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My DIY coffee table - lots of photos + construction notes (long)

16 years ago

I've posted a couple of my "diaries" of my misadventures over on the building forum, but since this is a coffee table I thought it would be more appropriate here.

Here's a photo of the old coffee table. This is also one that I made, about 10 years ago. It's a really nice table made of all solid tiger maple and curly cherry finished with a very light amber coat of aniline dye and hand-rubbed varnish with inlays on the top and around each leg.

But unfortunately it didn't fit the more traditional, heavier decor of the new house, so DW sent me on a mission....

Construction notes on a coffee table


Agree enthusiastically when DW tells me to make a new coffee table. Secretly plan to procrastinate as long as possible. Return to potato chips and TV.


When DW asks whats going on with the coffee table, reply that it might look like IÂm eating chips and watching TV, but IÂm actually pondering different design ideas.


Agree enthusiastically when DW finds a photo of a table online and asks if I can make one. Keep comments to yourself that the design will take three times longer to build than a normal table. Note to self: Procrastination fails yet again, but IÂm sure itÂll work next time. Suspect DW is wise to my schemes.


When DW asks for a progress report, show her my carefully engineered 1:30 scale drawing and detailed step by step instructions and construction notes. Note to self: DonÂt worry if you canÂt figure out what the heck the picture is later. YouÂre just going to make it up as you go along anyway.


Gather some wood, then freak out at the huge pile. Stare intently at my engineered drawing. Curse at the lame sketch when I realize I canÂt understand a single thing that was going through my mind when I drew it. My 5th grade art teacher was right  I suck at art. Decide to go to Home Depot. Wandering aimlessly before finally buying a big hammer makes me feel better  hammers make me feel manly.


Take some careful measurements and make a much better sketch on a post-it note, along with a small sketch of I forget what and sure as heck canÂt figure out now.


Show DW some different options for size, shape, and placement of the slats in order to score brownie points. Then completely ignore her input and choose what I think is best. Do the dishes and buy jewelry when DW realizes what happened. Note to self: Next time, listen to DW.


Some assembly required. Curse anew at my two lame drawings and non-existent instructions. Resolve to never again complain about indecipherable instructions translated into English from Japanese or Hindi. Pretend I know what IÂm doing by adding more clamps.


Sweat bullets while quickly and carefully performing critical and non-reversible final assembly of base. Make choking sound and nearly suffer a cardiac event upon noticing spare parts left over. Note to self: even though you donÂt remember making spare parts, if DW asks they are most definitely spare parts.


Carefully and lovingly create a beautiful, smooth, and perfectly flat tabletop with my proud collection of the latest in expensive 21st century power tools that are the envy of men everywhere. Feel faint when DW says she wants a tabletop that looks like it was made by monks. Opine that monks probably didnÂt make mission-style furniture. DW frowns. Visions of dishes and jewelry flitter before my eyes. Reply that IÂll see what I can do.


Hunt tenaciously to finally find a rusty tool made in 1920 gathering dust hidden in back of a shelf. Hack at my beautiful tabletop like a maniac while wondering if it would be easier to skip this step and do the dishes and buy more jewelry for DW instead. Beating on the tabletop with my big new hammer makes me feel better.


End up with a tabletop with a wavy and uneven surface that looks like it was created by either a caveman or a monk who prayed daily for power tools. ThatÂs progress.


When applying finish, itÂs important to put the oil-soaked rags in a metal bucket and store outside to dry to prevent burning down the house. Or if thatÂs too much trouble, just open the door a crack and fling the rags into the nearest bush as needed. When DW asks why you canÂt use a garbage can, reply that youÂre keeping the house safe from spontaneous combustion. Note to self: the words "spontaneous combustion" work better if you donÂt look like youÂre struggling not to bust out laughing while saying them.


Finally finished! Just in time to eat chips and catch my post-strike tv shows.

The table in it's new home:

Some of the details - notice the contrasting black finish of the round bars and on the feet, and wavy hand-scraped surface of the top. The sharp eye will notice tiger-striping in the wood of the base - I used leftover tiger maple from when I made the original coffee table.

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