Used scaffold boards are a great material to work with and you can produce great furniture with a contemporary modern feel. Taking inspiration from the New York warehouse upcycling trend of the early 90s you too can make a piece of furniture that will last a century, whilst greatly reducing your environmental impact.
Industrial rustic designs are very popular at the moment and fit nicely with the majority of home decors so why not try this yourself for a fraction of the price of a new dining table. With a few simple tools and bit of patience you can make your very own unique rustic industrial dining table. See below for a tool and material list and follow this detailed step by step guide to make your own masterpiece.
Here is an example of the finished product that I’ll be describing in detail. It measures 180cm x 88cm and is 75cm tall. (Which is roughly the standard height of a dining table. They normally range between 74 and 76cm tall but I find 75cm to be the most comfortable for the whole family). The benches measure 180cm x 36cm and 45cm tall.
- Used scaffold boards
- Steel legs
- No 20 biscuits (not the kind found in your kitchen)
- Wood glue
- Wood stain, varnish or oil
- Table saw (optional)
- Circular saw (if no table saw)
- Biscuit jointer
- Electric plane (optional)
- Manual plane
- Sash clamps (4 x 900mm)
- F-clamps (4 x 200mm)
- Moisture meter
- Orbital sander (or two)
- Belt sander (optional)
- Orbital sander pads 60, 80, 120 and 240 grit
- Sanding foam pads 180 0r 240 grit
- Drill driver (and bits)
- Impact driver (optional)
- Dust extractor or vaccum
- Tape measure
- Set square or rafters square
Step by step build process
To start things off you’ll need to source your materials. You’ll need scaffold boards for the table and bench top whilst for the legs you’ll need some welding knowledge or know someone who can make these for you. I don’t make the legs myself but read on to see where you can find some.
So where do you find used scaffold boards? Simple really, Scaffold companies normally have plenty of them, but the trouble is, not all of them want to sell as they can be reused for other purposes. The trick is finding a company that’s willing to sell a few. You can try ringing around some local scaffold companies to enquire if they are willing to sell you some or you might even get lucky and find that they might just give you some. Just keep trying.
You can also look on eBay, Facebook Marketplace and sites like Gumtree as there are always some listed on these sites. You’ll most likely end up paying about £7 for a 10ft used board. You’re going to need 4 boards for a table top and 2 boards for one bench.
Important! Check your boards for moisture content. It’s important to ensure the boards you are using are dry enough to work with. High moisture content in wood will lead to cracking, twisting, cupping and bending boards when introduced to inside temperatures and humidity. The boards will slowly shrink in size when they dry out. If possible, use a moisture meter to measure the moisture content of a board before purchase. The ideal moisture level will be between 6 and 15%.
Anything higher than this and you’ll need to dry the boards before working with them. The best way to do this would be in a wood kiln, but most people won’t have one of these so the alternative is to dry them in your house. The best environment to do this would be in a house with the central heating on in a room with a dehumidifier running.
Keep testing the wood until the moister is down to the correct level.
If you have a little time to wait until your wood is dry, nows a good time to think about your steel legs. I buy mine from a local metal worker who currently makes Metal bed frames for campervan conversions. Luckily I’m friends with him so he’s happy to make legs to my desired size. You can call around some local metalworkers and ask if they can do a custom order for you.
Failing this try looking on sites like Etsy for some custom made legs. If you want your legs painted make sure you get them powder coated (as opposed to spray painted) as this is going to be the most durable finish. Expect to pay between £100 – £250 for a pair of table legs and £50 – £150 for a pair of bench legs.
Now back to your wood. Normally the first action I take is to cut the boards to length. To do this I use my sliding mitre saw which I replaced the blade with a 80 tooth wood cutting blade. These blades are specifically designed for cross cutting wood with a clean finish.
The standard multi purpose blades that come with mitre saws will leave a very rough cut which will mean more sanding for you. Look at the difference a good blade makes.
If you’re investing in a new mitre saw for this project, ensure you have one with a cut depth of at least 230mm. Most scaffold boards will be about 225mm wide and about 37mm thick.
The sanding process
This is normally the longest, most boring part of the build but be patient and the results will be worth it. As with most used scaffold boards there’s likely to be spilt build materials splattered all over them, if so, you can probably just scrape these off with a wallpaper scraper or chisel. Sanding can be completed before or after joining the boards.
Manual sanding will take a decade so invest in an orbital or belt sander for this part. A belt sander will speed things up greatly here. It’s best to start sanding with a 60 or 80 grit paper to clean the boards and remove most of the years of cement, plaster and other bits that might be stuck on the wood.
You can see above I’ve been using two different orbital sanders and a dust extraction unit to avoid breathing in dust particles. If you have a large workshop then you’ll probably use a woodwork dust extraction company to install and check the efficiency of a proper dust extraction system, but for a home setup like I have then this type of dust extractor is fine.
The boards don’t have to be perfectly cleaned down to bare wood as you’ll want to leave some of that rustic patina for that true industrial look.
Once this is complete, repeat the process with a 120 grit paper. You may need to manually remove splinters and splits during the sanding process. Ensure you sand edges to leave nice rounded corners.
With the majority of the sanding out of the way it’s time to think about joining your boards. Or jointing as it’s called in the world of woodworking. To do this you should prepare the edges using a planer. It’s important that each edge is clean, smooth and straight as these edge will be glued together and form a seal between each board. You can use a manual plane for this but it’s much quicker with an electric one.
Starting with the table top, line 4 boards up against each other and check to see how clean the join is. You can make small adjustments with your planer to get the perfect join. It’s a good idea at this point to number your boards, or draw a triangle across the top to ensure you know which boards goes where should they get mixed up. Once you’re happy with your table top boards it’s time to think about your bench boards.
The bench boards are going to be too wide by joining two together. We want the bench top to be about 360mm wide, therefore each board needs to be ripped down to 180mm wide. To do this I use my trusty table saw.
It’s the quickest, easiest and most accurate way to do this, however, if you don’t have a table saw and don’t want to make the investment then you can use a circular saw.
Once complete, line the boards up to ensure a good fit together and plane/sand the edges if required.
The joining process
For this part you’re going to need some large sash clamps, a biscuit jointer, some biscuits and some wood glue. Start be marking up your wood for the biscuit jointer. To do this I normally lay all the boards out flat and line them up neatly next to each other, then mark with a pencil 150mm in from each end where the boards join. Then another pencil mark half way down between each board.
The biscuit jointer is going to slice into the side of your wood and leave a perfectly sizes hole for a biscuit piece to insert into. It’s important to carry out this process accurately as it will ensure all your boards line up nicely together. If done correctly you’ll be left with a nice even and level surface table top. Biscuit joins don’t necessarily add any strength to the table top, its just for lining up the boards. Now line up the board with two sash clamps underneath and begin glueing. Apply an even layer of wood glue along the whole length of the first board. You can smooth this out using a lollypop stick or something similar.
Insert your biscuits and push into the next board. Repeat this process for the other 3 boards until you have all 4 lined up on the clamps. Slowly tighten the first to clamps until all the boards are close together. Do not over tighten at this point.
Now lay two thick pieces of wood at each end and tighten to the boards to ensure the table top is nice and flat. Now attach two more clamps to the top middle of the table top and tighten as much as possible. To prevent the sides of the table being damaged from the clamps I tend to insert some pieces of wood.
Now leave this table top to dry. Wood glue dries quite quickly but I tend to leave it for at least 12 hours before moving onto the next process. You’ll want to clean off any excess glue before it dries.
Repeat this process for the bench.
Once dry you can now remove the clamps. Your table top should now be strong enough to flip over. If you’re going for a perfectly smooth finish on your table top then it’s worth filling any holes with some wood filler. Filler can be applied and smoothed over using a putty knife or scraper. Once the filler is dry you can sand down to a 120 grit like the rest of the wood.
You might not always find the perfect colour match filler but this is fine and adds to the character of the piece.
Supporting the 4 boards might now be required with a strip of wood underneath at each end. I normally use the off-cuts from the bench and cut at a 50 degree angle which span from side to side. This isn’t always necessary but can add a bit of strength to your table top.
A final round of sanding with a 240 grit is now advised. This will give a super smooth finish to your table top and prepare for a stain and oil to be applied.
Finishing your table and bench
I tend to use either a Ronseal interior varnish stain or Osmo oil tints to colour and protect my wood furniture. The Osmo oil tends to provide a slightly stronger finish to the table but it’s up to you. Both work well. You’ll need to apply 2 – 3 coats to finish off the table and bench. I use a standard 40-50mm paint brush to apply the stain. Always follow the grain of the wood when applying the stain. Allow about 2 hours between coats or check the manufactures guidelines. The pictured tables in this post are all using the Ronseal Interior Varnish in a French Oak colour.
Finally rub down with a fine grit sanding foam block between each layer for a super smooth finish. I don’t tend to apply varnish or oil to the bottom of my tables as it lets the wood breath and will help minimise movement in the boards.
Now it’s time to fit the legs. This should be straightforwards by simply lining up your desired location and screwing in with a drill-driver or impact driver.
So that’s pretty much it. You can see how easy it is to make a beautiful functioning table thats eco friendly and long lasting.
If you have any questions or want to leave a comment please do so below.