Folding Side Table




Introduction: Folding Side Table

About: Like wood working as a hobby.

This folding table is build from 3/4" plywood.

I created this instructable specifically for the plywood challenge. It is basically made of no other materials but plywood!

There are no metal hinges or any other hardware. No screws or nails needed!

Other then the plywood the only thing you need is a 1/2" wood dowel. They come in 48" length and one will be enough. Other then that some wood glue and basic wood working tools.

Power tools:

  • table saw
  • jig saw
  • mitre saw
  • belt sander
  • drill

Other tools:

  • some trigger clamps or clutch style bar clamps
  • hand saw
  • hammer
  • sand paper

The drawings, renderings and assembly animation were created using Autodesk Inventor.


2' x 4' plywood sheet 3/4" thick

1/2" diameter by 48" long wood dowel

Step 1: Material

I bought a full 4' x 8' sheet of 3/4" sanded plywood.

You can buy a small 2' x 4' panel at Home-depot but the cost per square foot is way higher.

The 2' x 4' sheet is enough to make the table.

I got the panel cut in half at the store to get two 4' x 4' pieces. Then cut one of them in half again to 2' x 4'.

This makes it much easier to get them home. I also don't have a big table saw to handle the full 4' x 8' sheets of ply wood.

Step 2: Design

Here is the basic design of the table.
Size like length and width can easily be changed to your desired table size.
The table built in this instructable is about 24 inches long by 16 inches wide.
The height will be approximately 15 inches.
For this size I chose a table thickness of 1.25".
A larger table should be maybe 1.5" thickness for extra strength.

Download the pdf for drawings with dimensions.

Step 3: Cutting Strips for the Table Top

Starting with the 2' x 4' pre-cut sheet.

Set the table-saw to 1.25 and cut 21 strip along the 24" edge.

Stand the pieces up on the cut edge and you should get a width of 15.75 inches. If you want the table to be a bit wider just ad more strips.

Step 4: Gluing the Pieces for the Top

Apply wood glue on the flat sides of the pieces just cut and stand them up side by side on a flat surface.

I put a piece of plastic sheet (vapor barrier) down on a table or workbench so the pieces won't glue onto your work surface.

Use several clamps and let the glue dry for a few hours.

I used 13 of the cut strips to create a board that is just under 10" wide. This is not the final width of the table.

The width of the fold-able legs will add to the final width.

Step 5: Cutting Leg Pieces

There are two different legs that need to be made.

We will call them the left and the right legs.

The left legs have a longer angled tab. The shorter once are on the right.

Look at the short video to see how the folding legs are hinged and lay flat against the underside of the table. The right leg folds flat under the table. The left leg (with the longer tab) will then fold flat against the right leg.

The pictures will show you how to mark the legs for cutting. You need to cut 4 pieces each.

When cutting the tabs with a skill saw i stay about 1/16 from the marked line.
The extra material will be sanded away with the beltsander after assembly.
Some Istructables require the use of a CNC wood router. This would work really nice to cut those leg pieces. I don't have access to that equipment. I am pretty sure not many hobbyists do. So the jigsaw and some extra sanding will be just fine.

Step 6: Gluing the Four Legs

Take two long leg pieces and a short leg piece and glue them together.
Repeat this four times to create two leg assemblies with the longer tab(left legs) and two leg assemblies with the shorter tab (right legs)

Don't worry if it looks a bit rough. Take the belt sander after the glue is dry and get everything smooth.

Step 7: Adding the Short Top Pieces

Once the center portion of the top is glued and dry I add the four short top pieces and the additional long top pieces.
Lay in the left and right leg pieces to have the proper alignment.

Step 8: Assembly and Drilling

Once the top is ready and the leg assemblies are glued assemble them and drill the 1/2" hole and insert a dowel to create the hinge.

I don't have a drill press so hand drilling with a re-chargeable drill will have to do. Try to keep the drill as straight (perpendicular) as possible.

As you can see in the picture the leg pieces stick out a bit but on the top. That's OK. Remember I was cutting with the skill saw and left some extra. Take the belt sander and make it all smooth.

I also left some extra on the end (length) of the table. Now that the legs are in I mark the exact length. (See the pencil mark on the picture) Pull the dowels and disassemble. Take the top on the table saw and cut it to the exact length as marked.

I do not glue the dowels until the very end. We will have to take them out again for final sanding and staining.

I did cut the dowels about an inch long so they can be easily pulled with some pliers.

Step 9: Final Assembly

Once all components fit properly and are sanded smooth start thinking about how you want to finish the wood and protect it.

I am only using a wood stain and will add a couple coats of varnish.

If you want to use the table outdoors you might want to paint the table.

Make sure you don't add paint in the are of the hinges as they will get to tight and might not move anymore.

Also this is when I finally glue in the dowels and cut them flush with the table top. Make sure you only glue the portion that sits in the outer most layer of plywood!

Step 10: The Final Product!

This will be your end product.

Hopefully some of you like it and will attempt to bulid a table like this.

Good Luck!

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    1 year ago

    Nice little table. I think you left one step out. In order for the legs to properly fold you will need to radius the bottom on the leg insert area to the horizonal center line of the dowel. Also did you cut the table edges at an angle to match the extended leg angle, or cut/sand the top of the leg to match the square cut of the table? I couldn't tell from the photos. Great idea with only very basic tools
    I might also add that if you wanted the legs to lay flat you could move one side inboard so that they would not have to stack. This would allow you to make the extended angle of the legs consistent.


    Reply 1 year ago

    yeah you are right about the clearance.
    I had to put some relief on the bottom of the short table top pieces to allow for proper folding.
    Was rushing the instructable to get it into the "Plywood Challenge" before the deadline!

    I was thinking about having four equal legs and move them inwards on one side. That would have just made the table a bit more unstable on that side.

    Great that you like the overall projects!


    1 year ago on Step 2

    I like the idea of running the plywood so the layers are aligned vertically. This will be inherently stronger than laying even three thicknesses of plywood flat for the tabletop. And the dowel/hinge system will work better as per your design. Now if I only had a table saw!