Here is the result of my first attempt at table making.
This table was, for the most part, an experiment. As a result I wanted to use inexpensive materials. The frame and legs are made of pine. The table top is made of poplar, which is a friendly and inexpensive hardwood.
For the finish on the frame and legs, I used black milk paint. The appearance is actually darker than what it seems here under the glare of the camera's flash.
For the finish for the table top, I used two coats of Minwax Polyshades Natural Cherry. Since poplar is a pretty porous wood, I found that it is necessary to use a pre-stain to keep the color from blotching. For this I used the Minwax water-based Pre-Stain Conditioner about 15 minutes before applying the first coat of stain. After the two coats of stain had completely dried, I applied three coats of Minwax Polycrylic. I think it came out pretty well.
This top is made from three boards: two 1x12's and a 1x6. One of my goals in making this was to learn how to joint a number of boards together to make a table top. What I did was first to use the table saw on each edge, then I ran each edge through the planer/jointer. Its not so easy doing this last step (or the previous one) with long, wide boards. A helper would be useful, I didn't have one so used this mitre saw stand (sans the mitre saw) to catch the wood as I jointed it so I could make an even cut.
Then, I laid out the boards and used a dowel jig to drill holes along the edges. I then inserted the dowels and glued it up and put on the clamps. After the glue dried, I used a power hand planer to make the surface smooth especially where the boards were jointed.
The table top is 2 feet by four feet and I wasn't going to rout the edges using my router table. And the router I use with the table is pretty tough to handle. I found the perfect solution in the Bosch Colt palm router. Its 1 HP motor is more powerful than the run-of-the-mill laminate router, and yet is easy enough to handle with one hand. So I trimmed the edge with it. Worked out beautifully.
This project was a precursor to something a bit more ambitious: a kitchen table made of red oak. But I learned everything I needed to learn by building this coffee table which I promptly gave to my daughter and her family.