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A Self-Contained Trestle Table

There are many of us, I am sure, who have made for themselves a tournament table from the plans in the Known World Handbook. The only real problem with that table is that a 4-foot diameter table can be a little large for some vehicles, particularly sedans. Furthermore, while the table is simple to produce, it is fairly wasteful of material. A 4-foot diameter circle gives a surface area of just over 121/2 square feet.

A good friend of mine had built a break-down trestle table, but rather smaller than what I had in mind. Accordingly, I started making plans. The table that resulted has a surface area just under 161/2 square feet.


The two diagrams below should be printed out on 81/2 x 11 paper at 150 dpi resolution. As usual, the plans are available as .GIFs and CorelDRAW! files.

Plans page in .GIF format
Plans page in CorelDRAW! format

Cutting diagram in .GIF format
Cutting diagram in CorelDRAW! format


Rhino 3D generated images. Click on picture for larger image
Note that this model was generated based on a table length of 6 feet (plus thickness of trim). The table plans as provided are for a table 5 feet 6 inches (plus trim), since it is cut from one sheet of plywood, 8 feet long overall, and I had to allow 30 inches for the table legs. 

Every piece of this table is cut from one piece of 3/4 inch thick plywood. This includes the pegs. I used good 1 side (G1S) pine plywood, but you can use birch, maple, walnut - whatever your budget will support. Note that because this is 3/4 inch thick, it will be heavy, so take that into account when you select your wood. Using the pine, the finished table runs about 40 lbs. Other than that, you will also need some leather thong or 1/8th inch rope, 4 pairs of 3/4 x 11/2 hinges and #6 or #8 x 11/4 wood screws. NOTE: I highly recommend stainless steel screws! This is camping furniture, it will get wet! Optionally, you can also get some wood filler.


Building the table is pretty straightforward, as it consist largely of cutting and finishing. The trickiest part of the cutting is caused by the side trim pieces, which are longer than the table top pieces. I found it easiest to plot out the pieces on the sheet of plywood, then make a preliminary cut across the ends of the table top pieces and looping around the ends of the side trim pieces without wandering into the pair of legs. 

Cut all the marked pieces out; the cutting diagram allows at least 1/4 of an inch between pieces, to allow for saw kerf. Pay very close attention to making sure your cuts are square for the table top pieces and side trim pieces, as this can throw the whole table off during assembly. Cut four pegs from the scrap - the best pegs will be about 3 inches long, and taper from 3/4 of an inch at one end to about 11/2 inches at the other. Instead of drilling round holes in the spreader bars, make square cuts 3/4 in one direction (the thickness of the plywood pegs) by about 7/8 to 1 inch in the other.

Take two of your leg pieces - you kept the pairs together, didn't you? That's how you make sure they're mirror images, with the good face on the same sides - and use a pair of hinges to join them together on the long side. It's your choice to put the hinges on the face or on the edge; either will work. I recommend the edges, though, so that the two pieces of the leg will lie completely flat together when folded up for storage. Repeat for the other pair of legs.

Assembling one table top section: The trim pieces are the same measure as dressed 1x2, which actually measures 3/4 x 11/2. The trim pieces go around the table top so that the two table top sections can form a shallow box. The easiest way to do this is to lay the table top piece down, good side down, and stand the trim pieces around the sides, on edge, again keeping the good side facing out.. Make mitre cuts at 45 degrees so they will fit together like a picture frame. Drill and screw the trim pieces to the table top piece - I used three screws per long side and two per short side. Finally, install the cleat pairs inside the table top. I found the easiest way to make sure everything would fit was to place the legs, folded, into the upside-down table top, and use scraps of plywood to represent the legs while fitting the cleats. Refer to plans page for spacing.

Repeat to assemble the other table top piece. Make sure you check for squareness frequently as you assemble the tops; otherwise the whole thing will be a massive (and expensive) waste of time.

Place both table top assemblies good face down and long sides together. Use two pairs of hinges to join them together - the hinges should fit just nicely on the edges of the trim pieces. I specify two pairs here because when I built mine, I used only one pair and that placed a lot of strain on them. Use two pairs. 

Congratulations; you've finished all the assembly you need to do. The rest is finishing.


As with the chest, I filled screw holes with PolyWood wood filler, then sanded everything with 80-grit followed by 120-grit paper. I used Minwax Polyshades antique walnut (#340), sanding with 180-grit between coats, and for the same reason as with the chest; it incorporates varethane and stain together. 

I haven't yet finished finishing it (which is why there are no actual photos here yet), but after my lady has done painting decorations on it, I will be completing it with a coat of Flecto clear satin varethane (#1100).


Except for decorative painting and final finishing, I have completed the table, and used it at a couple of events, and it has exceeded my wildest expectations. The key thing to remember when setting it up is to make sure the pegs are in firmly, as they tension the spreader bars, and those in turn tension the legs. I'll post photos once the table is officially finished.

This page was last updated Saturday, September 25, 2004

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This page copyright © 2001,2002,2003,2004,2005,2006 by William Underhill.