Introduction: American Flag Coffee Table - Pallet Furniture

Picture of American Flag Coffee Table - Pallet Furniture

Henry Ford once said “What’s right about America is that although we have a mess of problems, we have great capacity-- intellect and resources-- to do something about them.” Today, lets build something that puts that great intellect to use! There are not too many things more patriotic than building your very own American Flag Coffee Table. This was originally constructed when I was on deployment in the Middle East with the US Army. I say to show you that if I can build this in a desert with a few old power tools full of sand and 110 degree plus weather, you can too!

This project is all relatively simple and straightforward. The key to success here is being neat, patient, and verifying all of your cuts and measurements. No special skills are required and this is overall probably a 3/10 project on the difficulty scale. Anyone with basic carpentry skills can do this. Even if you have never used a power tool before, this is an easy and impressive first project that is sure to wow your friends.

As I was essentially in the Middle of nowhere when I made this, you may notice some of the resources and materials I used are not what you would normally select. For reference, this was made entirely out of recycled wood and old pallets and a circular saw and Dremel. You, on the other hand, might find it easier to go to Home Depot or Lowes to get wood and use your own table saw and miter saw, luxuries I was not afforded at the time. Feel free to use your creativity to the fullest as is the American Dream.

I have organized each step of this Instructable into 5 sections to try and make it as clear and easy to follow as possible:

1) Step Aim: where I discuss what we will accomplish/create in this step.

2) Tools: which tools will be required to perform this step.

3) Materials: what materials from the part list will you need in this step.

4) Directions: step by step directions for this particular component's construction.

5) Tips: where I make note of any problems I ran into and ways to avoid them during your building process.

As some background, my name is Christian Reed and I am a 2014 Mechanical Engineering Graduate from MIT. I am currently serving as an officer in the US Army in the Engineer Corp. Please visit my website which showcases almost everything I have ever made, invented, or worked on.

Step 1: Gathering the Materials

Picture of Gathering the Materials

1) Step Aim:

Here we will gather the materials necessary for this project and figure out what size cuts we need to make based on standard US Flag proportions. Note that the tools and materials listed here are super flexible and substitutions or additions are easy to make based on what you have available to you.

2) Tools (Ideal):

  • Circular Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Miter Saw
  • Tape Measure
  • Speed Square
  • Hammer
  • Drill with Driver bit

3) Materials (for entire project):

  • (up to 13) 1" x 3"x 8' Boards
  • (3) 2" x 4" x 8'
  • (1) 4" x 4" x 8'
  • 1 lbs 1 1/4" Finishing Nails
  • 1 lbs 3" Wood Screws

4) Directions:

Here you want to gather all the materials and tools you need for the project to verify you have them and they work. This will ensure the project goes quickly and smoothly. I would recommend reading all the directions before starting to see if you want to make any changes to the plan because now is the time to do it. The last photo on this step is a handy reference (via The first step, before you do anything else, is figuring out what size you want the table. Every other step is based on this. From this, you can calculate the size of everything else (stripes, blue box, stars, etc) which dictates what size cuts you need to make. To keep things simple, and for the purposes of this Instructable, I will use the dimensions I chose for mine. You also can see one of the many pallets I had to rip apart to make this project.

5) Tips:

Measure twice, cut once

Step 2: Rip Cutting the Boards for the Stripes

Picture of Rip Cutting the Boards for the Stripes

1) Step Aim:

For this step, we will cut all the flag boards (boards that together will make the American flag) both length and width wise.

2) Tools:

  • Table Saw
  • Miter Saw
  • Tape Measure
  • Speed Square
  • Pencil

3) Materials:

  • 1" x 4" x 8' Pine

4) Directions:

Here we need to make some rip and crpss cuts to wind up with the following board sizes:

  • (5) 1" x 3 1/2" x 22 5/8" (Blue Section)
  • (7) 1" x 2 1/2" x 38 1/2" (First seven 'short' stripes)
  • (6) 1" x 2 1/2" x 61 1/2" (Last six 'long' stripes)

5) Tips

For the rip cuts (cuts made the long way on the board) should be done with a table saw. If you do not have one (like me) you can make rip cuts with a circular saw using a jig (like this It is a little harder but certainly doable.

For the cross cuts, a chop saw (miter saw) is easiest and neatest but a circular saw works too, you just need to make sure you keep your cuts straight.

Step 3: Cutting and Assembling the Frame

Picture of Cutting and Assembling the Frame

1) Step Aim:

Here, we will assemble the frame to which the flag and the legs will attach to.

2) Tools:

  • Miter Saw
  • Drill
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Speed Square

3) Materials:

  • 2" x 4" x 8' Pine
  • 3 1/2" Screws

4) Directions:

This is a relatively simple step and if you were able to complete the last step without a problem, this should be just as easy. All we are doing here is making a rectangle support with two cross beams. The four pieces of outside wood (first and second cut listed below) will have 45 degree mitered ends. The measurement is taken from the large edge. For this, we will need to cut:

  • (2) 2" x 4" x 59"
  • (2) 2" x 4" x 30 1/2"
  • (2) 2" x 4" x 27 1/2"

Once cut, assemble as seen in the pictures. Ensure that the frame is square. The two supports should be 22.5" on center from the outside edge (too support the small stripes and blue part properly). Secure everything together with the wood screws (glue together too for extra stability).

5) Tips

Pay careful attention here and make sure your frame is perfectly square (use drywall t square if you have one). This will make the rest of the project much easier and prevent you from messing up (like I did because my frame wasnt square/the wood was warped).

Step 4: Preparing the Boards

Picture of Preparing the Boards

1) Step Aim:

For this step, we will lay out the boards for the optimal arrangement and do some sanding.

2) Tools:

  • Palm Sander

3) Materials:

  • Boards cut in step 2

4) Directions:

Here we lay out the boards for the first time on the frame. I did some playing around to get the boards I think would look best for the red and blue areas. The white ones do not matter because they're sanded. Once they boards are all placed, remove the boards that correspond to white stripes and run the plam sander over them enough times to clean them up.

5) Tips

Take the time to place each board carefully and ensure the right wood matches up. If you are near a home depot, it doesn't really matter and you can just stain every other board which would look just as good. If you are using recycled wood, it is a little more important.

Step 5: Securing the Boards to the Frame

Picture of Securing the Boards to the Frame

1) Step Aim:

Now that all the boards are layed out, we will secure them down to the frame.

2) Tools:

  • Hammer
  • Nail Punch (or framing nail)

3) Materials:

  • Finishing Nails
  • Frame
  • Flag Wood Boards

4) Directions:

The boards should all be layed out from the previous step. Now we will secure them all to the frame. Be sure that they all look as you want them to look before you nail them. Once they are almost in, use the nail punch or a framing nail to sink them into the wood. You can place the boards directly against each other if your cuts are perfectly straight (unlikely) or leave a little gap to hide this fact.

5) Tips

Make sure the boards are all square with the frame before nailing in. Ensure all sanding is complete prior to nailing as it will be hard to do once they are in.

Step 6: Cutting and Securing the Legs

Picture of Cutting and Securing the Legs

1) Step Aim:

Here we will attach the legs to make this a true table finally

2) Tools:

  • Miter Saw
  • Drill

3) Materials:

  • 4" x 4" x 8'
  • 3 1/2" Wood Screws

4) Directions:

Another very simple step (this project is all pretty simple, huh?). Here we will cut

  • (4) 4" x 4" x 15"

Once the cuts are made, secure the legs to each corner using the screws and a drill. Use a square to verify the legs are straight and that they will be perpendicular to the ground.

5) Tips

Pre drill all the holes and make sure the legs are straight as this will make the table sit level and look proper if done correctly.

Step 7: Laying Out the Stars

Picture of Laying Out the Stars

1) Step Aim:

We will make a stencil for the stars and then trace them all onto the wood to serve as a guide for our engraving later on.

2) Tools:

  • Printer
  • Pencil
  • Pen
  • Ruler
  • Sissors

3) Materials:

  • Paper

4) Directions:

For this step, I had to think a little bit of how best to accomplish it and make it look neat. The idea I came up with, although time consumptive, worked very well. I began by going into Microsoft Project and laying out each of the stars on a workspace the same size as the flags. Once this was done, I printed them out, cut them out, and glued them together to make a large stencil. Next secure the stencil to the table (make sure its straight). I used this stencil to then trace each star, using a ruler and a pen. You can see from the photos it leaves a faint outline in the wood. I did this for all 50 stars and then touched up a few areas to make sure I could see them.

5) Tips

Make sure the stencil is aligned properly. You may be able to just attach the stencil and engrave right through the paper but this way is certainly more neat.

Step 8: Engrave the Stars

Picture of Engrave the Stars

1) Step Aim:

Congragulations, the final step. Now all we need to do is engrave the stars with the Dremel.

2) Tools:

  • Dremel with wood carving bits

3) Materials:

  • None

4) Directions:

Pretty self explanatory, take the Dremel and color in the space (engrave) between the stars. I was fortunate enough to have a flex shaft attachment which made this a little easier. Use a pointed bit when making the tips of the stars.

5) Tips

Take your time and be careful. There is no reason to rush this step as this creates one of the most promeninet and unique features of the whole project.

Step 9: Finishing Up

Picture of Finishing Up

Congratulations on a job well done! You have now, before, a simple project that you can be very proud of and will certainly gather quite a few "wows" at the next outing. You could certainly use some clear sealant to the table at this point to make sure it does not get stained. Other than that, the table is complete. Hope you enjoyed and be sure to check out my blog for new projects I work on.


Cyclones92 made it! (author)2015-10-23

Thanks for this great idea!! I was able to make this for my wife for our 3rd anniversary. I ended up using Solid Maple wood since I wanted the wood to be as straight as it could be, plus it allowed for me to use different color stains to offset the colors. Not to mention that Menard's has the solid maple wood in 1"x3", which really means 2.5" exactly which matched your specs. It took me about a good month of casual work on it to get it completed but she loves it and I know I love it!! :D

NateD14 (author)Cyclones922016-05-23

whats the wood cost for the maple?

Cyclones92 (author)NateD142016-05-23

I believe it was around $150-$200.

Cyclones92 (author)Cyclones922015-12-28

Image looks better when clicked...btw. :D

BrianO7 (author)2015-06-29

Went with a little blue paint and the Betsy Ross flag (easier to make the template for the stars)

kmess71 made it! (author)2015-06-28

I took a few artistic liberties but rest assured the spirit remained the same.

schoonovermr made it! (author)2015-06-23

Great idea! Unfortunately when I polyurethaned mine it faded a good bit, but I still love it

Hammerhead46 (author)2015-06-02

using an AMERICAN flag as a table is just as bad as WALKING on the AMERICAN flag!

AlexM502 (author)Hammerhead462016-09-28

yeah. I would rather use as a wall hanging.

Marykate1 (author)Hammerhead462016-02-12

Agreed. However, I used this great idea to make a wall hanging flag. Thanks for the great project and for your service to our great country

deswiger (author)Hammerhead462016-02-08

Agreed, It is a symbol. A symbol of all the brave men and women, friends and comrade in arms who have given their all just that we might be able to raise this standard and salute their valor and live free. No, not just a symbol but the symbol of greatness, freedom, bravery and sacrifice. Not one to be laid out for some to prop their feet up on or spill drinks on or be covered up with trash. Semper Fi

bdempsey1 (author)Hammerhead462015-06-04

Which do you love more...the freedom or just the symbol? I think that the intent here says more than the rules.

Hammerhead46 (author)bdempsey12015-06-05

unless you are less than 30 years old and maybe 50!
then you do not know the difference!

Hammerhead 46. Wow, What an ppropriate name for a real numbskull

bjones833 (author)Hammerhead462015-06-03

Not even close. Not even if you use CAPITAL letters for UNNECESSARY emphasis.

NateD14 (author)2016-05-23

You used Microsoft Project to layout the stars, is there an alternative route for this or could you possibly do a step-by-step for the Microsoft Project?

-Thanks Much! Nate!

jkirkland8 (author)2015-06-05

Thank you for your service to our country! Haters gonna hate...

jkirkland8 (author)2015-06-05

Thank you for your service to our country! Haters gonna hate...

hank3fan (author)2015-06-02

Looks great man!

blkadder (author)2015-06-02

Thanks for showing us how to make this awesome table. I am thinking that the one I build will be mounted on my garage wall. Thanks again.

Semper Fidelis

stachkarl (author)2015-06-02

Thanks or sharing this with us. Your table top looks a great deal like a U.S. flag wall hanging that one of the This Old House guys made a few weeks ago. If I recall correctly, it was made almost entirely from recycled material.

Thonglee (author)2015-06-01

i thank so much of idea from you !

Just4Fun Media (author)2015-05-31

Very beautiful table! I love how you combined the contrasting wood colours :-)

animeguard (author)2015-05-31

that cool, i guest i will make my country flag coffee table, thanks for the idea

BSGMutha (author)2015-05-30

great guide and project. enjoyed your website also. thank you for serving your country, i hope you make it home to your loved ones safely.

Nicman2004 (author)2015-05-30


ClenseYourPallet (author)2015-05-30

This is awesome... Such a beautiful piece and reclaimed wood is the way to go. Even if there was a Home Depot close, the natural patina looks perfect

About This Instructable




Bio: Engineer by day, soldier by night. Christian Reed
More by crreed:Modular Mini Golf Course United States Map - Recycled Wood Decorative PieceAmerican Flag Coffee Table - Pallet Furniture
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