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Picture of Compass Rose table
Coffee tables are nice, but they can sometimes be so plain. This table is a solid table and great for supporting several dozen cups of coffee, but the white space was dying for a decoration. So with a little bit of time and some paint it can get a bit of a nautical look with a compass rose.

Here's how to make it.

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Step 1: What you need

Picture of What you need
What you need to do this:
  1. Printer to print large stencils
  2. X-acto knife
  3. Spray adhesive
  4. 2 colors of spraypaint. I'm using Krylon Dual Burgundy and Krylon Dual Ivory here, but other color combos would work, too
  5. Clear Coat (optional)

Step 2: Print and cut stencils

Picture of Print and cut stencils
The files for the stencil are attached below. The stencils for the letters can be printed on regular letter-sized pieces of paper, but the main stencil is quite a bit bigger. The table I made this for is 36"x36" and so the image itself is nearly 24" wide. If you have a smaller table, you can certainly shrink it to fit what you're working on.

For the big stencil the image can be split up into multiple letter-sized pieces, but it is much easier to print it out on one sheet. The problem is with the cost as Kinko's will charge you a TON for a print this size. I found a printer that specializes in printing out blueprints for architects. The prints are black & white and the paper's pretty thin. In other words, absolutely perfect. In the bay area I used Sukam Copy & Print which did a great job.

With your stencil printed, go to town with an X-acto blade to cut it out.

Step 3: Mark up the table

Picture of Mark up the table
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To make sure the stencil goes on just right, it's good to mark up some guidelines with a pencil. This is easier if you have someone to help out, but if you're alone, just do this:
  • Tape one end of a measuring tape to a corner
  • Pull the tape tight across the diagonal
  • Mark the diagonals with a pencil
  • Mark the distances from each corner where the edge of the stencil will hit (not shown)

Step 4: Get ready to paint

Picture of Get ready to paint
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As always, it's a good idea to throw a tarp under the piece being worked on. That takes care of the table. For the stencil, apply a light coat of spray adhesive to the back and let it dry out for at least a couple minutes so that it's still tacky, but not as strong.

Step 5: Get ready, pt. 2

Picture of Get ready, pt. 2
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The triangles in the stencil are for registration for multi-layer stencils. This makes it so that the second stencil is easy to align. Since you don't want these triangles to show up in the final design, put down some masking tape underneath them.

Also, be sure to put down some extra paper on the side to prevent overspray on the table. Be sure to do what I didn't do here: cover the whole seam with tape. You'll see why soon.

Be certain to run your finger firmly over all the stencil edges before painting to ensure the stencil is adhered well to the table for crisp spraypaint edges.

Step 6: Paint!

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I love this step. Just spraying on paint and hoping it all works out well. Make sure to wear a respirator and apply the paint evenly and you should be just fine.

Sometimes spraying can vary if you're leaning over a table. A good option is to turn the table on its side so that you are spraying the entire surface at the same distance and angle.

Well, this time it didn't work out just right. I didn't cover the seam on the sides well enough and some overspray ended up on the table.

Fortunately, this isn't the end of the world. You can actually erase overspray with an eraser. Or at least this works with the eraser that I used, a white Staedtler eraser. It's like a little magic wand that removes your painting oopsies.

Step 7: Level 2!

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OK, time for the second layer. Second verse pretty much the same as the first. But before you apply this next layer of adhesive, be certain the paint is fully dry, not just dry to touch. Check the label for dry time guidelines and once you hit suggested dry time, test the surface with your fingernail.
  1. Light coat of spray adhesive on back
  2. Wait for it to dry a bit
  3. Lay down stencil on top, lining up registration marks
  4. Lay down cover on side for overspray
  5. Paint!

Step 8: Add directions

Picture of Add directions
Finally, the four directions need to be added. Once again...
  1. Light coat of spray adhesive on back
  2. Wait for it to dry a bit
  3. Lay down stencil
  4. Lay down cover on side for overspray
  5. Paint!
The stencils in the file have squares in them to help alignment with the corners of the table. I ended up moving them in a bit from each corner so use them as a guide, not an absolute.

Now that all the paint is done, apply a couple coats of clear coat (optional) to the top to preserve it and you're done!
Wi113 years ago
Looks awesome! It reminds me of veneer work. I'm always drawn to pieces that have been dressed up with "geometric" looking patterns. I may try something like that using contrasting woods, probably on a smaller scale at first though, something like a box lid.
cmetzger3 years ago
Attractive decoration. However, shouldn't the supply list incluce "one table"? Or, the title be "Decoration for Table"?
leonardml3 years ago
Wow! I've always loved the Compass Rose. Nice 'structable.
That's nice work, and a nice way to dress up a rather mundane piece of furniture.
Excellent! Llooks beautiful
Awesome :) Love the color choices!
Thanks! Gotta love burgundy