Mid-Century Modern Side Table Build

Using reclaimed white oak

A while back, I built a white oak table that was to be used outside on a patio, but the Summer weather and the 6+ hours of direct sunlight proved to be too much for the table in that environment. So, I stripped the table down and used the base to build another, indoor dining table. The top of the original table was in bad shape, so I spent some time cleaning it up and building this nice mid-Century Modern side table. Here is how that process went…

Restoring the Old Wood

The white oak used for the top of the table became worn and warped with the harsh conditions here in the South. Mainly, the harsh sun beating down on it. This table had originally been finished with Epifans, a high quality varnish often used on boats. So, in building this mid-Century Modern table, I had to get the old finish off first. In this first photo, you can see the glossy finish of the varnish.


I ran the pieces through my SuperMax 19/38 drum sander and was able to easily take off the varnish in just a few passes. Here you can see them side-by-side.


Once the varnish was off, I could work on flattening and straightening the boards to get them ready for glue-up and then joinery.


In this glue-up, you can still see some traces of the varnish and some dark spots due to the weathering of the wood. So, once the panels were glued up, I ran them through the SuperMax one more time before cutting all the panels to final size in preparation for joinery and gluing up the case of the table.

Mid-Century Modern Side Table - Building the case

The case for this table was pretty simple, it would be about 16 inches by 16 inches with an internal opening of about 4 inches. The case would be constructed with floating tenon joiner so I could glue just the floating tenons, and not the rest of the joint seam, and not worry about wood movement. This design does call for some cross-grain joinery, which is normally frowned upon, but I felt comfortable with the moisture level of the wood and how I was addressing the joints with floating tenons. I believe it will allow for proper wood movement during the seasons and not cause any problems.

Here I have cut all the pieces to their final sizes and I’ve laid out for the floating tenons. Once this is all fit, it is ready to glue the case up.


Once the case was all glued up, it was to the finish line from here. Just some sanding and applying the finish and then finally adding the legs.

Mid-Century Modern Side Table - Finishing touches and wrap up

For this project, I wanted to maintain a more natural look than the heavy varnish used before; besides, this table was not going to be outside again so that finish would not be necessary. So, I went with a more natural tung oil finish. I applied two coats, lightly sanding in between coats. Then, I buffed the case with 0000 steel wool and paste wax to knock down the finish and give a nice feel to it.

Lastly, I ordered a set of heavy steel hairpin legs from the folks at www.HairpinLegs.com. I opted for their 16 inch legs in a raw steel look. I was concerned, at first, about using hairpin legs on this because the white oak is a heavy wood and I thought it might be a bit wobbly and unstable. However, upon unboxing these legs, I knew I made the right choice; they were super robust and up to the task of supporting this table case. All-in-all, I really like this build and I thought the finished product turned out great! Here are a few shots…


Finished Mid-Century Modern side table in white oak with solid steel legs


Let me know of what you think of this project in the comments below. If you are interested in your own version of this table, please use the Contact page and drop me a note and we can get started! If you would like to stay up to date on future posts, simply subscribe below - I promise no spam!

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