I guess it’s about time I finally share how to build our industrial DIY coffee table for only $75.24. [Update: you can check out the refinished version of the coffee table, with a natural wood finish, here.]
Our prior coffee table was glass and round, and just didn’t work for us. It showed every kid fingerprint and didn’t fit our space at all. So I set about trying to find one I liked better. I like box-frame style coffee tables and checked out a bunch of them including this one from West Elm, this one from Crate and Barrel, this one from Pottery Barn, this one from CB2, and finally this reclaimed French floorboard coffee table from Restoration Hardware:
The ones other than the RH table were just too small for our space. But I was having a hard time stomaching paying $1200 for the RH version. So no surprise, I tried to figure out how to build my own coffee table. My hang-up was the metal base. I know no welders, so this one nearly stumped me. Until I decided to go faux: a faux metal base topped off with some faux reclaimed wood. Perfect.
Here’s how this went down.
Dimensions, Materials, and Cost
This coffee table is about 35″ wide by 55″ long and 18.5″ high Definitely bigger than the usual coffee table. But perfect for kicking up your feet, eating your dinner (yep, M and I do that), playing board games, and letting the kiddos race their toy cars in circles all over it.
The materials necessary to build this thing were pretty basic. Here’s the list (no exact dimensions because those will change on whatever size of table you are building):
2x2s for the table base – I bought 6 boards of select pine at $6.98 per board
- boards for the top – I used 1 1/4 x 4″ untreated cedar deck boards with rounded edges that were 10′ in length and I got 5 of them at $4.26 each
- Wood stain (I used Varathane Weathered Gray) at $4.78 for a quart
- Oil-rubbed bronze metallic spray paint at $7.28 for a can
- extra support boards for the top – I used a couple of feet of 2x4s I had lying in my basement (I think these are optional, but I like added support)
- 3″ wood screws for building the base
- wood glue
- wood fill
- Liquid Nails
- Polyurethane in a satin finish
- sanding block or power sander (power is preferable)
- Kreg Jig with screws (not necessary, but awesome)
- right angle or T-square (pretty necessary unless you want a wonky table)
I had everything on hand except the boards, the gray stain, and the spray paint, and those things totaled $75.24.
Coffee Table Base – Faux Metal
Building this sucker is pretty easy. First, figure out the dimensions of your table. The base and top should have the exact same dimensions – no overhang anywhere.
Then sand your 2x2s before cutting them to size, to make the frame. I framed the top and bottom of my base (the horizontal sections) and then added the vertical supports, one in each corner and then two in the middle (one on each long side). I used wood glue and 3″ wood screws to hold everything together. It is essential to use your right angle tool to make sure your frame is perfectly square. PERFECTLY square. You will use this coffee table every day – there is just no excuse to cut corners. Or skew corners. Fill any screw holes with wood fill and sand smooth. Next, faux-it-up with some oil-rubbed bronze spray paint.
Spray the frame until it shines. Shines like metal. And then if you want extra protection, you can use a foam brush to add some polyurethane to the entire frame – I totally did that to protect from my aggressive vacuuming. Best part about this finish is that if you do get violent with the vacuum, a sharpie will totally fix that.
Coffee Table Top – Faux Reclaimed Wood
For the top portion, first cut your boards to the length of your coffee table frame. They all need to be exactly the same length. Then sand each board thoroughly, keeping the edges round.
If you want a distressed look, then attack every single board doing one or more of these things:
hitting each board with baggies of screws
- using a paint key to scrape the board(s)
- puncturing the board(s) with sharp objects such as nail removers or nails
- denting the board(s) with sideways hammer punches
- creating circles in the board(s) by hammering a round pipe lightly to make indented circles
- let your kids loose banging the boards with pretty much anything they want (see, this project is fun for the whole family!)
Use a different technique on each board – you want variation to give it faux-reclaimed authenticity (hello, oxymoron). Then do a quick sand on every board to make sure there are no splinters. Then stain each board individually – I use Varathane which gets the job done in one coat. Note that the cedar did not absorb color very well, which actually worked out fine because it shows lots of natural wood right through the stain.
Then attach all the top boards together using your Kreg Jig, if you’ve got one. If not, glue and screw each board into a support 2×4 that will be hidden by the frame. Even if you use a Kreg Jig to join the boards, it is still a good idea to use a couple of extra supports with Liquid Nails to keep the table together. Because the edges of each board are rounded, it is less of a big deal if your boards have a tiny gap or two between them. Finally, attach the table top to the base. Again, glue and screw. Then finish off the top with 4 or so coats of polyurethane in a satin finish.
This thing is so great because it is both functional and stylish. And did I say it cost only $75 to make? I love saving a buck. Or a thousand.
I also love the reclaimed wood look because it let me quit worrying about whether our coffee table gets dinged up. I don’t want my kids tip-toeing around our living room, which is our main family-hang-out space. In the months we have lived with this table, the polyurethane finish has held up to all sorts of 3-year-old and 5-year-old antics without a single problem. And no fingerprints.
So, anyone else resort to building your own coffee table to get exactly what you want for a fraction of the cost? Or rely on reclaimed wood (or faux reclaimed wood) to make kid-life so much less stressful for everyone?
Actually, this was my first built-from-scratch furniture project, but there’ve been more since (like our entry storage bench and our banquette). So if you are new around here, the best way to keep up on all the latest is by signing up to receive posts by email (you can sign up on the right and don’t fear, you won’t get any emails except my captivating posts) or follow along with Bloglovin’ or Feedly or whatever reader you are using these days. Hope you follow along! Now back to kicking up my feet and enjoying our coffee table…