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Old 12-15-2011, 11:05 AM   #1
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Making a coffee table.


My wife wants a new coffee table. The one we have is about 18 x 48. It's been functional, but the top is vener on plywood, and it's pretty much used up. So she wants something "artistic."

I have some old oak 2x4s, and I'm thinking of using them as a frame for the new top. I don't have a surface planer, so I'm thinking of belt sander. For the legs I'm thinking 2x2s, and using oak plywood for the apron.

That leaves the top left to decide on.

I'm thinking of a kind of mission look -- mortice and tenon, etc.

Anyone have ideas or photos of things they've done?

  • Glass is out -- too fragile.
  • Oak plywood is an option, but given that the veneer in the current table has eventually failed, probably not a top pick.
  • Tile is a possibility. We sometimes use the table for writing though, so again not a top pick.
Or maybe I should make the apron from my old wood and buy a premade solid wood top from a company like Rockler.

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Old 12-15-2011, 07:20 PM   #2
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Making a coffee table.


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Originally Posted by pyper View Post
My wife wants a new coffee table. The one we have is about 18 x 48. It's been functional, but the top is vener on plywood, and it's pretty much used up. So she wants something "artistic."

I have some old oak 2x4s, and I'm thinking of using them as a frame for the new top. I don't have a surface planer, so I'm thinking of belt sander. For the legs I'm thinking 2x2s, and using oak plywood for the apron.

That leaves the top left to decide on.

I'm thinking of a kind of mission look -- mortice and tenon, etc.

Anyone have ideas or photos of things they've done?

  • Glass is out -- too fragile.
  • Oak plywood is an option, but given that the veneer in the current table has eventually failed, probably not a top pick.
  • Tile is a possibility. We sometimes use the table for writing though, so again not a top pick.
Or maybe I should make the apron from my old wood and buy a premade solid wood top from a company like Rockler.

I am not sure how your area is, but where I am, I could go to about 10 furniture resale shops and find hundreds of coffee tables that are wobbly, broken or otherwise useless, but that have good solid tops that I could repurpose, either repainting or stripping and staining.

When I was younger, I made a really long coffee table out of some precast short columns and an old rustic door. I painted the door and did some aging effects to it. Yes it was 80" long, but I received hundreds of compliments on it. I even left the antique doorknob on it as a visual reference. the most impressive thing is, it could hold three X-large pizza boxes side by side. That was of genuine usefulness in my 20's!

I'm not saying to use a door, but just an idea of thinking a little differently when it comes to this project, since she wants something "artistic."

I know you said no glass, but I also once had a shadow box table with a drawer that you slid out to put collectibles in. It was cool because you could change the look of the table by what you had in it. For the holidays, I drilled a hole in the bottom and ran lights in it surrounded by hundreds of glass ornaments. I didn't leave it plugged in unattended, but it was great for gatherings.


Last edited by oldhouseguy; 12-15-2011 at 07:25 PM.
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:40 PM   #3
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Making a coffee table.


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Old 12-16-2011, 01:12 PM   #4
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Making a coffee table.


I found a nice old cedar hope chest perfect for my place at the time and way back before interior designers made some decisions for me. I had a piece of glass cut. Done deal. I once made one out an old oak printer's chest for a client. Opened some drawers to run some under glass lighting. The other drawers may have had things we shall not talk about.

Friends in California had the patience to walk around the beach looking for aged driftwood. They cut glass for a gorgeous table based on the leveled and shimmed finds they found.

A nice old panel door panel trimmed down to the thin width you have in mind could be fun? Use something a bit nicer than 2x4 but you need not go glitzy. Fill the pockets with nick nacks. Glass or whatever on top. Pinhole drill and put some LED lighting in to if you want.

I guess what I am suggesting is that, especially with coffee and other curio tables, snap your thinking out of looking for a whole thing. Think about the base and top separately? My current dining table, for four, is a really nice MOMA drawing table base with a generic plywood top that is usually covered anyhow.

Tabletops do not always have to be perfect rectangles, squares, circles, etc. if that helps you.

Find the base. Or find the top. Then work out the table.

Bars were into mannequin legs for a time. There must be millions of those things for sale on eBay?

Last edited by user1007; 12-16-2011 at 01:15 PM.
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