My wife wanted one of those sweet industrial style console tables to go under the television. The store-bought ones were $400, and only 48-inches long, my wife wanted a 60-inch long table. An alternate style wasn't an option, we have a contemporary-style home, and the industrial look is what she wants. Time to build one!
After I built it and documented it for Instructables, I found out something interesting ... the idea to put the rope in the back was our four-year-old son's idea, we went with it on a whim. It turns out that the rope isn't just for show, but rather once you tension it up by pushing down and locking in the bottom shelf, the whole console gets much sturdier, stronger and more stable. I like the rope-wood-steel concept so much that I want to use it for other furniture.
Back to this one ... now that televisions can hang on the wall, the console table doesn't need to have the size to hold onto a heavy television, it just needs to sit underneath, and hold the video game console, DVD machine, whatever, it's the right kind of table if you don't want a large wall unit. I made this one only 12-inches wide, because it didn't need to hold much, but you can go wider by using more than one board, or getting 18-inch wide board. I also only wanted two shelves, but you can put on three or four. The console can go taller or shorter with these instructions, but I made ours 60-inches long, by 12-inches wide, by 26-inches tall. One of the best parts of industrial style, is that you can make it less-than-perfect, and your work will look even better.
The shelves are wood (I used common pine board to keep the cost down), the legs are made of black iron pipe, and the back X is made of natural sisal rope. The build takes about two or three hours if you stay organized.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
- Boards - I purchased 1-inch thick, 12-inch wide board, in 6-foot length (which I cut to 5-feet), in common pine to save money. I purchased two boards for about $14/each.
- Steel legs - I purchased 4x, 1/2-inch black pipe, in 36-inch length, which I later cut to 25-inches. You might prefer to use the steel color pipes. I purchased four pipes for about $7/each.
- Leg connections - You'll need 4x of something called a "floor flange" to fit 1/2-inch pipe, the two screw together. I purchased four floor flanges for about $4/each.
- Rope - I used natural sisal rope, I think it was 48-cents a foot and 1/2-inch rope. If you use poly rope, it might look good, but it won't have that old-time industrial look. You might also want to use wire rope or fine chain. I purchased about 18 feet of rope for about $9, the thinner stuff to keep the project cost under $100.
- Screws - You'll need 3/4-inch screws to attach the floor flanges to the tabletop but don't poke through the top. You can instead screw the flanges to a wooden bracket if you prefer. 2 packs of screw for about $2, get the wider ones for better holding power.
- Hose clamps - I can't remember the size, but be sure that they fit the 1/2-inch black pipe. And they should be close to that size, you don't want a lot of extra clamp. I spray painted mine black, but you might want to keep them in stainless steel color. I purchased six clamps for $1/each.
- Chair tips - These are to put at the bottom of the pipe to keep it from cutting your floor, be sure that they fit snug. You can also use duct tape. You might also want to put those felt slide pads on the chair tip to make the table easy to slide. I purchased four tips for about $4.
- Wire - Most any wire will work as long as it holds a bend, like single-strand picture wire, you just need to wrap the ends of the wire, you can also braid it if you know how to do that. If you're stuck, duct tape will also work, but it might sacrifice the old time look a bit. I used welding wire that I already had around.
- Stain/Sealer - I bought a half-pint of Minwax Polyshades, Antique Walnut Satin, about $7. If you're a purist you'll use stain and oil, but I have kids around the house and no time to properly maintain counterfeit industrial wood.
- Hand or Electric drill, spade drill bits (you'll need two different sizes)
- Hand or electric sander, medium and fine sandpaper
- Pipe cutting tool, wrench (I used the Crescent Self-Adjusting Pipe Wrench, which is a wonderful, magic tool, I bought mine over a year ago and it's been worth every cent of its $20 price, and which belongs in every toolbox)
- Circular or hand saw to cut the boards
- Clamp to hold the rope ends
- Screwdriver or driver bit for the screws and hose clamps
- Measuring tape
- Bubble level
- Stain brush or rag
Step 2: Prepare the Wood and Hole Patterns
Industrial-look furniture needs to look like it's been decaying in some contaminated old factory somewhere. So the sharp, square edges of your boards need to be sanded a bit, roughed up, made a bit rounded.
First cut the boards to length of your table. Then hit all the corners and edges with the sander to give them a decent worn look. Sculpt some age into your wood with your sander.
Then, temporarily place your floor flanges on the corners as shown, and mark the screw holes and pipe holes with a pencil. Finally, mark your holes for the rope. My rope holes were 4 inches from the short edge and 3/4-inch from the long edge, two rope holes on the back of the shelf, none on the front because the rope only goes on the back.
Step 3: Drill Your Pole Holes, (but NOT on the Top Shelf!)
Since I had 1/2-inch i.d. steel pipe, the outside diameter was a bit less than an inch, so I used a 7/8 inch spade drill bit, and drilled four pole holes in the lower shelf for the black steel pole to go through. Remember, the top shelf doesn't get a pole hole, the pole attaches to floor flange that you'll attach to the top shelf.
Follow the pole hole that you drew in using the floor flange as a template.
To cut that big hole, don't drill all the way through, but rather just enough for the end of the spade to poke through the other side of the wood, then flip over your shelf, and use that little hole as a pilot to drill through the other side. Why? Because if you drill straight through you'll probably screw up the wood, ripping off big chunks. Drilling two sides keeps the hole cleaner.
For a two-shelf unit like mine, you'll cut four pole holes, all on the bottom shelf.
Step 4: Drill Your Rope Holes in Both Shelves, But on the Back Only ...
I used the 1/2 inch spade bit as shown, and I could have gone a little bigger which would have made it easier to get the rope through the hole, but I didn't want to weaken the back of the shelf too much with a too-wide hole. My rope holes were four inches from the short edge of the board and 3/4-inch from the long edge. Adjust as necessary. I drilled four rope holes, two on the bottom, two on the top.
Use a scrap of sandpaper to sand the edges of the rope hole smooth so they don't cut into the rope.
Step 5: Drill VERY Shallow Pilot Holes for Your Flange Screws ...
Drill no more than halfway into the wood, and just to keep the wood from splitting. Use the holes in a flange as your guide. You're only doing this on the bottom of the top shelf, so four pilot holes per flange, for total 16 pilot holes. Each flange goes in the corner, rotate each flange so that a screw hole isn't too close to the corner where the wood is a little weaker.
Step 6: Attach Your Floor Flanges
I used 3/4-inch long screws, (I think I used #10 screws maybe?) Just go for the thicker ones, you need all the holding power you can get for such short screws, you'll need 16 screws. Alternately you might prefer to screw the flanges into a bracket, but I didn't want to bother with it and I wanted a cleaner industrial look.
Step 7: Prepare and Cut Your Steel Pipes
If you use black iron pipe, remember that it isn't made for furniture. Mine was greasy and sticky and yucky, A little paint thinner on paper towels and some time cleaning the pipes will get them mostly clean and also get most of the spec writing off the pipes. It doesn't have to perfect.
I cut mine to 25 inches, so the table would be about 26 inches tall. Please measure these very, very carefully, you don't want a wobbly table. Mark where you want to cut with a sharp pencil or a fine pen right on the pipe. Carefully line up the pipe cutter, give it enough pressure to keep it from wandering and then start cutting. It takes a long time to cut through black iron pipe, at least a lot longer than copper or galvanized, but as long as your pipe cutter is sharp and you don't break it, you'll get through. Use a pipe wrench or vice grip on the discard (!!) portion of the pipe (because the pressure of the wrench will mark it).
When you get through, use the reamer on the pipe cutter to clean off the burrs of the pipe, and be careful not to cut your hand like I did.
Step 8: Rough Assemble the Table
(These photos above are with the table upside down on the floor for assembly.)
With the table upside-down, screw the legs into the floor flanges, get them pretty tight, but be careful not to break the flanges from the board. If you can't get them tight enough into the flanges, you might want to drill a shallow pole hole into the board to let the pipe enter the wood a little bit, but be careful not to go too deep and then puncture the top of your table. I didn't need to do that, my pipes screwed into the flanges very tight.
Then put two hose clamps onto the two back back legs, but don't tighten them yet. (I spray painted my hose clamps blacks because my wife didn't want too many colors in her table.)
Put the bottom shelf on with the pipes through the holes, you'll have to move them around a bit, but it should fit.
Put four hose clamps on, one on each pipe, but don't tighten yet.
Put on the four chair tips, they might be tight, it might help to get them a little wet before sliding them on, which will lower the friction. If you can't find chair tips to fit, you might want to use black duct tape, with a thick pad on the bottom, or make plugs/bungs out of wood scraps. You just don't want your rough cut pipe to scratch your floor.
Put on the felt sliders to the bottom of each rubber tip if you want to use those.
So ... the back pipes will go like this: felt - chair tip - hose clamp - board - hose clamp.
The front pipes will go like this: felt - chair tip - hose clamp - board
Step 9: Set Your Bottom Shelf
Flip over the table, move the bottom shelf to roughly where you want it, then move it up an additional inch.
Then pull the underneath hose clamps up to snug against the wood, and tighten them up. Be sure that the shelf is level, with a bubble level if you have one, or maybe one of those phone apps, but I don't know how accurate are those.
Step 10: Thread the Rope
There are different ways of doing this. I started from above the bottom, went up to the top right rope hole, over the top, diagonally down to the bottom left hole, up to the top left, diagonally back to the bottom right hole.
Then, make the rope as tight as you can by hand, hole the ends next to each other, and clamp them.
Trim the ends.
Wrap your wire around the ends, and make the wire tight to keep the rope from sliding apart. Use plenty of wire and use pliers if necessary to get the wire tight.
Trim the ropes again if necessary. You can see my finished wire bind if you zoom into one of the photos.
Step 11: Tension the Entire Console ...
Push down as much as you can in the center of the bottom shelf to tension the rope and make the whole console tight. Be careful not to break your console, but you do want it tight. Then while keep pressure on the center of the bottom shelf, snug the upper hose clamps to the top surface of the bottom shelf and tighten them down. (It might help to have two people do this part.) Do both upper hose clamps, tighten them well, this will lock the bottom shelf into the place.
The move the bottom clamps into position, and tighten those too. Make sure the shelf is level along the length and adjust as necessary.
Then use your bubble level to make sure your shelf is level front-to-back, and adjust the bottom hose clamps in the front as necessary.
Step 12: Check Everything, Final Sand
Make sure the ends of the wire that you used to secure the rope are poked away, make sure there are no rough edges, send where necessary, make sure it's level. If you use 12-inch board, it won't be perfectly stable because it's not that wide, but it should be stable enough for lightweight electronics, videos and books. The wider your console, the more stable it will be.
Step 13: Stain and Seal the Console
I like the Minwax Polyshade because it's easy and cheap, but you might prefer something else. I applied the second coat before the first one was fully dry, which gave the finish a rough look that I like.