My mom is hosting Thanksgiving this year, and the guest list has grown to more than 20 people—by far, the biggest group she’s ever entertained. This has required a rethinking of pretty much the entire experience. The dining room table is nowhere near big enough, so undoubtedly we’ll be pulling out the temporary table from a couple of years ago. We don’t have the space to have pre-dinner mingling in one room, so we’ll be building campfires and lighting heaters so guests can enjoy the company and hot cider outside. Even the entryway will be used for desserts and drinks; essentially, we’re doing our best to utilize every last bit of space available to us. It might be a little crowded and crazy, but it will be worth it to host a party with everyone there.
All of this planning had me thinking about buffet tables and how handy they can be this time of year. My mom’s dining room has a little nook that’s the perfect size for a buffet table, but if it was kept there year-round it would crowd the room. When she has a lot of guests over, she usually gets a card table out of the basement and drapes a tablecloth over it so no one notices. And while this works for serving, it doesn’t really fit in with the atmosphere or the space—the card table is too wide and not quite long enough.
Then I thought: wouldn’t it be great to have an attractive table that matched the aesthetic of the room, fit perfectly in the space, and was easily storable? Enter this DIY buffet table. I based the design off of a tea cart from Goodwill we upcycled a few years ago: the two tiers of the cart have removable trays, and the legs of the cart fold up with a hinge system. This DIY buffet table works in the same way: The tabletop fits neatly into the bottom part, which can be folded up and easily stored. You can put it away when you don’t need it and bring it out for the holidays or other big group gatherings. This way, you can have your Thanksgiving pie and eat it, too!
Keep in mind that the concept of this table was designed with specific purposes in mind—to add extra counter space for a buffet, dessert table, or the like, and to fold up and store away easily. Therefore the material used was picked because it’s thin and lightweight. If you would like to turn this into a more permanent structure, or a table to sit at, I recommend altering the design and choosing some bulkier pieces of lumber for the legs and supports.
Step 1: Cut the boards
Cut the boards to their appropriate lengths with a handsaw or circular saw using the handy guide below. Use a speed square to find the correct angles for the diagonal cuts and to square up the straight cuts. Clamp the wood down before cutting, and use a speed square as a guide for your saw.
Cut the one-by-twos into 12 pieces 6 7/8” in length for the skirt ends, four pieces 23 3/4” in length for the skirt sides, and eight pieces 31” in length cut at 40° angles for the cross pieces.
Cut the first two-by-two into six 30” in length for the legs, and leave the remaining two-by-two to be used later.
Cut the one-by-six boards at opposing 45° angles so they lay flat around the one-by-eight length. Cut the one-by-eight into one 42 1/2” length piece for the tabletop.
Step 2: Use a Kreg Jig
Whenever I'm using a Kreg Jig I like to do it before sanding, so I can get all of the sanding done at once.
With the Kreg Jig set to 3/4”, pre-drill the ends of all of the 23 3/4” skirt sides. Pre-drill the ends of the criss-cross support pieces by lining up one side of the Kreg Jig with the middle of the board. Pre-drill long one-by-six pieces with Kreg Jig along the inside edge. Pre-drill short one-by-six pieces along the inside edge and on angled ends.
Step 3: Sand the boards
Sand all pieces before assembly. If your tabletop pieces are smooth, you may be able to get away with sanding by hand, focusing mainly on the cut edges. Personally, whenever I’m building a piece of furniture that’s going to be living in my home, I lean toward perfection (maybe I just lean toward perfection in general), get out the power sander, and let it do the work!
This step can be rather tedious, so some noise-canceling headphones and an audiobook or TV show make a big difference for me.
Step 4: Attach skirt sides to legs
Position one of the skirt sides to the top of one of the legs, inset from the front by 1/4” (I used 1/4” shims to line up everything easily). Secure with 1 1/4” Kreg Jig screws. Attach the opposite end of the skirt to another leg. Add another skirt side to the other side of the second leg, then finish with one last leg on the far end of the skirt. You should end up with three legs and two skirt sides. This is one side of your buffet table. Repeat with the remaining legs and skirt sides.
Step 5: Add criss-cross supports
With one side of the table legs lying facedown on your work surface, position one of the angled one-by-twos so it’s inset from the front of the legs 1/4” (just like the skirt sides) and butted up against the bottom of the skirt. Secure the top to the leg with glue and screws. Measure to make sure the distance between the legs is the same at the bottom as at the top before securing the bottom end of the angled piece.
Place another angled piece on top of the first one to form an “x”. Line it up with the backside of the legs, and secure it in the same manner as the first angled piece. Secure the pieces together in the middle of the “x” with a screw. Repeat this step with the other half until you have one side of the table complete. Then, assemble the opposite side in the same manner.
Because I knew my table would be up against a wall, I intentionally made one side of the table the front and the other side the back. For the backside, I attached the crosspieces while the table legs were lying on their backside, and I started with the first angled piece flush with the back of the legs.
Step 6: Attach hinges to skirt ends
Now it’s time to assemble the skirt ends that will connect the two sides together.
Lay the 6 7/8” pieces out in pairs, end to end. Position a 1" hinge along the seam between the two pieces. Mark the holes in the hinge with an awl or a sharp nail, and drive in the screws. You should end up with six hinged pieces.
Step 7: Add slide bolts
Add slide bolts to three of your six hinged pieces to lock them into place when the table is open.
Unfortunately, the screws that came with this bolt are slightly too long for our one-by-twos. You will need to either swap them out for some shorter screws or do what we did and trim the end of the screws with some cutting pliers.
The bolts should be placed across the middle seam of the skirt ends, on the opposite side of the hinge. When I tested this I found that placing the slide bolt right at the edge of the seam still allowed the hinge to bend and slide the bolt out of its casing. I found the most secure way was to position the slide bolt so that it overhangs the seam as much as possible without inhibiting the wood from folding in half. This takes two of the screw holes out of commission, so I added some glue to make sure the bolt stays where it should. Once the bolt side is secured, extend the bolt and slide the casing over it. Mark and secure the casing with the bolt extended to ensure that the bolt will easily be able to slide in and out.
Step 8: Add hinges to legs
With one side of the table face down, Add 1 1/2” hinges to the inside of the legs at either end, positioned at the top, on the side with the skirt, and at the bottom, just below the angled pieces. For the middle legs, just attach the hinges to one of the sides where the skirt attaches. It doesn’t matter which side, so long as they’re all on the same side. Secure the hinges by marking screw holes with an awl and pre-drilling before driving in the screws.
Once one side is done, repeat on the opposite side, making sure that the hinges on the middle legs all line up.
Step 9: Attach skirt ends to sides
This is where things get a little tricky. There are a lot of hinges involved with this table, so everything is pretty mobile which makes it a little hard for securing things together. Another set of hands to steady things might be needed for this step.
Attach one of the non-bolted hinged pieces to the top end of the table with the two outside hinges on the opposite side of the middle hinge. Repeat with the other top end, and with the top middle.
Attach one of the remaining hinged pieces with bolts to the bottom end of the table with the two outside hinges on the opposite side of the middle hinge. Repeat with the other bottom end, and with the bottom middle.
Step 10: Tabletop
Now that the bottom of the buffet table is complete, it’s time to work on the top!
On a flat surface, lay out all of the boards for the tabletop upside down (with the pre-drilled holes facing up). I put down a blanket to protect the top of the boards I’d already sanded. Add glue in between boards and the secure one-by-six boards to the one-by-eight board and to each other with 1 1/4” Kreg Jig screws. The goal is for all the boards to be level on the top; so to even them out, I like to lean on both boards while driving in the screws.
Step 11: Attach support beams
The last step of assembly for your buffet table is to add a couple of lengths of two-by-two to the bottom of the tabletop (we’ll call these the support beams), so the top sits snugly inside of the leg structure beneath.
First, measure the inside width of the legs. Cut two lengths of two-by-two accordingly. Then, take the measurement of these pieces and subtract that measurement from the width of the tabletop. Divide this in two—that’s how far from the sides of the tabletop the two-by-two should be placed. Do this same process with the inside length of the table legs and the length of the tabletop; divide by two and position the two-by-twos that far from the end of the tabletop. Pre-drill the two-by-two pieces in a few places, position at either end of the tabletop, and secure with glue and 2” screws.
Step 12: Stain the table
Stain the table, if desired, to match the aesthetic of the room. We stained the legs and tabletop, but you could paint the whole thing, or paint the legs and stain the top for more of a farmhouse feel. Follow the directions on the side of the can, applying stain in the direction of the wood grain and wiping off excess if instructed to. It's a good idea to apply a wood conditioner before stain, which allows the stain to soak in evenly to the different wood surfaces.
Step 13: Apply finish
Allow stain to fully dry before adding a clear coat. Consult directions on the stain can. Apply a clear coat of polyurethane finish to protect the wood from stains and watermarks.
You now have a storable DIY buffet table you can rely on whenever your holiday party guest list grows! Head to these other posts to make the most out of this holiday season: learn to make your own wooden pie box, DIY a Thanksgiving hanging banner, or build a temporary table to go alongside your new buffet table.