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Poplar Schoolroom Table

She’s finished! The new, larger table for our schoolroom that I mentioned in the schoolroom reveal post.

In her beautiful, raw, unfinished glory:

Unfinished Birch Table

And now after 5 coats of Varnish Oil:

Finished Preschool Table

Can you believe how the oil made the colors and grain pop?!

Dan built and designed the table himself. I am so proud of him! It turned out SO beautiful! I cannot take any credit for the craftsmanship, it was all him. I only applied the finishing oil.

He made the tabletop out of poplar 1×6 planks, and the legs and apron are made out of pine 2×4’s. He would have used poplar for the whole thing, but he thinks he’ll need to make new legs as they boys grow, so he opted for the cheaper pine.

The pine legs are definitely not as beautiful as the poplar top. I may paint the legs further down the line. I’m going to keep it as is for now and let it grow on me.

I used Tried & True Varnish Oil to finish the table. It was originally purchased to finish our wood cutting boards, and I love how it brings out the grain and beauty of the wood without the plastic-y layer that polyurethane leaves. I am slightly concerned about not having that protective barrier on a child’s table. If it doesn’t hold up very well, I can just sand it and stain or paint it. I’ll update if it doesn’t hold up to 2 and 4 year old abuse. 🙂

Wood Oil

The coats are applied VERY thin so this itty bitty can goes a long way. The first coat goes on pretty splotchy, but that evens out with each progressive coat. I applied a very thin layer using a piece of cheesecloth, then after letting it sit for 5 minutes, I went back over the wood with a dry, clean cheesecloth to pick up any excess oil. After that dried, I buffed it with a #0000 steel wool pad and then with another clean, dry cheese cloth to bring out the shine.

Varnish Oil Coats

I’m not 100% sure I applied my coats thin enough. There is a slight tackiness to the tabletop. I’m going to buff it again and hope that takes any residue off.

The reason why we built this new table is our Ikea LACK table was too short for the chairs I purchased. I had researched how high a table should be based on chair height (This pdf  is very helpful.), and I knew the LACK was an inch or so shorter than recommended. I just didn’t realize how much difference an inch can make! The boys struggled to get their legs under the table, and when they did, they were stuck, usually falling over to try to get out from under the table.

Knowing that, we tried to be careful when planning the dimensions of this table. The school chairs are 13″ tall, so the height of the table should be about 21″. Ours is 22 1/2″ tall. We had some confusion about how incorporate the height of the apron. We ended up adding 1″ so that their legs wouldn’t be pinched by the apron. Their legs definitely aren’t pinched, but the overall height is a touch tall.

The tabletop dimensions are 21″ deep by 46″ long. We wanted enough space for the boys to sit on opposite sides of the table but offset so they don’t bump each other with their books/paper/whatnot. Bumping into each other’s work is problem #1 with the LACK table. The tightness of the depth of the table causes arguments on a daily basis.

Here it is in our new and improved schoolroom:

School room birch table

There is now plenty of room for the boys and their work. They both gave it a test coloring run as soon as they saw it set up. She’s beautiful and functional!

Finished Birch Table

We chose poplar for the tabletop because we love the color variation in the wood grain. The Varnish Oil really helps to draw out the color change too. So pretty!

Birch TabletopAlthough I wasn’t planning to do school the afternoon I set it up, Jackson was so excited that we threw in a quick lesson during naptime. We’ve also had many more impromptu coloring sessions just to use this new table!


Any furniture builders out there? Thoughts on varnish oil vs. polyurethane? Do you like the look of wood or would you prefer a painted table top?

2 thoughts on “Poplar Schoolroom Table

    • Emily says:

      Thanks! I have so much more appreciation for the wood-look now than I used too. Building furniture and learning about good wood is changing me.

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