Thursday, March 10, 2011

Home Decor: Vintage Desk/Table How-to

Here is the How-To I promised for the charming and inexpensive desk.  If you would also like to do the shelves, go Here to view my past How-To on the craft shelves (the same process and materials were used).

Note: This plan will make a table that is 4' long 30" high and 20" wide. If you need a different size you will need to alter your materials accordingly.

First: Make a plan! Decide where you want your table to go and how large you want it to be. When doing larger projects I always draw up a little hand sketch with notes and measurements to make sure what I'm thinking in my head will actually work. (see sketch here)

Next: Collect materials. We purchased all of our materials at Lowes but most home improvement stores will have what you need.

Materials Needed for Desk
1 - 4"x4" board 10' long ,for table legs
1 - 20" x 48" x 1" board, for table top (we used pine)
2 - 1"x4" boards 6' long, for desk face panels
Screws: 3/4" and 1-1/2"
12 metal 2"x3" angle brackets, to attach legs and table top (see photos below for close up)
Interior latex paint (color and finish is up to you)
Paint brush
Wood stain of your choice
Clear Coat finishing spray or paint, we used a clear enamel (see photo below for close up)
Wood glue

Materials Needed for Shelf
1 - 12"x1" board 8' long (I cut mine in half to make 2 4ft long shelves, it saves a little $ to cut your own)
6 - 10"x7"metal brackets

Tools Needed
Electric screw driver
Electric sander with 80, 150, and 220 sandpaper 
Skil Saw

Here is the step by step process...

Step 1: Cut all wood pieces to the correct sizes
-Cut the 4"x4"x10' board into four 29 1/4" high pieces (refer to picture above)
-Cut one of the 1"x4"x6' board so you have one 38-3/4" piece and two 11" pieces
-With second 1"x4"x6' cut a 38-3/4" piece and save the rest for corner bracing

Step 2: Sand rough ends of cut 4"x4" pieces to ensure that they are level and flat

Step 3: Attach metal angle brackets at the top of each 4"x4" leg with the 3/4" screws. Use a scrap piece of 1x4 to determine how far in the bracket will go. Once each 4"x4" has 2 brackets attached (as shown above) assemble up side down, connecting the 1"x4" pieces to the brackets. (Note: to increase the stability and strength of the legs you can use stronger bracket.)

Step 4:  Once all 1"x4" pieces are connected, carefully turn table frame right side up. Make sure that the table frame is square and the legs are plumb.

Step 5:  Once everything is plumb and square cut 7 1/2" long (short to short) pieces out of the remaining 1"x4" board for corner bracing. Use 1 1/2" screws to attach this brace to each side and one in the middle to the leg. This will keep the table square and help stiffen the legs.

Step 6: Run your sander over all sharp edges of the wood (mainly on the bottom of the 1"x4" pieces). It does not have to be perfect since you will be painting it.

Step 7: Take a break and play with your little ones that are craving some attention.

Step 8: Wipe the wood framing pieces down with a dry or slightly damp rag so it is free from all dirt and dust.  Now you can apply your paint finish. I used the paint pictured above, its just an interior latex wall paint.  If you want the exact color you can find it at Wal-mart, the brand is Color Place and the color is Oasis. No special techniques were used here, I simply applied 1 coat to cover and then let it dry completely.

Step 9: When your paint is completely dry you can use a course grain sandpaper (I think we used an 80) to sand down and distress your wood. This part is fun because the more imperfect the better!

Step 10: Sand the 20" x 48" x 1" table top board (Mainly the ends and corners). Start with a 80 sandpaper and progressively work up to 220. After sanding make sure to wipe down with a dry or slightly damp clothe to remove dust. 
 Step 11: Apply an even coat of stain to your 48"x20"x1" table top. Stain should be applied with a dry rag (cut up old t-shirts work well too!) Dip your rag in the stain and apply to board in horizontal movements going with the wood grain. You can apply multiple coats if you like a darker look. We used 1 coat of dark walnut stain by Minwax. Let dry overnight and then spray evenly with clear enamel or some other clear coating. Wait 1 hour.

Step 10: Now you are ready to attach the table top to the table frame/legs. Apply wood glue along the top of the table frame, trying to keep it on the inner portion. Place the tabletop on the frame and position so that there is an even 1" overhang on each side. Use clamps or something heavy to hold the tabletop down while the glue dries. Read glue instructions for drying times. Also use 4 of the same 2"x3" metal angle brackets to attach the top to the frame from underneath. 


If you have any other questions please leave a comment and I will do what I can to help.


  1. have I told you how impressive you are! Stop it, you're making me look bad! :) Such a cute desk, someday I'll attempt it, the shamrock pretzels are next on my list!

  2. that is so awesome! Abe is really cool for doing that for you

  3. Also, how much did this end up costing?

  4. We spent about $40 on the desk materials and $20 for the shelving. But, we splurged a little on the desk top and decided to get a nicer Pine wood for about $20 but you can buy a cheaper top that looks similar for around $10. We also already had the paint and stain, but you don't need much of either so you can buy small containers or keep the leftover for future projects.

  5. I wonder where he learned to fly?

  6. Discovered your tutorial through Pinterest. This is absolutely lovely. Great job and I love the added step to play with the kiddos!

  7. It's a great basic table. Actually, a top with galvanized aluminum & exterior paint = great outside table for planting

  8. I'm looking to make something similar to this and was wondering if you remember about how much this table cost in materials?

  9. My husband is out there making this for me right now. :D I'm just waiting on him to finish sanding and cutting so I can paint. I loved the colors so much that I'm using the same colors. Thank you for this tutorial.

    And, for those asking about prices. We bought everything at Lowe's except for the paint, stain and gloss. We got those three things at Walmart. It cost us about $90. We didn't have any of the screws either so we had to buy both sets. They were about $5 a box for each size.

  10. If I wanted a 60" top, would the design scale out or do I need to beef it up?

  11. I'm new to the DIY furniture projects, but I am excited to get started. I'm also on a budget for furniture, so I was wondering approximately how much it was to complete? Thank you!

  12. Nice table. I'm going to make one. Using a Kreg Jig to drill pocket holes could be a different option rather than using the metal brackets.

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  20. We built this. The modifications I used are as follows. 1. I used cedar wood not pine. 2. I ordered from Home Depot a cedar skinned piece of plywood for the desk top. They delivered it to my house. I like the cedar charqcter of the grain. 3. I skipped the angle braces and screwed the desk top to the base/legs with brackets. 4. I added a piece of trim to the edge of the desk to make it have a more finished look. 5. The desk top I ordered is 24” deep not 20”. My daughter wanted a bigger sized table top. I used a polyurethane coat with brush instead of spray enamel. It takes longer to dry but is a more uniform application and less expensive. Thanks again for posting.

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