DIY Modern Birch Table from One Sheet of Plywood

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modern plywood table top

Update, 11/1/2015: A couple of people have contacted me to let me know that the link to Popular Mechanics isn’t working anymore (at least as I’m writing this). Someone was able to find the plans at this site, though, luckily! If the PM link doesn’t work, check it out here: ….we’re hoping to eventually draw up a full set of plans ourselves, with our modifications. But who knows when that will be?)

When we last left the basement to go spend a month and a half doing Thanksgiving/Christmas stuff, one side of the room was looking pretty finished:


And the other side….wasn’t:


There’s still a lot to be done in here, but we’ve finished one major component: the big table for games and puzzles that I’ve been talking about for forever.

Back when I first talked about plans for the basement, I was thinking of buying a round tulip table for in here, probably the Docksta from Ikea, since I didn’t have time to stalk Craigslist until a well priced vintage one turned up (incidentally, just out of curiosity, I did a quick check for them right now and found three that would look great in here….for between $900 and $1000 each. yeah. Might have been a long wait). We ended up deciding that the Docksta wasn’t really big enough for our needs, though (our needs being space for 5 or 6 people to spread out and play a board game), so we started thinking about other options.

I did spend some time looking on Craigslist, hoping something I liked would turn up. But I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for, which made searches rather challenging. I was pretty committed to a specific aesthetic in this room; I wanted everything clean and modern down here. It’s a style I like (especially for a teen/tween space) but can’t really get away with as much in the rest of the house, with its very traditional architectural style and details. So, in short, even though this is just a basement game room, I didn’t want to settle for just slapping a coat of paint on a cheap cast off dining room table on Craigslist. Unless I had to to avoid spending $900.

So then we landed on the idea of making a table. At first I was thinking of making a plywood top and then buying some hairpin legs to attach. The problem with buying hairpin legs, though, is that they’re not cheap. They’re not as much as a vintage tulip table on Craigslist or anything, but they’re….more than we wanted to put into this table.

I kept looking around and finally came across plans on Popular Mechanics’ website to make a table from one sheet of plywood, non hairpin legs and all.

So that’s what we made. And when I say “we” I mostly mean Dave and his Dad. They worked on this the weekend after Thanksgiving and got it all finished except the sanding and top coat.


I’m really pleased with how it turned out. $50 and change (the plywood was $50, then there was a bit of hardware plus polycrylic already on hand) for a table that seats six easily and is just what I wanted in here.

modern table made from one sheet of plywood

I won’t do complete plans since they’re on Popular Mechanics’ site, but here are some notes on what we used and where we deviated from the plans:

Kreg Rip-Cut and circular saw OR table saw

Compound Miter Saw

Kreg Jig

power sander


one 3/4″ 4×8 sheet of birch plywood

10 L brackets





The plywood is PureBond birch hardwood from Home Depot. It’s the fanciest plywood we’ve ever bought; it’s made with special formaldehyde free adhesive, and, more importantly, it’s SO PRETTY:

purebond birch plywood

Seriously, when Dave and his Dad were unloading it, my mother-in-law looked out the window and said, “that’s a really nice piece of plywood.” There was much back and forth and texting of photos while they were at Home Depot. Both Dave and his Dad preferred the oak plywood, and I was all, “OMG, no. I don’t want to feel like we’re playing games on a kitchen cabinet from 1983.” So, you know, they came home with the birch.

The main change we made to the plans was the legs. The Popular Mechanics plan has a single tapered leg on each side. We were afraid that wasn’t going to be sturdy enough, but we went ahead and tried it that way….and it was super wobbly when you pushed on it at all. So we added the second leg to each corner (and L brackets where they meet), and now it’s as stable as one could hope for. And it STILL only used one sheet of plywood!

(Incidentally, I’ve developed a little bit of an obsession with things one can make out of one sheet of plywood. I guess I’m not the only one, as I’ve found entire pinterest boards devoted to such things).

Also, the plans don’t specify a size for the apron. We cut our apron boards 24 and 52 inches long (the shorter boards are in between the longer ones, so the rectangle is more like 26 by 52). We wanted to make sure we could fit two chairs in between the legs on each side and one on each end, and that size worked well for that. There’s about 10 inches of overhang on each side.

Here’s what Dave has to say about it all, with a couple of fancy diagrams:
The Popular Mechanics tutorial included a handy PDF outlining all the different parts to the
table and, more importantly, the cut diagram. It also included an Escher-like optical illusion with the
table legs and a miniature guy fist pumping, so that was fun.

In the planning stages, I was concerned that the table would be very wobbly on the 4 skinny legs. We
figured if we stacked two legs together in each corner, we could maintain the clean look of the table but
add some stability. Because the legs are tapered, there was more than enough wood to cut out 8 legs
instead of four. This is how we did it.

plywood table leg diagram

After cutting out the 5-inch wide strips for the legs (cuts 9 through 12 in the PM plan), I did not then cut
to length (cut 13).  Instead, I marked 3 inches from one corner down one long side (point A) and 29 ¼
inches from the opposite corner down the other long side (point B).  Then I measured 1 inch into the
strip to point C and cut along line AC.  Taking the two pointy weapon-like pieces and lining them up, I cut
each along line BC to make the bottom of the leg and then cut off the excess on the top of the too-long

So we had an extra 4 legs to play with in case we needed them.  I decided (Gretchen told me) to stick to
the PM plans until I determined if indeed we had a wobble issue.  Turns out we did – when we pushed
into the long side of the table, which is perpendicular to the legs, it moved several inches to each side.
Pushing into the short side, or parallel to the legs, didn’t make it wobble though.  So instead of stacking
two legs per corner, we made a right angle with each pair of legs.  Four small L bracket as close to the
floor as possible are then needed to keep the legs from separating.

I would have liked to have cut a 45-degree bevel on each leg so the seam between the two legs was at
the corner and therefore less visible.  But since I already have four of the eight legs attached by the time
the reinforcement plan was developed, we decided against it.  I think it still looks pretty good.

plywood table leg corner diagram

Once it was all put together, we sanded it down with increasingly fine sand paper until it was super smooth, and rounded out the corners a little to reduce the risk of kids splitting heads open.

I debated for a good while about what to use as a top coat. I loved the color of the wood as is, so I knew I didn’t want to stain it. I considered just waxing it, but ultimately decided that some extra durability would be a good thing and that I’d like the look of a shiny tabletop. So I did a coat of polycrylic all over and then two coats on top.

I’ll talk more about the chairs later (probably next week). I have six of them, but some of them aren’t finished yet. I put the ones that are there so you can get an idea of the finished look.

diy birch plywood tablebirch table with chairsbirch table legs

birch plywood table topinside plywood table leg

And, since these don’t really merit their own post, another tiny change in the basement is these poufs I picked up on clearance ($25 each, marked down from $50) at Target. We don’t have or want a coffee table in here (the kids need the space for video games :)), so these give us a place to prop feet up or extra seating when needed:


Make this modern birch table from a single sheet of plywood

Linking with:

Miss Mustard Seed’s Furniture Feature Friday

The Creative Collection

Link Party Palooza at I Heart Naptime

Thrifty Decor Chick January Before and After


DIY Modern Birch Table from One Sheet of Plywood — 37 Comments

  1. I am really taken with the legs on the table! They are super cool and modern. Also I’m obsessed with Dave’s Dad’s construction ensemble. 🙂

  2. Loving the style – the mitered corners would have been nice, but hey but Joints are just fine! Is it tough enough to stand up to a sore loser after a night of Monopoly? That’s the real test!

  3. What a seriously fun table! And so original. There are so many tulip style tables out there. How many people have a table this rad?

  4. Gretchen!!!! It is so beautiful!!!! Holy cow!!!! You guys did such an outstanding job with this piece! You could so sell these!!! Have a great week you! Nicole xo

  5. I am in LOVVVVE with that table. I love how marble-y the plywood looks. It looks so sturdy and solid, and perfect for a gaggle of boys!

  6. This is amazing!! I’m so impressed!! It is the most beautiful piece of plywood ever. I want to go buy some and see what I can make it with it. Geez so pretty.

  7. Hi Gretchen,
    really liked the table and I looked for the plans on popular mechanics. Unfortunately the link didn’t work. Do you still have them or a link where I could download them? Would be awesome!

  8. I got here when looking for the pdf plans for this table, after seeing the Popular Mechanics article (their link is still broken, your link to the pdf plans still works). Your leg design seems to be an improvement on the original, both in looks and stability. Do you think the legs could be made slightly narrower at the top, now that you have increased the stability? I think it would make the table look more elegant.
    Thanks for sharing this information, it was very helpful!

    • Thanks! The table’s very stable with the modification we made to the legs; my husband and I both think you could take out some of the width at the top and still have good stability (of course, we haven’t actually tried it). HTH!

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