Tutorial: plywood table with HAY trestles



I fell in love with the HAY Loop Stand Table, but my wallet wasn’t too happy about the price. The table was simply too much, but the trestles were more affordable… 2 years ago this table seemed like a big project, but a bit of DIY attitude and curiosity goes a long way: it was rewarding and I definitely learned a lot!

The local timber center (Puukeskus for my finnish readers) sells birch plywood in 2 sheet sizes: 122×244 cm or 150×300 cm. You’ll have to buy the whole sheet, and they will cut it to size (straight cuts) for a minimal fee. I got the 21 mm, and the thickest they have is 24 mm.

After calculating, pondering and taping outlines to the floor I figured I wanted the dimensions to be about 100×180 cm. I recommend you get the shop to cut it for you with professional equipment. Plywood can be tricky to saw – and we’re talking a table here, it’s pretty important to get the edges just so!

I wanted the trestles to sit about 20 cm from the ends, and that left me with a span of 140 cm in between. Now that’s so much that the table will sag and sway unless you rigidify it.

This is where the project got tricky. I didn’t come to think the plywood sheet would sag and I wasn’t prepared for it. Now I know better – one thing I like about crafting is you get to solve puzzles like this. It can be a brain jog, but that feeling when the pieces click is ah-mazing! 😀


This project clicked when I was hanging out at a hardware store. I didn’t want to add a ton of lumber under the table. I mean, it’s supposed to look very light and airy! And then I saw the solution: the Elfa wall mount rail was perfect for the job! It’s rigid enough without much bulk, sold in various lengths (anything between about 120 and 140 cm was good for me), has holes for the screws and comes in white! Hurrah!

The support and legs screwed in for stability (remember to select your screws carefully, so you don’t puncture the top of the plywood!), it was time to sand and coat the surface. I started with some 80- or 100-grit on an orbital sander and worked my way up to 240. Brush the dust from the surface between sandings.

Before the last sand I wiped the surface with a damp, almost wet cloth. This makes any remaining small fibers stand up from the plywood and once the surface is dry again, you can sand those away. I find this gives a smoother finish.

I used Osmo Color Wood Wax in White and Clear. I wanted an “untreated” plywood look but also a usable finish to protect the wood. That’s where the white tint comes in handy: if you just use a clear wood wax or oil, you’ll end up with a yellow tint in the birch – the kind of “oiled wood” look.

Working with the wax is easy, if you’ve sanded the surface smooth (also the sides and underneath!). I like to use a non-woven cloth, but an old t-shirt can work just as well. The trick is to add very little at a time, and to rub it in along the direction of the grain. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the grain direction in plywood, which makes it harder to get the color even. I watched the How to -videos in finnish, but I found some in english, too.

Just remember: with the tinted version any and all stripes or dots visible on the surface will stay like that, if you let them dry. I like to take a fresh piece of cloth to buff the surface a few minutes after I’ve spread the coat. Thin coats are OK, you don’t need much for a good seal with this stuff!

In the top photo you can see I only did about 15-20 cm under the table – I don’t think there’ll be too many spills that get under there, so I got lazy. I venture to guess things might be different if I had kids around… If in doubt, finish the underside as well! 🙂

A thin coat dries enough to re-apply in about 4 hours or more, if it’s very humid or cold. After 2 or 3 coats of the tinted wax I’ve let it dry for a day or two before adding the clear top coat(s). Aftercare is very important: I don’t put anything on the surface for at least 24 hours after it’s finished. I also protect the surface for about a week before using it heavily, since the wax will need time to harden. The wax will protect against liquids beautifully, but the wax (or the plywood) can’t handle direct heat, so use coasters for hot things!


Here you can see the difference between finished and untreated plywood. On this table I did 2 white coats and 1 top coat.

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it! 🙂