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How to Build an Art Table

Making art requires a special work area to maximize creativity. Learn how to make your own custom art table with these easy directions.

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Step 1: Plan the Table

Sketch out a design for the art table.

design sketched out for art table

Step 2: Measure and Cut

The thin pieces of plywood will slide into grooves in the top and bottom of the table cabinet. Measure and mark the placement for the vertical dividers in the top and bottom pieces, then cut straight grooves in the plywood at these points. Wearing safety glasses, use a standard 1/2" straight router bit to cut the grooves. Clamp a piece of scrap wood to the plywood to act as a fence and help guide the router for each groove.

Step 3: Create the Outer Box

Assemble the outer "box" of the table cabinet with wood glue and nails. Drive screws into the joints to help make them more secure.

Step 4: Add Dividers

Position the center divider that will separate the vertical dividers from the flat file and cubbies. Use glue and nails to secure it in place.

Glue and nail in place the shelf that will serve as the bottom of the cubbies, making sure to leave the right amount of space for the flat file. Also nail in the cubbie dividers.

Dry-fit the thin vertical dividers and other shelves and adjust if necessary. Glue and nail the center vertical divider in place. The other dividers won't be attached, allowing Tina to adjust them as needed.

Step 5: Paint the Table

Sand, prime and paint the shelves and the table base as desired.

Step 6: Measure and Create the Top

Measure, mark and cut the art table top from birch plywood.

Turn the metal laminate face down. Set the tabletop pieces on the metal laminate and carefully trace the shape with a permanent marker.

Wearing work gloves and safety glasses, cut out the traced shapes from the metal laminate.
Tip: Power shears, which can be rented for about $30 a day, help make this job go quickly and easily.

Step 7: Laminate the Top

Apply contact adhesive to one piece of the plywood tabletop and the back side of the corresponding laminate piece. Wait for the adhesive to become tacky, then adhere the laminate to the tabletop according to the package instructions. Use the J-roller to secure the laminate, applying firm pressure. Repeat for the other tabletop piece. Leave the protective covering on the metal laminate until final installation is complete.

Step 8: Add Casters

Turn the table base upside down and position the casters at the corners. Mark the placement of the holes in the caster brackets.

Wearing safety glasses, drill pilot holes in the bottom of the art table at the marked points. Thread a washer over one of the caster bolts, hammer it through the bottom of the art table, and fit a caster over the bolt. Add a washer and nut. Repeat for the other bolts on the caster; once all of the caster’s bolts are in position, tighten down with a socket wrench. Repeat for the other casters.

Step 9: Install the Hinge

Turn the tabletop right-side up. Position the tabletop pieces, then remove the piece that will be hinged. Drive screws up from the inside of the table into the stationary portion of the tabletop to attach.

Note: Check the length of the screws to make sure they aren’t too long and won’t go through the top surface of the table.

Use a piano hinge to attach the angled tabletop piece to the base.

To create supports for the hinged part of the tabletop, cut dowels to the desired length and cover the dowel ends with rubber feet to prevent slipping. Karl used a router to make grooves in the table base under the hinged tabletop to store the dowels when not in use.

create supports for hinged part of tabletop

Step 10: Create Art Supply Storage

Position the cups on the overhang portion of the stationary tabletop and trace with a permanent marker.

Wearing safety glasses, drill a large pilot hole inside each traced circle. Insert the jigsaw blade through each hole and cut out the traced shapes.

Glue edge trim around all edges of both tabletop pieces.

Install the flat file for horizontal storage.

adding recessed supply cups

Step 11: Finish Up

Remove the protective covering from the laminate.