Introduction: Indestructible Coffee Table
My fraternity's Dorm needed a good coffee table for the lounge. Most of the other furniture somehow or another would break and so I was challenged with not only making a cool coffee table, but one that could withstand the test of time.
Step 1: The Base
The first step for this project was to build a large frame that would not only support the top of the table, but also anyone who decided to stand on it. My dad says that a good table is one that people can stand/dance on. This was the standard I was striving for with this project.
I decided 4' x 4' would be the best size for this table, and used L beams and flat beams to make the base come to life. I first cut 8 pieces with 45 degree corners to make two 4' x 4' squares. These would act as the base and the top. I then cut 4 uprights to 14" that would bring the total height of the table close 20" (including the ~6" wood). I welded these to the outside corners of one square, and then flipped it over and welded the bottom square into the uprights.
I then cut 4 pieces of flat beam to act as weight support. I welded three parallel into the top square and one perpendicular into the bottom square.
*** The open part of the L beam is what hold the wood top, so both L beams will face up. For some reason, all of the pictures I had taken were of the table upside down or from the bottom***
Once the table was welded, I ground all of the welds smooth and ground off the top layer of grime/rust. This helps give the paint a smooth and clean area to bind to. I primed the frame with a white spray paint. I then did 3 coats of high gloss black spray paint. Make sure to go slow and stay even, it is very easy when painting metal to paint too much and get runs.
Step 2: The Top
For the top of the table, we (we being me and the guy cutting a cheeseburger with a table saw) decided to use the 80 year old fence wood that used to line my driveway. Its very old, so we used a hand-planer and a hand belt sander to grind off the top layer to reveal the nice original face. We wanted to not only make the table durable, but heavy so that nobody could move it easily. It may sound strange, but the bulkier this table was, the better chance it had of surviving.
Because the table was to be 4' x 4', we figured we should use intervals of lengths that added up to 4' to give some variance to the top. We used 4', 3' and 1', 2' and 2', 1 1/2' and 2 1/2', 3 1/2' and 1/2'. We pull almost 200 feet of 12 foot fence wood boards into the garage and began cutting off sections that couldn't be used. When all we had left was good board, we would cut the boards down to the closet interval. We then laid out all the boards into groups based on their interval and their partner.
The next step was to biscuit together the boards to make the 4' sections we need. We biscuited the boards end to end, making sure to put any excess on one side so it could be taken off later. *Because the boards would stand up on their side, we weren't worried about the biscuit bearing a significant weight, so we only used one per pair* We repeated this process with all the pairs until we had 48 4' boards, all with one side level.
47 boards wide
Step 3: The Top Part 2
Once the 48 boards were ready, we stood them on end, level side down, and began screwing them together. We only used 3-5 screws per board, but I can assure you, they weren't going anywhere. Once we screwed all 48 boards together, we began planning down the top and sides. We used the belt sander to round the top edge and corners instead of a router because we figured the router would blow out the edges of individual boards. Once the top and sides were smooth, we sanded it over with a 40 and then 120 grit paper, giving a nice smooth finish.
We stained the table top with a nice cherry oak stain, applying three generous layers. We then used an entire quart of polyurethane to get rid of the "wood" feeling. The top wasn't 100% smooth, but it definitely wasn't a gritty rough table. The polyurethane not only helps the smoothness, but it also protects the wood and gives the stain a little pop.
Tip: Because the boards are secured horizontally, it can't be carried horizontally, otherwise it would bend. If you need to move the wood outside of its metal frame, stand it up on its edge, perpendicular to the screws.
Step 4: Delivering the Table
The top sits nice and snug right into the metal frame, and is much easier to carry together than separate.
I'll include this step in the project because if you truly want to design this exact table you better have a lot of friends. It took me and 6 guys to carry this bad buy into the dorm. The frame probably weighed around 40-50 pounds, and the top was probably close to 200.
Once we go it into the house, we had the guys test the table out. Three of them immediately jumped on top and the table didn't so much as budge.
The table has been in the house for almost 6 months now and has yet to have any problems or breakages. Its not difficult to move on carpet, but only because we put small plastic feet on the corners to help it slide.
Like always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org