A recent project I completed was a glass top shadow box coffee table.  The customer wanted the table refinished and we made some cosmetic changes to update the look.  See pictures.

Well her friend had been looking for something similar on the internet but had not had any luck.  She asked if that was something I could make for her.  Here is the result!  I hope you like it!

She wanted something more traditional.  I started by looking for a reasonably priced table leg.  The one I found was from Van Dyke’s Restorers.  They have tons of shapes and sizes.   It was on sale, around $16 each plus some shipping.  I sketched up a square table per her request. The table would be 42” wide, 42” long and 18 ¾” tall.  (the sketch originally had a 15” leg but it did not suit her).  I attempted to use stock wood for all the components to keep it simple, on time and on budget. 


Materials / tools:


(4) table legs of choice


(4) 1” x  6” x 8’  #1 pine for the table  top and skirt


(2) 1” x 2” x 8’ pine


(2) ¾” x ½” trim pine (stop?)


(2) ¾” decorative trim


(1) 4’ x 4’ ¼” birch plywood for the base of the shadowbox area


Nail gun


Miter saw






Pocket hole jig


Circular saw


Router with ¼” bit


Hand sander (palm rotary is what I have)

Safety First!  Wear goggles, dust mask,  ear protection, gloves!  Don't skip because it is inconvenient! 
Bad things can happen and never when you expect.  I recently had to rush my helper to the eye doctor.  We had finished  cutting, sanding etc. on a different project.  Just doing some assembly.  However, he bumped something and saw dust came raining down on him.  Some got in his eye.  He was in agony and had to have his eye cleaned and treated by the Doctor.  He is fine now but they were worried for a time about cornea damage.  So it is a good idea to keep your safety gear on whenever possible and keep your shop clean and orderly.

Photos:  Our project, before and after on the original, the legs we used and finally our original sketch

Step 1: Step 1

Step 1

I began by cutting two 1”x 6” x 8’ in half.  I then routed a quarter inch wide/ deep groove on each board to hold the glass flush to the top.  Each section needed to be 42” so I then miter cut 45 degree at each end to the proper length.  I ended up with 4 sections that made the frame of the top.

I test fit the pieces upside down on the floor and placed the legs in place to check spacing.  I centered the legs along the miter cut evenly.  I then measured that space to determine the skirt length.  I then cut the remaining 1” x 6” boards to make the pieces for the skirt and set them aside.  I took the top pieces inside to the flattest most level spot in my house, our kitchen island.  I placed the top pieces on the counter, ran glue on the miters and then used a strap clamp to pull the pieces together.  Flat items tend to bow when strapped so I placed a heavy paint can on each corner while they dried. To keep my wife happy and her not kill me, I placed a small piece of wax paper under each area that was glued so that it wouldn’t leak on the counter top.

<p>May want to consider rabbiting notch using square corners instead of picture framing, in order to hold the weight of the glass better.... Just a thought!</p>
I've been wanting to make one of those for a long time. What was the depth of the shadow box?
Hi<br><br>Thanks for your interest. I used a standard 1&quot; x 6&quot; (5.5&quot;) for the side skirt. The interior depth was approx. 5&quot; to 5 1/4&quot;.
<p>This is exactly the sort of thing I'd like to build to showcase my antiques. Do you have any suggestions for me if I'd like to make another one that's a little more industrial looking (perhaps out of wrought iron)? I don't have much experience in this sort of thing, but I'd like to have one that look as though it came out of an old factory or something like that, to go along with my industrial revolution-esque collection. Any brainstorming would be greatly appreciated! </p>
<p>Hi You might try pipe with flanges for legs. I also thought about using an old window for the top. Anything will work. I made a quick sketch with some screws or bolts in the top just for effect. Black or galvanized hair pin legs would work too. Make sure you share with us what you come up with.</p>
<p>Hi there. Thanks for the great tutorial! I'm looking forward to building my version and sharing the results. </p><p>Is that 1/4&quot; rabbet groove deep enough to support all that glass?</p>
<p>Hi</p><p>Sorry for the slow reply. It holds the weight just fine. I had it cut to fit at the glass place so it is pretty snug too. Only thing I might add is to put bisquits in the corners. I'm just inexperienced with the slot cutter and don't have many chances to use it.</p>
Do you think this would be okay for a dining table 6 ft long? or do i need to add additional legs?
Hi Shazni!<br><br>I think it would work fine with just the four. I have built lots of tables from scratch approx. 6' long. Depends on the leg style too. You may need to add corner brackets to the leg with a lag bolt to strengthen the table. Some legs come with the corner bolt already inserted. Let me know if you have any other questions. Please post a picture here if you make one! Thanks!
thanks! I saw this absolutely gorgeous coffee table...sort of like s shadow box...the base is a rectangle box...plywood placed about 2&quot; below ...filled with petals and stuff and coverd with just a glass....I loved it. the only hitch was...I was afraid the glass would move...if weight was put in one side...do you suppose if I glued a sleeve to the mirror which would slip inside the rectangle...it would do? are there any transparent strong glue for glass?
Hi<br><br>Not sure about the sleeve. I'm having trouble visualizing your table. Can you send a picture?<br><br>There are clear adhesives for glass. Clear adhesive caulk is used a lot for setting glass panes in doors on cabinets. They have it at Lowes etc. Clear adhesive is used to attach rear view mirrors on the windshield. I think you can get that at an automotive parts store. <br><br>Hope that helps!
Great work! I was planning to build a table similar to this design and now with this as reference, it'll be a million times easier! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for the kind comment! It was a fun project to make!
Wonderfully done! Looks great :)
Thanks Penolopy!

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