Plywood folding table

The fruits of the first build weekend.

Several years ago I was introduced to the plans for this table by Sir Gernon Valletort du Harfleur , who got the plans from Sir Michael Richard the Tall, who brought one back to An Tir from Pennsic. We had a household table making weekend and built a half dozen of them and they have served very well. It is not a historically accurate design but it is less noticeable than a plastic table and is lighter and more compact than a trestle table.

For this build you will need:

4’x8′ sheet of plywood, 1/2″ works but I prefer 5/8″.

4 heavy duty strap hinges, 4″ long.

Screws for the hinges.

Glue, I prefer titebond 3


Edging material, I like 1/2″ oak

Brads or finishing nails

1″ elastic

Staples and gun

A couple of notes on dealing with plywood. Plywood splinters and succumbs to tear out pretty easily, to avoid having the face chip I suggest the following options. First use a good and sharp blade, a high tooth per inch blade specifically designed for plywood is best, it will have teeth specifically shaped to cut the fibers and minimize tearing. Second, always cut the plywood with the good face being the first to be cut, if a table saw the good side goes down, a circular saw, the good side up. Third suggestion is to put painters table over the area to be cut, this will help give the fibers support. When removing the tape I have had good luck in pulling it in the direction of the cut so it’s not lifting any fibers that are loose. You can also use a sharp marking knife to lay out your cuts so the fibers are cut and less prone to tear out.

Chip out from a cut.

Starting the Build

To start I take my plywood and cut a 2’4″ strip off the short side, giving me 2 pieces, one at 2’4″x4′, and one at 5’8″x4′. The 2’4″ strip will then be cut to make 2 pieces that are 2’4″ tall by 2′ wide. It’s important to make sure you cut it this way to keep the grain of the plywood going vertical, if it runs horizontal the table will look off.

Next you will rip the large piece to produce a 2’6″wide by 5’8″ long strip, this will be your tabletop. From the remaining piece rip one piece that will be 6″ wide and 5’2″ long, this will be the stretcher. Next rip the remaining piece to get 2, 5 1/2″ wide by 4’8″ long strips, these will be supports that are glued to the underside of the table.

All of the cuts

The supports will be glued to the underside of the table top, 6″ from the end, and 3 1/2″ from the outer edge.

Support in place on a finished table

From the waste wood you will need 4 pieces 2 3/8″wide by 6″ tall. These will be glued to both sides and both ends of the stretcher.

The legs give you an option for some creativity, this pattern I show on the blueprint is the one I got initially with the plans but I have since made modifications to create a more pleasing look to my eye. Regardless of how you design your legs you will need a slot that is the thickness of your plywood and is 6″ deep, this will be where the stretcher goes to stabilize the table.

underside of completed table showing how the stretcher fits under the legs.

Once you have detailed the legs to your liking you will need to raid your scraps again for some pieces. You will need to add additional pieces to the stretcher leaving a gap between the first blocks you glued on that is the thickness of the plywood, this gap will slid into the groove in the legs and keep the table rigid.

detail of the assembled stretcher, the gap is the thickness of the plywood

Attaching the legs to the table is easiest with two people. Put the first leg in position so that it is centered on the table, and butted up against the stiffeners you glued on previously. Center the hinges on the stiffener and install the hinges to connect the top and the legs. Repeat for the other side.

Leg and hinge placement

I greatly prefer to edge my table top with hardwood, usually about a 1/4″ glued and brad nailed in place to both hide and protect the plywood edges. You can trim it flush to both the top and bottom but leaving a lip on the bottom helps provide a handhold when lifting or moving the table.

hardwood edging glued and brad nailed to the side to protect, stiffen, and hid the plywood

Once you have assembled the table and preformed all your sanding, stain, oil, polyurethane or otherwise finish to your satisfaction. The final step is to add the elastic. This is a bit of trial and error, you will want to staple the elastic to the underside of the table such that you can slide it over the feet of the legs to keep it closed for easier transport and storage.


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