Stanley produced this all-in-one layout tool between 1888 and the 1930s. It looks like a directional arrow from a street sign and was originally advertised as 10 tools in one (including level, depth gauge, try square, and compass). There are a few companies that make replicas, but originals can still be found on eBay for a couple hundred dollars apiece.
Woodworkers are a social bunch, and there are a few popular forums where people share thoughts on tools, discuss technique at length, and—of course—upload their plans. Some of the most active online woodworking communities include Lumberjocks, Woodworking Talk, Wood Magazine, WoodNet, Kreg, and Sawmill Creek. Search those to see if they have what you’re looking for (either with their built-in search tool or with Google’s site-specific search, e.g. site:lumberjocks.com side table).
A piece of 1/2” plywood offers the best approach for determining the optimal size and shape of your tabletop because it lets you test and tweak various options in 3D. Cut the plywood to the maximum size you might want, set it up on something in the place where the finished table will go, then live with it for a while. Should the top be narrower? Shorter? Now’s the time to find out. Saw some off your plywood mock-up if need be, then live with the new size until you’ve found the sweet spot.
Building a table is one of the most deceptively simple woodworking projects going. What could be easier than gluing up a few boards and applying a finish, right? But reality is often surprising, because building a top for that table can go wrong in ways you might not realize until it’s too late. Here are my favourite tabletop construction tips, plus advice on how to avoid trouble.