How to Build a Small Table from Old Shelves

diy table made from shelves

I’m a fan of using what I already have (see me make a shelf) instead of buying something brand new, and my junk collection is getting out of hand, so I knew I wanted to use some of the materials I have lying around to make my kitchen table. I love how it turned out!

Building a table yourself is actually a pretty quick and easy DIY project that’ll save you a lot of money, and I’ll show you how to do it. You can use this tutorial for really any size table. This would also be great for a smaller table like a plant stand, entryway table, or even a coffee table.

So if you’re frugal like me, or just can’t find exactly what you’re looking for in stores, I highly recommend getting your Bob the Builder on and making one yourself!

My Table Predicament

With how cramped my kitchen is (see the before pictures), there just isn’t enough room in there for a space to eat. Luckily the living room is right off the kitchen and has the perfect corner for it. It’s still small, maybe 4 feet deep, and is right next to the hallway. That means the table has to be narrow so the chairs don’t block the hall and be a pain in the ass throw off my Feng Shui.

I have 2 barstools (one for me, one for Blue) that I used at the kitchen counter of my last apartment, and didn’t have anywhere else to put them. So I knew I wanted something taller than a normal table to make it work.

You might already have all the needed supplies lying around like I did, and only need to buy the table legs. If not, you can find everything needed at a home improvement store or on Amazon.

Here's What You'll Need

  • Old shelves or boards (a new board works fine too)
  • 2-inch tape
  • Wood glue
  • 4 medium-length screws
  • Drill
  • Table legs

I chose two Ikea LACK shelves I wasn’t using anymore, but this would definitely be easier with just one, or a regular board! I had 2 matching shelves, and together they were the right size for what I needed.

IKEA LACK Wall shelf

these are the shelves I had

You can get table legs for pretty cheap on Amazon or home improvement stores, and choose the length and style you’re going for. I used these.

How it's Done

Disclaimer: I’m not a carpenter, and I’m sure there are many ways I could have done this better, but I wasn’t looking for a perfect table or I would have just bought it! This was easy and quick, and I have a functioning, sturdy table! If you’ve got skills, feel free to comment below and let me know what I may have missed so that my next table (it’ll be an IKEA coffee table hack) is even better.

Here we go!

Step 1 - Glue the shelves together

Obviously this isn’t necessary unless you are using 2 pieces like me.

Make sure you have a flat surface to work on and something to cover it, wood glue is a bitch to clean up! Before any gluing, I put a strip of tape across the boards along the crack between the two to make sure they were lined up perfectly, then flipped them over so the tape was on the bottom and the boards were facing up. The tape also kept the glue from seeping out of the bottom and making a mess.

Now, spread the boards a tiny bit, just enough to make a crack, and slather on the glue! It doesn’t have to be perfect, the glue is just to hold the pieces together enough that the next steps will work.

Once the glue was in there good, I squeezed the boards together as tight as I could for as long as I could, then flipped them on their side so they didn’t get glued to the floor. Peel off the tape and use a wet rag to wipe up any glue mess.

diy table with wood glue and boards
i didn't end up using the superglue, it was just along for the ride
boards glued together using wood glue

Let the boards dry for 24 hrs.

NOTE: with wood glue, you’re technically supposed to use clamps to squeeze the pieces together while they dry. I don’t have clamps, and with the setup of these boards I don’t think I would have been able to fit a clamp around both anyways (or maybe I would have, I’ve never clamped so idk). For best results do as I say, not as I do.

Step 2 - Add a support board

Once the glue was dry, I added an additional board on what will be the bottom of the table, to make sure that they were bound together extra tight . This part was super easy, and I used a kitchen cabinet shelf that I found at the curb when I moved in.

First, I drilled 4 pilot holes through the board, one towards each corner. I used a drill bit about as wide as the thread of the screws I chose.

extra board under table to support

With the shelves laying flat and the bottom side facing up, I laid the support board on top, and taped the board to the shelves to make sure they stayed lined up. Then I just drilled straight through the holes I already made in the top board, and into the shelves beneath it. For these holes, I used a slightly smaller drill bit that was the size of the inner part of the screw, to make sure the screws go in really tight.

Again-support board I used a drill bit as wide as the screw threads, and on the bottom board I used a bit the size of the inner part of the screw.

Learn from my mistakes and don’t move the boards once both have holes drilled in them! Otherwise you’ll have to blindly line them up and just don’t do it ok?

Then just drill your screws into the holes to lock both pieces together.

Step 3 - Add legs

My legs came with 4 mounting plates, each with 8 screw holes so this step took a minute. I laid a mounting plate in each corner, then held the plate down while I drilled pilot holes right through the plate holes and into the board. You could also just mark holes with a pencil and set the plate aside while you drill the holes, but somehow my holes never line up right when I do it that way.

After I’ve got all the pilot holes drilled, I go in with the screws. Make sure they’re in tight but not so tight that the wood is cracking.

close up of mounting plates for table legs

Next, just screw the legs onto the mounting plates. No hardware needed for this step. I don’t have a photo of this but just picture an upside down table 🙂 The bottoms of my table legs were hard plastic, so I finished off with some furniture pads on the bottoms so they don’t scratch the floor.

Step 4 - Flip it over and eat!

Flip that baby over and BOOM it’s a table! I love how my table fits perfectly into this corner, and it sits about counter-height so my barstools fit (and it’s harder for Blue to reach hehe). I ordered some faux fur pads for the barstools so they’ll be a little less cold and uninviting. It’s big enough for 2 people to comfortably eat at and small enough that it’s tucked away. My only issue with it is the tiny crack down the middle, but that was expected when I stuck 2 boards together on the long-end.

up close image of completed table with fruit bowl and plant
wall art coming soon!
eucalyptus in a vase on diy table
diy table completed with barstools

I have a round board from the bottom shelf of a glass-top coffee table that I’ll be repurposing into its own coffee table (twofer!) so keep an eye out for another variation of this tutorial!

Stay safe, wash your hands and stay indoors friends! 🙂

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