Introduction: How to Make an Oak Slab Coffee Table for £20!
In this tutorial I am showing you how to make a small coffee table from a large slab of oak.
This is my first piece of furniture that I have ever made so I hope that you enjoy it! I made this table as a Christmas gift for my mum and she loved it.
All of the wood that I used to make this table was either given to me or I scavenged for very cheap so the overall cost of this table was around £20! Probably the cheapest present I've ever bought for my Mum!
The top of the table is made form a slab of solid Oak.
The leg is made from turned laburnum wood I turned on my DIY lathe.
And the bade is made from a piece of CNC'd plywood in the shape of a water splash.
Again this is my first ever table so this tutorial is more of a guide that an set of instructions, and instead of telling you what to do I am just simply stating what I have done and why. There are thousands of ways to make a table and loads of decisions that you have to make for yourself along the way so hopefully by reading how I made my table you will get some ideas on how to make your own.
Enjoy the tutorial and please vote for this Instructrable in the contests that I have entered it in! /\/\/\
Step 1: Watch the Video Tutorial!
The video explains most of the steps of this build in lots of detail and also actually shows how I did each thing as well as explaining it so its pretty much the most important thing to watch.
Step 2: Finding Wood
The first step in my opinion is the top of the table. Since this is a slab table made from a large slab of oak I'm obviously going to be starting with a large slab of oak.
Finding a suitable piece of wood will likely be the hardest part of this build. I managed to get my slab of oak from when a large Oak tree was being cut down in a nearby park to me. I asked from a slab of wood for some woodworking projects and they were kind enough to cut me out 2 of them!
This obviously isn't going to be where everyone can get a slab of wood but its worth a try. Other places that you can look are timber yards or lumber yards, local forests or just any place where there are some nice people cutting down trees. You could offer to pay them for some smallish slabs but chances are if you are nice enough and polite then they will just give you a few.
If you have access to a saw mill or something like that then instead of getting a circular horizontal slab then you might be able to cut a vertical longer slab that would make a much larger table or bench.
I also managed to get some largeish pieces of laburnum wood for making the leg that have a lovely grain.
I managed to get all of the wood in this build for free apart from the plywood for the base, you might not be so lucky and sometimes solid wood like this can be really expensive.
Step 3: Dry the Wood
Although this isn't the next thing that I did I would recommend letting all of the wood dry before flattening the top and working on the leg.
This is so you don't spend ages making the wood lovely and smooth and flat, just for it to warp in a few years.
If you have a large slab like mine and its cut fresh from a tree that is still alive then there is pretty much no way to prevent it from cracking as it drys out. There's just too much surface are and it will dry too fast so just embrace the cracks.
If the slab is cut from an already dry trunk then you're sorted, you can start work on the table!
I actually flattened my wood while it was still wet and then left it for a year to dry and I was quite lucky that it stayed flat. However a massive crack did open up in the middle.
If I did repeat this project I'd like to fill the cracks with something cool like glow in the dark resin or cast aluminium.
Step 4: Flatten and Sand the Surface
The next step is to flatten the slab of wood, no one wants a rough, bumpy table top.
I did this using a homemade router planer jig that guided my had router over the slab at a constant height. It is easiest to see how this works in the video but I also have an older tutorial that I made that shows the jig in a bit more detail,
You could also use a thickness planer for smaller bits of wood that would be good for making shelves and things but although this jig is time consuming it is very cheap and simple and it produces good results.
Then you have to sand the wood to make it nice and smooth.
There are loads of ways to do this and I experimented with a few. The one that worked best from removing lots of material was to put a sanding drum into a power drill and run that over the table. I also used a random orbital sander but it was too slow for me.
I then moved on to the fine sanding, using first rough grits of glass paper and then once all of the scratches were removed I moved up to fine grits of wet and dry paper all the way to 2000 grit to make the table reflective!
I then decided to go with a simple boiled linseed oil finish.
Step 5: The Leg(s)
Now the top is done its time to work on the leg or legs depending on the size of your table and your personal preference.
I decided to go just for one leg in the center of the table.
I wanted to turn this on my new homemade wood lathe so the first step was for me to cut the large laburnum log into a piece that is a manageable size for my lathe.
I've got no power tools that are good enough for this task so it was manual labor with a wood saw and chisels.
Once it was small enough to fit on my lathe I had to turn it to shape. I decided to just go for a simple curved shape for my first large turning.
Once that was done it was time for some more sanding, again all the way up to 2000 grit and then I gave it the same coat of boiled linseed oil.
I also turned some pegs into each end of the leg so that I can use them as large dowel pins later to secure them to the base and the oak top.
Step 6: Making the Base
The next thing that I had to do was make the base.
If you made a table with 3 or more legs then you probably don't need a base but since I just went for the single leg then I need a base to add support.
This was actually one of the most complex parts of this build. I decided to go with a large cnc'd water splash from some plywood.
Firstly I had to make the 3d model of the water splash. I did this on blender by using the fluid simulation part and then exporting one of the frames as an STL.
I could then import that .stl into meshcam to generate the tool paths.
I started with a roughing pass using a 6mm 2 flute solid carbide end mill. This took 6 hours and removed the bulk of the material.
I then moved onto a finishing pass using a 6mm ball nose end mill. This took 4 hours and left the base quite smooth.
Finally I just had to sand the plywood and glue on another layer to make it stronger.
This time I gave the base a coat of poly urethane varnish to make it really tough and easy to clean.
Step 7: Finishing
The final step is to attach all the parts of the table together.
I was in a rush so I used wood screws in places where they will never be seen but a proper wood joint would be better.
I also had to make sure that everything was level as I screwed it together so I used a spirit level for that.
I hope that you have enjoyed this tutorial and if you have then please vote for it in the contests I have entered it in!
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