Introduction: Concrete Coffee Table From Recycled Materials

Picture of Concrete Coffee Table From Recycled Materials

My kids and I had long wanted to play around with concrete and when we moved into our new house, I thought it was time for a concrete coffee table. I have to admit, when I made the table I didn’t have making an Instructable in mind, so my photos of making the base leave a little to the imagination. My apologies. Fortunately, the concrete top is pretty well documented.

Step 1: Building the Table Base

Picture of Building the Table Base

I decided to make the frame out of a cedar 2 x 4 and an armload of hardwood scraps, mostly to justify having moved them from the old house. First, I cut the cedar down to 1 x 2 strips. Then I cut the legs 18”, the cross-pieces 46”, and the side pieces 14”. I set my kids to work hand sanding these while I cut the hardwood slats for the storage deck. I had a mixture of pecan, oak, cherry, and black walnut scraps, so I cut 23 of them 1” square and added them to my kids sanding pile.

Step 2: Screwing It Together

Picture of Screwing It Together

Since I only had a handful of 3” deck screws on hand, and they were not exactly furniture grade, I decided to countersink the screw holes and hide the evidence with wood plugs. After the frame was together, I built the storage deck by randomly placing the mismatched wood types and spacing them 1” apart.

Step 3: Making the Concrete Form

Picture of Making the Concrete Form

To make the tabletop, I cut 1.5” strips of paneling to use as the sides of the concrete mold. I covered my worktable with a sheet of plexiglass and flipped the table base upside down on top of it to use as a guide. Next I hot-glued the paneling strips onto the plexiglass from the outside. I decided that I wanted an organic shape to the table, so I bowed the long edges by pushing the paneling strip until it looked about right, then glued it in place. After matching the bow of the second edge, I glued it down and removed the table base, leaving offcut blocks in the spaces where the legs would go. Finally, I put a layer of silicon caulk on the inside edges to smooth them and make them waterproof.

After preparing the concrete frame, I glued down a handful of agate slabs, various rocks I had cut on a tile saw, and a couple old filmstrip projector lenses to the plexiglass with a thin layer of silicon. Then I used a rag to apply a layer of wax to the whole inside of the mold, being careful not to get it on the backs of the insets.

Step 4: Prepping the Helpers

Picture of Prepping the Helpers

Finally, we were ready for the concrete! After explaining the do's and don'ts of working with concrete to my helpers (Don't taste it, throw it, or put it in your brother's hair! Do work fast! No taking a break until the concrete is smoothed out!), I gave them gloves and my daughter decided to wear my sunglasses for extra protection.

Step 5: Scooping the Concrete!

Picture of Scooping the Concrete!

Continuing on the theme of using recycled materials, I used crushed glass from my city’s glass recycling program as aggregate rather than pebbles. I added some marble dust to lighten it up. We mixed up the concrete to oatmeal consistency and quickly scooped it in, working it in with our fingers to avoid air bubbles. (No pictures of this--we were using quickset concrete and were all too busy to take pictures!) When we were done, we pounded the work table with a mallet to dislodge any last bubbles, then screed the top back and forth with a flat board. Finally we covered it with plastic and left it to set.

Step 6: Polishing the Surface

Picture of Polishing the Surface

Waiting until the next day was the hardest part. When we popped the form apart, the edges looked smooth! We slid it loose of the plexiglass and flipped it over. It looked great, so I carried it outside to polish it out. I borrowed a friend’s wet polisher and diamond buffing pads, then started the long process of buffing out the surface. I started with 200 grit and chose areas to highlight, then worked progressively down to 2000 grit. I wanted to have kind of a cosmic theme, so I just buffed sort of an S shape through the middle and left the outer edges less polished. After about three hours, it was done!

Step 7: All Done

Picture of All Done

The glass aggregate is beautiful and the agate slices turned out great—a big improvement over storing them for years in a box in my garage--but maybe the most exciting surprise was what happened to the projector lenses. The concrete cracked them as it set, but held all of the pieces in tightly, so they look kind of like dividing cells. After it dried, I sealed the surface with an aerosol grout sealer, then polished it with a coat of Howard Feed-N-Wax. So far it has kept a great finish and has been pretty stain resistant.

The table has been a great conversation piece, was a great project to do with the kids, and, if I win some equipment from the concrete contest, I’ll make a few more for friends.


pondhopper (author)2015-01-20

Wow. That is BEAUTIFUL. I have seen this type of work done in eco remodeling stores. Now I think I could try it!

Oldbear (author)2014-08-28

An orbital sander with no sandpaper works well to dislodge air bubbles

gwrober (author)2014-08-20

Beautiful table - great job!

TrollFaceTheMan (author)2014-08-04

All in all, I think it looks pretty sweet!

poofrabbit (author)2014-08-01

Congratulations on being a finalist in the Concrete and
casting contest! Best of luck to you!

water rat (author)2014-07-30

That's beautiful!

estrella55 (author)2014-07-28

Great job! Nice placement of the accent pieces! All three of you should be very proud!

Eh Lie Us! (author)2014-07-28

Wow. Great work and double points for involving the kids.

goyo81 (author)Eh Lie Us!2014-07-28

It was a lot of fun!

inklayer (author)2014-07-27

First thing I had to do was to vote for this project! This table is absolutely gorgeous - great job!

goyo81 (author)inklayer2014-07-28

I'm glad you like it!

CHENG Concrete (author)2014-07-23

This is really nice! The glass aggregate and the inlays look great. I like the bowed edges and the way you built it to fit onto the table base. Enter it in the Concrete and Casting Contest if you haven't already!

goyo81 (author)CHENG Concrete2014-07-24

Thanks for the feedback! I had the same idea! ;)

rmac704 (author)goyo812014-07-27

It's very honorable to receive a compliment from Cheng Concrete. Mr. Cheng is a guru in decorative concrete countertops and his teachings and advice is most respectable. For one with an idea and imagination, your project turned out excellent. Enter the contest and good luck!

goyo81 (author)rmac7042014-07-27

I feel very honored indeed. Thanks you!

mastersoncraft (author)2014-07-27

Very nice. I love the inlays.

goyo81 (author)mastersoncraft2014-07-27

Thank you. I like your pebble concrete, too!

BrookvalleyFarm (author)2014-07-26

This is awesome! Can't wait to try it with some of my own wood scraps and mementos!

goyo81 (author)BrookvalleyFarm2014-07-27

Yes, i really have no shortage of momentos to put in concrete, either. :)

counterillusion (author)2014-07-24

Absolutely gorgeous! I think I may start planning something like this for our backyard...

goyo81 (author)counterillusion2014-07-27

Thanks! Good luck!

Wow, this is gorgeous! I love the agate and projector lenses embedded in it!

Thanks! I've expanded on the lens idea by cutting up old lenses from inside rear projection TVs and imbedding slices of them.

ooohlaa (author)2014-07-27

fabulous looking, very cosmic feel ... your lucky daughters to have you role modeling creativity along with assorted tools. I don't quite get how you got the plexiglass off so easily, is it because of the wax? I have worked with concrete and very tenacious. Do you remember what brand cement? I have used quickset and had big aggregate in there and made lots of lumps in the stepping stones so had to use my own formula with sand aggregate for refined look. But I didn't polish mine nor did they have the stone like beauty yours do. Can you elaborate on the S shape process? I have a ton of crockery and would love to do a mosaic but was trying to figure out how to make the mold and could not. A little daunting what else can you use instead of panelling? I have no way of getting panelling stips ripped.

Lindie (author)2014-07-27

Very nice!

fixfireleo (author)2014-07-27

awesome dude...i could make about 50 of these with all the agate and other rock slabs i have! i could use cut gems instead of glass. it would be one expensive but awesome table!!

rfoster4 (author)2014-07-27

Awsome table top!

Did you use just the regular quickset concrete you can get at Home Depot? Where do you get marble dust from?

pi526 (author)2014-07-24

This summer we are converting our unused basement into my garden workshop, using our old kitchen cabinets. I've been looking for ideas for the workbench top surface and I think I just found it, especially since I was thinking about using concrete. I can't wait to try this! Beautiful, functional and fun!

goyo81 (author)pi5262014-07-24

Sounds like the perfect place to try this out. Have fun!

crank_girl (author)2014-07-23

Loves it! How easy would it be to manufacture kitchen work surfaces in this way?

goyo81 (author)crank_girl2014-07-24

Not hard at all, especially if you are thinking of an island. Pouring countertops in place is a bit more complicated. Good luck!

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