice and seal well, both top and bottom must be sealed a nd the great thing about lacquer it goes off fast and if you want to strip it and steam out dings or scratches by using lacquer thinner and an iron with a wet rag. you did a great job on this table and should be proud.

-- no matter what size job big or small do a job right or don't do it at all.

View Mark's profile


1065 posts in 2946 days

#2 posted 04-13-2013 02:27 AM

That table top is SHARP. I don’t know beans about table top construction, but that is out standing!

-- Mark

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4548 days

#3 posted 04-13-2013 05:20 AM

Beautiful table great job


View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30584 posts in 3309 days

#4 posted 04-13-2013 07:48 AM

Beautiful table. Your construction is fine.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View ChuckV's profile


3348 posts in 4499 days

#5 posted 04-13-2013 11:53 AM

That is a wonderful table, Dean. I think that the top came out great.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Woodbridge's profile


3741 posts in 3389 days

#6 posted 04-13-2013 03:08 PM

Your table looks great. I like the top.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View Woodknack's profile


13543 posts in 3351 days

#7 posted 04-14-2013 05:42 AM

Trestle tables really show off the wood. I built one about half that size and should take pictures of it. I haven’t seen the Tommy Mac trestle table episode yet and was also wondering about stretchers under the top and how the top is attached to the legs.

-- Rick M,

View oldnovice's profile


7700 posts in 4339 days

#8 posted 04-14-2013 06:53 AM

Gorgeous table and a good choice of wood!

I built a miniature trestle table for a former manager I had when I was working and she called it a Norwegian coffee/sofa table and she specified the wood. When she retired she took it with her to Norway and it is, as of today, my only exported project.

-- "It's fine in practise but it will never work in theory"

View Oldtool's profile


3149 posts in 3162 days

#9 posted 04-14-2013 01:39 PM


Fantastic table, beautiful build.

As for the finish, next time try General Finish’s ARM-R-SEAL. Its a wiping varnish, goes on very easily, very light sanding between coats (I use 4/0 steel wool), and usually 3 coats are sufficient. This leaves a nice sheen, I use semi-gloss or satin, and it never looks like a plastic coating.

Can’t tell what type or size of stretchers you used on top of the legs, but I would suggest only about 2” to 4” shorter than the width, then attach the top with old traditional wooden “buttons” or “clips” as ther’re referred to. These allow top movement without concern for checking, and still retain flatness. Besides, they are easy to make and install.

As for board width, I’ve read pros and cons both ways, and I don’t think it makes any difference, as long as you secure the top well as described above.

Yours is a great build, looks fantastic. A beautiful piece of furniture.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View workerinwood's profile


2717 posts in 4039 days

#10 posted 04-14-2013 01:52 PM

Beautiful!!! Great job.

-- Jack, Albuquerque

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4119 days

#11 posted 04-15-2013 09:50 PM

Rick M. – The Tommy Mac Trestle Table episode is from Season 1, which is out on DVD, and you should be able to get it from your local library. The stretchers (actually, battens) underneath the tabletop are identical to the lower battens on the floor. In fact, the leg assemblies are identical to each other, which speeds construction. His plans don’t call for the tusk tenons – I added that feature myself, after seeing them in one of Tage Frid’s books.

Oldtool – Thanks for the ARM-R-SEAL suggestion. When I said there was a lot of sanding between coats, I meant that, with the number of coats, I had a number of sanding sessions. Each sanding session went quickly and easily. Just knocking off the dust nibs, and getting it perfectly flat.

I attached the top to the upper battens, with 8—#8 screws. To accommodate wood movement, the outer screws sit in elongated holes to allow the screw to move along the batten as the top expands and contracts.

Thanks everyone for your comments!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 3147 days

#12 posted 04-16-2013 02:00 PM

Your trestle table is wonderful. Like the walnut, the beautiful grains really pop with the finish. Excellent work!

View StevenAZ's profile


4 posts in 2796 days

#13 posted 05-28-2013 09:13 PM

Awesome build

View ImaginaNatural's profile


16 posts in 2143 days

#14 posted 03-13-2015 12:56 AM

awesome table

-- Alberto, Imagina Natural, Constitucion, Chile,

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4119 days

#15 posted 03-13-2015 11:57 PM

Thanks, Alberto!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

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