Camper Update: DIY Geo Dinette Table

Geometric Basswood Camper Table

One of the very first projects, besides painting the interior, was making this dinette table! I originally had the idea that I would have If You Give A Girl A Saw make one for me. But, if you follow her you know, she is very busy. At the time I wanted to order her shop was down with no reopen date reported so, I decided I'd make one. This would be a chance to put that chop saw I have to work for the second or maybe third time ever. 

Here was the inspiration for the table.

Obviously the pattern she did here is amazing. But, look at that coffee. Delicious. And a green mug. My camper color scheme has green in it. Staging works my friend. I was sold.

In order to make this as easy as possible, I thought I'd take the old table and just glue the pieces of wood on top. I saw an episode of The Weekender (around 16:20) where she uses balsa wood on a cart and thought this will be perfect. Cheap craft wood is the way to go. Thin, easy to cut, beginner friendly.... but, after seeing balsa wood in person at Michael's, I could tell that would be way too soft. It's so soft that you can dent it with just your fingernail. That's no good for a table top. What I did see at Michael's was a harder wood called basswood. Unfortunately, they had only 1- 2 pieces of each width. Hobby Lobby same problem. So, I went to good ole Amazon and bought a batch of it.

A full list of the materials will be at the bottom of this post. This post contains affiliate links.

The basswood arrived and I got to work. First thing, I learned which I probably should've checked in the first place is that the old table was crap. It was particle board with a thin laminate on top. It was crumbling and no bueno as a base. I had to buy a new base so I headed to Home Depot and bought a good piece of cabinet grade plywood. I didn't want it to have a bunch of knots in it and make my table all bumpy. I also didn't want it to warp. I bought a 4' x 8' piece and had them cut it to the size of my table and had ample leftovers I could save for other projects.

Finally after all of this running around I was able to start actually working on the damn table. I started by configuring the pattern. I split down the middle both directions and marked it off on the plywood. Honestly, this plywood is so pretty it could've been the table on it's own.

Next I figured out the angles. I had been taking an architectural drafting class which came in handy. I had some triangles (not pictured) to help with determining the necessary angles. 

Making the first cuts for my geometric table
Making cuts

First I cut every piece to cover the board. I wasn't sure if I was just going to paint on the actual pattern at this point or cut the pieces into a pattern and then just paint those actual pieces.

Look, I'm a newb. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm winging it. So long as you get that. This post is as much of a what not to do as what TO DO. But, in the end you know I made a table so the lesson here is just try and maybe you'll end up with something you can use. LOL. 

Next thing was cutting the ends off so it was close to the size of the actual table. I left a little overhang so I had some to cut off if necessary instead being too short.

If I look back now I think I wish the pattern chosen a narrower basswood but honestly figuring out the angles and cutting all of these pieces was enough for me. Design-wise I'd prefer the narrower pieces but DIY-project-wise I'm glad I had the wider pieces and less cuts, angles and pieces to deal with.

Next, I decided to go ahead and cut the pattern into the pieces instead of just painting it. I wanted this to be "legit". During the first cuts I learned that if I moved the saw super fast that the wood would splinter, so this time I was sure to go slow and smooth. Why call it a chop saw if you can't karate chop it down!? Makes no sense to me.

After cutting the pieces I painted the appropriate parts. Next up was gluing it all down. This part just about ruined everything. The thing is that this basswood is super thin and probably the downfall of the entire project (except it worked so maybe I'm exaggerating). Once I glued it down with construction adhesive it started to curl. I checked in with my guy Joe Wood at All Around Joe in Cincinnati. He was my long time contractor when I lived there and gives me pro-tips when I've gotten myself into a situation like this. He recommended I clamp down some wood over top to help secure it. Probably would've worked except I didn't have clamps. I used paint cans and heavy tools and everything under the sun that would fit. I wish I had a photo of this because it was a shit show. Anyway, the next day I come to see the results and it was good.... not great. A spot where I used an unopened tool still in its box to hold it down didn't stay down like I wanted it to. It curled and buckled in areas as seen in the crappy photo below.

You can also see where the adhesive squeezed through in some spots. That I wasn't too worried about, I could sand it out. I re-adhered any areas that popped up and then got to work sanding away the adhesive and any lumpy areas. This is not that legit of a project. I'm aware. I also sanded the edges away. You can see below that they were rough where I cut them close but not exact. I was afraid using a saw would really tear this wood up so sanding it nice and slow was the best option. The photo below is before I re-glued the edges.

Then the corners I rounded off with the sander so no body stabbings will take place while maneuvering around the table in the camper.

So at this point the table is just about done, just cleaning up and putting a finish on it. Some of the paint was sanded away when I was sanding off the adhesive and trying to flatten some bumpy areas. So, I taped off the pattern and touched up the paint.

FINALLY, it was time to put a finish coat on it. In order to make this thing as flat as possible and fill in any gabs and unwanted "character" I decided to use an extra thick poly. I was hoping it would act as a kind of epoxy. It did a pretty good job but couldn't fix all of my mistakes. :)

Here's the table all done!

And then I left it outside for a few days and it rained. I live in the desert. It doesn't rain. Anyway, I cried internally and then brought it inside. After a day of drying the warping of the basswood subsided and it settled back into place. I put another poly coat on it to seal it all together a little more. 

Next, I stole the old hardware off the old table including the cross supports underneath. This table is meant to convert to a bed and hold someone sleeping so the supports were necessary. 

AND TADAAAAAA.....ALL DONE!

There are some obvious flaws, such as some warping in the one corner but since I've never made a table before, and used a chop saw for only like the 3rd time ever, I'm pretty happy with the outcome!

Stay tuned for a bunch of camper updates! A bunch of projects are being completed and in the pipeline for new posts. There are a bunch of wild DIY projects here I can't wait to share with you!

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