How to build a console table with MDF or plywood

Make your own MDF masterpiece with our simple guide

A console table is a practical and aesthetically pleasing addition in a living room or dining room. Sometimes you notice that one of the walls appears empty, and it would thus be a good idea to have a side table placed there. Console tables take various forms, the simplest being a simple table top supported by brackets, and then there are others which include different sections in the lower parts. Simply placing a mirror over it, and decorating it with a lamp and some family photos could work wonders in a room or entrance hall, or even in a corridor. Most probably if you were to take a look at your home you will be able to identify various areas where a console table would look great. So, why not try building one yourself? It is really quite easy.

Tools & Materials

First you will need certain tools, including a circular saw, a drill and a pocket hole. If you own a mitre saw or a table saw it will be even simpler to build. You will need 18mm sheets of plywood or better still, have some 18mm MDF boards cut to measure. You’ll also need shelf brackets, screws, and stain or paint. To acquire all the materials you will need to decide on the dimensions of your console table first. So measure and design it on a sheet of paper, so as to visualize well how it is going to look once done.

Then, you are good to go!

Using a table saw will give you perfectly straight cuts. Image credit: Start Woodworking

Let’s Get Started

Cut the top in the dimensions you decided upon, and then cut the legs. Then, mark at least a 1 inch inset on each of the corners. Make sure you line up the squares with the top of the table. Put glue on the top of each leg, line it up with the marks and attach it. Screw it in place for additional security. Repeat for the other legs.

If your console table is going to be in a simple design, you are basically done, as you have the top and the legs, and all you need to do is sand, paint or stain. However, we are going to go into a bit more detail for those who prefer to add one or more shelves in the lower part of the console table. This allows for more storage space, as well as a more elaborate design, which might appeal to many.

Having at least one shelf at the bottom is not only aesthetically pleasing but also better for stability purposes, since the shelf can actually help to hold everything together. You will need to see that the dimensions of the shelf or shelves are slightly smaller than those of the table top. You will need to buy L brackets or shelf brackets to attach the shelves. These generally come with screws. As a general rule of thumb about 23 inches from the bottom of the legs is a good level for an upper shelf. This will depend on whether you will have one or two shelves though, so try to be realistic so as not to have it too low. Attach the brackets, cut the shelf panels, and attach them. Finally screw them up.

Sanding is an important part of this project. The more you sand the smoother the finish will be. Generally starting with an 80 grit sandpaper and finishing off with a 220 grit one is a good idea. Sanding off the corners or gouging the top could give your console table a weathered look that complements antique furniture.

Basic Console Table Frame. Image credit: Jen Woodhouse

If you are going to stain the table it may be best to put some pre-stain conditioner first. Stains will need to be applied according to the respective instructions as these may vary from one brand to another. Besides different colors might have different processes. If you want to get the French country look, use furniture wax which works really nicely on a console table. Staining is often preferable to painting, but both will work out fine if you try to ensure a neat application. If you decide to paint instead of staining it, make sure to apply the first coat and then leave it to dry well before applying the subsequent coat. Two coatings of paint are recommended.

As you can see it is really simple to build a console table on your own. There are no complications when it comes to attaching the different sections together as it is a simple table, but one which could look really great in various parts of your house.