before & after: herringbone wood dining table

I felt a wave of excitement when this beautiful table makeover landed in my inbox. I’m not a woodworking expert, but I am always looking to try out new techniques. I’m absolutely determined to make myself something using Sarah’s awesome herringbone design. Sarah Summers and her father, a self-taught carpenter, worked together to modify an old door into a custom table that will last for years. They managed to put the whole piece together for around $150, which is impressive for any kind of large dining table, but for a table that looks this good? Wowza. Great job, team Sarah! — Kate

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Read more about Sarah’s herringbone wood table after the jump!

Time: 2 weekends

Cost: $150

Basic Steps: I recently finished graduate school and moved away from 6 years of college living. The one piece of furniture I never seemed to acquire was a dining table. So, when it came time for me to find one, I knew I wanted something special. I hunted yard sales, antique stores and fleas, but never quite found what I wanted at the right price. So I was delighted when my dad, an amazingly skilled and self-taught carpenter, offered to help me build one. The design was collaborative between the two of us, as was the construction — but I must admit, this was no novice project. Without his direction (and shop full of tools), I would have been one lost woodworking soul.

In order to keep costs down and be as eco-friendly as possible, we tried to get creative and use re-purposed materials for the table. The base for the table top is actually an old oak door that was purchased for $30 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. We cut the door down to the size we wanted and gave it a light sanding. Then we started laying the herringbone pattern; this idea [was] spurred from boxes and boxes of ash wood strips that my dad found while cleaning out a friend’s wood shop. Thinking they’d make a great table top, he saved them and we sketched out the design. Each strip was individually placed with glue and an air pin gun (this took almost a whole day!). We then trimmed the excess off the edges and used a belt sander on the top. We also paid to run the table top through an industrial sander ($25) to ensure it was completely even. Final steps on the table top included filling gaps, as the strips didn’t always fit together perfectly, and using an orbital sander to get it silky smooth.

The table’s base is made of oak plywood, found for only $10 due to some minor surface damage. We weren’t able to recycle any materials for the side edging, thus the ash lumber we purchased for that makes up a large portion of our costs. The biggest dilemma for this table was selecting a stain. I had my heart set on something dark, but I didn’t want to hide the wood grain or the herringbone pattern. We eventually ended up deciding on a gel stain and although it turned out beautifully, it was very difficult to achieve even coverage and I wouldn’t recommend it.
Using re-purposed materials was incredibly satisfying, and this was such a fun father/daughter project. I will have this table for the rest of my life, and it will undoubtedly be passed down through the generations! I feel so lucky to have such an awesome woodworking mentor and will definitely be using my newfound skills for future projects. — Sarah


  1. Kiki says:

    this leaves me speechless (quite an achievement!!!) – what a WONDERFUL idea by your dad and what a terrific outcome – i think i’ve never seen money better spent than here. and you’re right, this table will be the new heirloom for generations (one hopes!!!)
    thank your dad from me and give him a kiss from a swiss wood fan and thank YOU for sharing this beauty with us! Bon appétit!

  2. Holly says:

    Such an amazing and unique piece!

    And I’m so glad you got to share this experience with your dad. I have many happy memories of working with and learning from my dad while we renovated (and decorated!) my first house.

  3. laura summers says:

    Can’t wait to see what you two come up with for the next project! (I’m thinking a headboard or a coffee table). I’m so proud of you both and thrilled that you did this together! Thanks to everyone here for the compliments and kudos! It put a big smile on my face as well! I’m a proud momma and wife!

  4. Erin says:

    Wow! Beautiful!

  5. Allison says:

    So freaking awesome. The table is beautiful, as is the story of how it came to be.

  6. I am Blown away. No. Literally. I blew away from my chair, got up and then typed this comment.

  7. WOW! That’s so gorgeous! Extremely well done, I absolutely love the design!

  8. This is fabulous! It definitely looks like a labor of love!

  9. Julie says:

    Gorgeous! What a treat!

  10. Charlotta says:

    What a wonderful idea and how special that Sarah & her dad did it together. Makes it even more special.
    It is always so nice to see something like this. A lot of love put into this table – something you can’t buy for money!

    Have a lovely weekend and thanks for sharing this.

    x Charlotta
    Space for Inspiration

  11. BJON says:

    I would love to know how the legs were attached to this table. They look quite thin but obviously stable enough to support the heavy top. Just wondering how.

  12. Kate says:

    I’m sitting here barefoot because this table just knocks my socks off !!! Just amazing.

  13. Steve Summers says:

    @BJON, the “legs” are 3/4″ plywood doubled up(glued), then edged with Ash. There is a piece of 3/4″ ply that is screwed and glued to the top of the section(looks like a T from the side) that is then screwed to the bottom of the table. The “legs” can be removed this way for transportation. It’s actually quite sturdy.

  14. mimi brown says:

    Where is the super “like” button!!!

  15. That is intense! It does NOT look like only 2 weekends however… anyone else? I love the finished look so much.

  16. Great piece, I loved the thickness of this table and the look its great!

  17. monika says:

    GASP! Unreal. Very impressive. If I weren’t stunned I’d be envious. Good job!

  18. Hannah D says:

    What a brilliant transformation. And so cheap ! Really impressive work!

  19. Malou-La-Croix says:

    Looks like it would cost $10,000 from one of those chic handmade wood furniture stores that are all around upstate NY…all I can say is WOW!

  20. Nate says:

    I’m getting tired of hearing about the ‘new’ trend of herringbone, even though it’s been around forever…BUT!!!!! WOW!!! This is absolutely beautiful and an exception to my anti-trend mentality. What an amazing piece of woodwork that you can treasure and pass down through your family. You and your father should be so proud!

    I do have a question for you though. Could you please let me know what brand and shade of gel stain that you used? I have a few refinishing projects going and that is the perfect color that I have been searching for to no avail.

  21. Nicole says:

    Are you a design major? That table is absolutely stunning! I’m impressed!!!

  22. ViVO says:

    This is such a perfect Eco Chic project….inspired!

  23. Steve Summers says:

    @Nate, I’ve wanted to do a herringbone project for years. I considered cutting the 16×16 travertine tiles in my master shower into strips and doing a herringbone pattern there, then I thought about how much work it would be, and the amount of grout and decided a against it…

    The stain is “General Finishes”, Java is the color, it was purchased at our local Woodcraft store.

    My Neighbor brought me 3 more boxes of the ash strips that he had taken from the estate. We have materials for another project now….

  24. Carrie says:

    This just made my day! I’ve actually been bothering my woodworking to help me build a dining room table – and yours is absolutely amazing!

    Any chance you could tell me where your ash strips came from and what size they are? Thanks for the inspiration!

  25. jaime says:

    Great post….this looks easy and the final table looks fantastic! keep up the good blogging!

  26. Rob C says:

    This is awesome.

    A stupid question… How did you fill in the “gaps” between the ash strips?

  27. XIronman says:

    It’s really amazing. the timber reminds me that we are close to the nature.

  28. Josue says:

    such a great job! love this table! You and your dad did an amazing job!

  29. Steve Summers says:

    @Carrie, the strips came from the collection of a deceased friend and neighbor, he was a wood worker and collected an assortment of things over the years. I was honored that his children enlisted me to help we the liquidation of his shop. They are 1″ wide, 1/4″ thick, and I think about 8″ long.

    @ RobC we used Famowood, I’ve used it for years, it takes stain nicely. It was a little thick initially and Sarah struggled with it, and used alot of product. I ended up scraping the dried product off of the surface, mixed it with some acetone and thinned it up some, made it much easier to apply for Sarah.

  30. Rebecca Eff says:


  31. Sally Book says:

    What a fantastic redesign! Sarah must have some design experience, and that, teamed with her father’s carpentry experience, have created a fantastic new table.

  32. Kristen says:

    If I had access to the tools I would so be game to try this!!!


  33. Chrissy says:

    Has your dad ever considered adopting?? (No college money needed…I’ve already finished!) ;) I really adore this table! I had same question as Rob C (not dumb question Rob!) so thank you for answering and sharing fabulous creation.

  34. Brooke says:

    OMG! That is such an awesome idea and seems so simple to do! I’ve never thought of using a door to make a table but I can’t help but think of the nice wood table I got ride of b/c of the water rings cups left on it..I wish I would have seen this before I did b/c I would have loved to keep the table and just redo it! So impressed and what great thinking!

  35. Stephanie says:

    This table is stunning! I would love to have one just like it.

  36. tess says:

    Wow is that a beautiful design..something more modern to me..and getting more into it..wish you can make me one..would love to have it…

  37. nora yuen says:

    How very clever!

  38. Hong says:

    My all time favorite before + after. Thank you for this.

  39. redd says:

    Definitely a table worth keeping for a lifetime! That was such a brilliant project. Gorgeous dining table indeed.

  40. Mark D. says:

    Thanks for the inspiration! I loved this table so much I decided to make it myself. I took a bit longer then you but it turned out awesome! Check it out if you’d like.

  41. Jemma Smith says:

    The table has been transformed from a dull table top to a stunning piece of furniture, you must be Sarah must be over the moon with the final product!

  42. Isela says:

    I love your style and this is a wonderful idea, give us more tips in this year that is begging this a great place where we can learn a lot of good thing, thank you for shared your talent to us. Have a Happy New Year !!!

  43. Exceptional idea.! You just inspired me to use an old table as a wall piece with this idea. Great job!

  44. Georgina says:

    Well done Sarah! Great inspiration to turn this table around. You have just given me an idea with an old table of mine. Thank you

  45. James says:

    Hi guys, great looking table! I have one technical question: Are you at all concerned about the expansion of the wood? I’ve wanted to do a herringbone table but it seems that the herringbone pattern would develop warping or cracks as the wood expands and contracts seasonally.


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