Introduction: American Flag Coffee Table
To start, I made the coffee table in an apartment with minimal tools. So don't get discouraged by things like that. I kept construction time during reasonable hours (after work and before dinner and on weekends). Took about month to complete but that was mainly due to not working on it everyday and the limited hours I chose to work with to be nice to my apartment neighbors. This could easily be done in a week if you have a house with a garage. If you have the tools I suggest that you plane your 2x2s and 2x6s. This will help keep make the wood be flush. All screws had holes predrilled and countersunk. Use www.USFlag.org/flagspecs.html to scale it up or down to any size you would like. Due to that, I will not get into specific sizes of each piece but the flag itself that I made is 30"x57" since the overall numbers worked out nicely and it fit the space I planned to use it.
Step 1: PLAN OUT DESIGN AND GATHER MATERIALS
Before I even went to the store to get supplies I designed the table using solidworks. It makes getting supplies way easier. Due to car restrictions, I had them cut the plywood down to the size needed. I also had them cut the 4x4 legs to size since I do not have a circular saw that can cut through the entire thing in one pass.
1 - 3/4" thick plywood
1 - 1/8" thick plywood
2 - 2x6
2 - 2x2
8 - heavy duty L brackets
Box 2" screws
1QT Paint (red and blue)
1QT Stain (I used Jacobean)
1QT clear coat
2 gallons Epoxy
Paint brushes (suggest one per color, one for stain and multiple for clear coat)
Step 2: TOP SURFACE PREP
This is an optional step, but I wanted to try it. A blow torch was used to burn the top. Make sure you keep it moving quickly to prevent spots from over burning or catching fire. I suggest using a scrap piece and practice a little before starting on the real thing. Helps get it even. WARNING: Do this outside and be safe.
Step 3: ADD 2X2 FRAME AND 4X4 LEGS
Measure out the lengths you will need based off of the plywood. Unless you have the a good table top saw that can get the 90 degree angles perfect, one of the sides will be slightly longer. Mine was off by a little less than 1/8" but when you will be pouring epoxy into the top you want the 2x2s flush with the edge of the plywood. It is probably tough to see but I used a lot of screws to hold it together. When it doubt over due it. When screwing down the frame use clamps to get a tight fit. I used a small bead of glue between the 2x2 and the plywood as well.
For the legs, screw the legs into the side. Then use the L brackets to attach it on the inside.
Step 4: MAKING THE STARS
Originally, the plan was to have the star pattern cut out using a laser cutter. The trouble was the glue in the plywood prevented the laser from being able to get all the way through the plywood. It did leave a nice pattern to follow so turned out ok. I used an exacto knife to finish cutting the last little bit through. This too a long time. Expect it to take several hours. WARNING: be careful cutting out the stars. I ended up cutting my finger fairly deep in the process. Once again, be careful. When everything is cut out, paint the stars blue.
Step 5: CUT OUT THE STRIPES
This step is simple enough. I only had a hand held jig saw. That made the stripes a little wavy but I ended up liking the look it gave it. Once again, measure the length needed for each stripe. When done, paint then red.
Step 6: MAKE THE 2X6 FRAME
The hardest part of this step is chose what you want the joint to be. I wanted to make it dovetails but did not have the tools to make them look good so chose to go with a basic box joint. For this, cut a couple of strait cuts in and hammer out the middle. When you have enough room to get the blade to lay flat at the bottom, use it to make the cut across. Not the cleanest way to do this and definitely not easiest. Be creative, know your skillset and chose an appropriate joint. If you do this, you should not have an issue. Make sure to measure each side again and cut accordingly. Make each joint to fit. None are exactly the same for me. The joints are tight enough that the picture above has no screws in it. When done, stain the frame.
Step 7: ATTACH STARS AND STRIPES
Glue down the stars. Make sure you add some weight on top to make sure it does not bow up on you. If the stripes hang off the end of the plywood at all, sand them down flush. This will help with getting the 2x6 flush with the plywood. Do this with the stars as well. Once again you will be pouring epoxy on the top and want a tight fit.
Step 8: ADD 2x6 FRAME
Attach the 2x6 frames by screwing through the 2x2 frame underneath. This prevents being able to see any of the screws. An extra pair of hands will be handy for this step. If you have clamps big enough clamp the sides down while doing this it will be helpful as well. If you are like me and do not, use a ratchet strap to clamp it together. worked out really well for me.
Step 9: POURING THE EPOXY
Run a bead of glue around every edge on the underside similar to caulking. This will help keep the epoxy in the table and not seeping through. I had an old coffee table (that I use as a workbench) and made a stand to put the flag table on. It was not big enough so had to add some extenders on it. Put down lots of tarp and come cardboard to catch the spills. Cardboard will get soaked through but is good at absorbing so both is recommended. However much epoxy you think you need get at least x1.5 and x2 is not a bad idea. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ON YOUR BRAND OF EPOXY! READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ON YOUR BRAND OF EPOXY! READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ON YOUR BRAND OF EPOXY! This can not be stressed enough. All are different. I used the clear coat and covered everything, then went to work on the epoxy. The brand I used you had to put multiple coats in 4- 6 hour intervals. Took a good part of a weekend. Most epoxies will say to put down a thin coat of epoxy before the thick pour. Makes sure you do this and even put down a second coat. Will save you a lot of time popping bubbles and prevent imperfections. I did not do a good job at this and there is not a large bubble near one of the edges. The next layer covered it up but still visible. This is clearly not a full description of the process but the instructions with your epoxy will be better than anything I could type up.
Tips for epoxy:
- READ THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE EPOXY including troubleshooting (have I covered this one enough?)
- Make sure you have way more epoxy than you think you need
- Protect the floors you are doing this over (I was doing it over carpet... and there will be spills)
Step 10: LET EPOXY SET AND ENJOY
Do not try to move it before it is fully set. Should take a day or two. At that point it will be 98% set and good to go. The last little bit of setting is just to get it extra hard and in crevasses of the wood. For the next month or two use coasters to help protect the surface . If you spill something on it make sure to wipe it up quickly as well during that time. From then on, enjoy you new coffee table worry free. In the end, it weighs about 75lbs but with some furniture sliders it moves easily.