How to Build a Dining Table From Scratch – Part 2: The Frame

In the first part of this build, I showed how I built a dining table top. I was dealing with plywood that was left over from a previous build and new techniques I hadn’t tried before. With those two things combined, I felt better about getting the top built before I tried to build the frame. That way, I wouldn’t have to risk making an incorrect guess about dimensions.

Now the top is built and it’s time to build the frame. In the video below, I’ll show how I built the frame using mortise and tenon joinery and how my wife finished with with a nice dark stain and some poly.

Let’s get this dining table done!


  • 2 – 8 foot 2×6 pine boards
  • 2 – 8 foot 1×4 pine boards
  • Tablesaw
  • Router with 1/2 inch straight bit

I started out by rough cutting some 2x6s for the legs. We wanted some chunkier lets, so I glued two of them together for each end. Rough cutting the length let me not be as concerned with matching up the ends perfectly during glue-up.

Gluing 2x6s together to thicken up the legs

I used 2x6s for this instead of 2x4s, because I could rip each set down into two legs at 3 inches by 3 inches. Rather than make my saw work overtime to cut through all that chunkiness, I set the blade to cut a little more than half of the depth on each pass. I sent it through once, then flipped it over and sent it through again.

Ripping the legs

I wanted to make sure the glue lines looked symmetrical, so I measured the last rip cuts to put the glue lines right down the center, and finished cutting the legs down to 3 inches by 3 inches.

Ripping legs with glue lines in center

Next, I cut the legs down to their final length with a stop block for repeatability.

I used my router with a 1/2 inch straight bit and an edge guide to cut the mortises. I clamped another leg next to each piece to provide more support and keep the router base more stable. This could also be done with a hollow chisel mortising machine, a drill press with a Forstner bit and a chisel, or by hand with chisels.

My plan was to cut the mortises all the way through the top of the legs to give as much vertical surface as I could to the tenons for strength. The table top was going to cover up the tops of the legs anyway, so there was no need to hide the mortise on the top.

Cutting mortises with the router

Here you can see how I marked the tops of the legs to give myself a fighting chance of putting the mortises on the correct sides of the legs.

My hashmarks showing which side to cut mortises and one finished mortise

Somehow I managed to cut all the mortises without screwing up too badly. There was some slight variation on one or two of them from my handling of the router, but it wasn’t something a little chisel cleanup wouldn’t fix.

The finished mortises

Here’s a cool tip I learned. Leave a little overhang on the left side of your crosscut sled. You can clamp on an extension, such as a 2×2, for longer stop block capability. This is especially handy for when you have to keep everything mobile and the miter saw station is already tucked away.

Clamping an extension onto my crosscut sled for longer stop block capability

I used that cool tip to cut the aprons to length. Two longer and two shorter aprons.

Next, I set up a stop block to cut the shoulders for the tenons into the aprons.

Cutting shoulder tenons

I raised the blade to cut about an eighth inch deep. I cut those shoulders on what would be the inside and the outside of each apron.

The side shoulders cut for the tenons

I then raised the blade and stood the aprons up to cut the bottom shoulder completely. Taking incremental passes to remove the material.

Cutting shoulder ends

The result was a reasonably clean cut end to the shoulders.

An end shoulder

I could have done the same thing for the front and back shoulders, but then I wouldn’t have been able to use this awesome jig.

Delta Tenoning Jig

This is a tenoning jig that my father-in-law gave me. I used it to get precisely cut shoulders by using a test piece to sneak up on the perfect position. Then I went to town cutting the rest of the tenons.

The tenoning jig in action

If you don’t have access to a cool tenoning jig, you can make one for yourself. I did this before getting this upgrade and it was pretty straightforward. Or you can just cut the tenons with incremental cuts all the way around.

All the while, Duke was there overseeing the operation.

Duke making sure I didn’t screw up the tenons

I then pulled out my chisel to clean up the shoulders and round over the bottoms of the tenons. Since I used a router, the bottoms of the mortises are round and I figured this would be easier then squaring up the mortises.

Rounding the bottom of the tenons

I did a quick dry fit and did any further cleanup to make everything fit together nicely. I also labeled it all so that I could put it back together the same way.

Dry fit of the mortises and tenons

Boy, I don’t know about you, but I sure do love me some sanding!


I added an eight inch round over to the four corners of each leg and the bottom two corners of the aprons, just to ease them up a bit.

Leg with rounded over edges

Time for glue up! I started with the short sides to make things a little easier. This was pretty straightforward. Except for the fact that I started by putting one of the tenons into the wrong mortise. Whoops! I also measured and adjusted the top and bottom to make sure the legs don’t flare out.

Glued up sides

After giving that time to set, I glued up the long aprons. The span was too much for any of my clamps, but they are pretty good at working together. I linked two 3 foot clamps together to get across the span.

Clamping frame

While the frame cured, I cut and predrilled some small pieces to attach the top to the frame. I could have done this with pocket hole screws, but I made it this far without them and figured I may as well keep up the trend.

Top fasteners

I then glued them to the frame.

Gluing top fasteners

After letting the glue cure on everything for a day or so, I flipped the top over, positioned the frame, and screwed it down.

Attaching top

What a relief that Duke and Dixie approved. They can be some pretty harsh critics.

Duke and Dixie giving their approval

Finishing time! We learned on a previous project that my finishing technique leaves a little something to be desired, so my wife took a shot at finishing this table. She pretreated the whole thing, then applied a dark stain. Then a couple of coats of poly to round it out.

Staining the top

Overall, I’m really happy with how this table came together. What I’m most excited about is that I gained practical experience with some cool new techniques. Well, new to me, anyway. These are things I hope to use for many years to come.

Finished table

If you like this build, check out our other furniture builds!

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