DIY Fillet Table

Follow these plans to build a simple fillet table with sink.
Glen Booth

We've all filleted fish on docks, coolers or worse. I've had to make do with a kitchen sink, the top of a washing machine and even a motel bathroom, creating a sticky, smelly mess in the process. So I decided it was time to build myself a decent fillet table.

This project was in the cards for quite some time, so I already had all of the material on hand, including a second-hand stainless steel sink. Having built a monster workbench for the garage that turned out pretty well earlier, I took the same design principles and transferred them to create a fish-filleting station. The final product came out really nice and was not very hard to construct. Now cleaning and filleting fish is less of a chore.

Pine was my choice for the frame construction, since it's cheap and easy to procure. You could also use pressure-treated lumber which will hold up better outdoors. Now as the table was going to get wet frequently and spend its life out in the open, ordinary pine wasn't an option as it would soon split and warp, so the frame was made from 1½" x 3" treated pine instead.

Some touring around scrap metal yards had produced an old sink, and a bit of work with a scouring pad had it looking almost brand new. A 2'6" x 2' plastic cutting board from a catering wholesaler was perfect for my filleting station. You can find large cutting boards such as this one online if you don't have access to a wholesaler.

A lower shelf is probably not needed, but it gives the frame a bit of extra rigidity and it's a handy place to throw the fish tub, sharpening stone, freezer bags and the like. I made my shelf out of a black plastic ply but you could use wood if you'd like.

I used 3-inch and 4-inch galvanized screws to hold everything together and screwed them in with a torque driver. I took the extra time to pre-drill pilot holes with a 1/8-inch or 3/16-inch drill bit to avoid splitting.

I used the height of the kitchen counter top as my guide (three feet) to put the working area at a comfortable waist level. By happy coincidence the depth of the sink and the cutting board were the same size, so this determined the size of the top of the table. Side by side they measured 4 feet, 6 inches, which meant the length was just about perfect for all but the biggest fish, and a drop-in panel over the sink supports longer fish.

The cutting board was attached to the frame with 1¼-inch galvanized self-tapping screws. The sink isn't fixed as such, it just sits securely inside the frame. You can secure your sink from below if you so choose.

A bit of PVC pipe, a threaded coupling and an elbow fitting attached to the bottom of the sink acts as a drain and takes away any blood and goop, while the table is kept clean as a whistle. If you put your table on the dock, you can aim the drain so it drops the blood into the water.

Finally, a knife scabbard screwed to the frame ensures the boning and filleting blades remain in good condition until they're needed, and the job's done.

See the photos above for step-by-step instructions.

The components: old sink, cutting board, treated pine, galvanized screws, galvanized self-tappers, torque driver and saw.
Lay out the components. Square up the ends of the timber with a sharp saw before assembly, and ensure the legs are exactly the same length or else you'll have a wobbly table.
Assemble the end frames first, pre-drilling the holes before inserting the screws.
The frame starts to take shape. Use 4-inch screws to secure the longer pieces.
Attach the cutting board with 1¼-inch galvanized self-tapping screws, but pre-drill pilot holes first or the board will split. The sink isn't attached, but sits securely in the frame. You can mount the sink from below if you'd like.
Use a sheet of plywood (I used black ply) to give the frame extra rigidity and make a handy lower shelf. Use a hole saw to cut a hole for the drainpipe.
The finished unit, complete with a victim awaiting its fate.

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