The PVC Pipe Table is a simple solution to everyday counter space needs. It can be built by almost anyone with a little bit of handiwork. In building my table I had access to laser cutting equipment as well as power tools. While very helpful, they are not necessary to your own build. In this instructable I will walk you through the creation of my table in hopes of you being able to repeat it yourself only with your own style and custom work that you can be proud of!
Step 1: Introducing Safety
In the creation of a plumbers pipe table as well as any other project, there is always the need for precaution. This table involves wood and plastic (PVC) and there are dangers associated with both. When dealing with wood one must be careful to avoid rough edges and cuts. Using saws and drills can be dangerous tools and must be used with safety glasses, no jewelry, hair tied back, and avoid baggy or long clothing. The PVC pipe, when cut, produces a rough edge that must be sanded down in order to keep the table safe. Always be sure to wear glasses and use general caution when doing anything with power tools. It is also important to wear a respirator or breather mask when cutting, sanding, and painting to avoid inhaling any potentially dangerous particles.
Step 2: Preparation of Materials
Before beginning the actual build comes the least fun part of the project, the planning and prep work. When thinking about your table, be sure to measure the height you want as well as the size. It is important to remember that if you will be using a chair at the table to leave extra room for your legs! After determining these dimensions, it’s time to draw your plans. Drawing up plans not only helps you see what your project will look like, but helps you create an inventory list. For my table I chose to make it round with a diameter of 30” and a height (from ground to the top of table) of 38”. After determining sizes comes the attachment of legs. For my table I chose to go with one center post that would come down to a solid base. The post in the middle attaches to the top and bottom of the table using a snug fit reinforced by a bit of epoxy. After finding all of your measurements, add up the length of materials and start a shopping list. Keep in mind you will want feet for the base to sit on as well. For these I chose simple metal ones from Lowe's (See Picture). It is always good to buy an extra or so in case something goes wrong. If not they are cheap and can always be returned later! Next up comes purchasing the parts. Head to your local hardware store and start with the connectors. Get your piping and table top materials and head on home to begin the creation of your new table. Be sure once you start you set aside a designated workspace. This project will take around a week depending on your desired level of finish on the table top.
Step 3: Making the Table Top
The first and longest step in this project is the table top. You will want to use a nice wood for the top surface, but if you want to save money on making the table thicker you can always use a cheap piece of wood for the under side. In my table I am layering two pieces of 1/2” birch plywood together to bring my final top thickness to 1”. This thickness will provide good stability as well as a thick surface to be mounted securely to the base. After determining the thickness, you can next determine size. Square tops will be the easiest especially with the use of a table saw. Fortunately, I have access to a laser cutting machine and was able to incorporate a unique design. After planning my design, I made both pieces identical except for a round hole centered in the bottom piece demonstrated in picture 2. This hole will allow a gap for your center shaft to slide in and be glued on. After cutting both pieces of the top, the next step is to attach them. The best way for me was to use glue and a brad nailer. Using these small nails in the underside keeps a clean looking top free of nails. If you do not have access to a nailer though, glue and screws are just as efficient!
After gluing the pieces together the surface work can begin. Start by sanding all edges and faces of the top with a rougher grit sandpaper (80 grit example) slowly progressing to finer and finer finishes (240 grit). If desired you can sand a final time with steel wool (#0000) however it is not necessary. The steel wool however will be used in the next steps.
After the surface is prepared it is time for stain, paint (optional) and polyurethane. I chose not to stain mine and leave the natural wood color aside from the red checker board. I began by masking off the surfaces that should not get paint on them. After masking, I sprayed a nice red over the center area being sure that I was applying a heavy coat to the entire top. Go heavy but ensure none of the paint runs or it will create streaks which will ruin your nice finish.
After the paint has had time to cure, next up is to use polyurethane. This poly not only creates a nice finish, but will protect your table against spills and water damage. Begin by rubbing steel wool on the entire top and applying a coat. After this coat dries for at least 12 hours it is time to rub steel wool on it again. If you feel the finish after the first coat, it will be rough as the wood naps up. Lightly rub steel wool on it until the surface is back to its perfect smoothness. Repeat this process until the wood remains smooth without having to steel wool (approximately 3-4 times)
Step 4: Making the Table Base
The next step in building your table is to make the base which will support everything. To make it sturdy, I again chose to layer two 1/2" pieces of wood together. The diameter of my base is 18". In the center I cut a hole just like in the top that the center pipe could slide into. The only difference this time is that I cut the whole in both layers. After attaching the two halves, I routed all the edges to provide a safe and clean finish. This is an extra step that when done right really enhances the finish of your table.
After routing, it was time to stain. I chose to go with a black ebony color because it will hide scuffs easily. Applying the stain is an easy process and goes quickly. After it dries, continue on to apply polyurethane to the base just the same way as the table top. After all coats are applied and have a chance to dry, go ahead and install the metal feet according to the directions that they come with.
Step 5: Making the Center Support
The Center support is what connects the top of your table to the base. In my design I built it so that the center could be removed and adjusted for height. To begin, measure the length your post needs to be and cut it to length. After that fit the two connectors on the end and hold the pieces together to check that the table meets your height requirements. Follow this up by measuring the recess of your connectors. This is how far your pipe sinks in. Take this measurement and add the thickness of your wood to make a piece for the top. Do the same except measure the thickness of both pieces for the bottom. These connectors allow the end caps to stay in place while the main center shaft can be removed.
After all pieces are cut it's time to begin painting. I chose a nice red for my base as I go to Iowa State and thought it would add a nice touch. After painting the caps and center, glue in the top and bottom connecting pieces to the connectors. These do not need to be painted as they will never be seen. Using these pieces, insert them into the top and bottom of your table. If you measured correctly they will go all the way in and have a snug fit. To add extra assurance, I went ahead and epoxy glued around the seams. This ensured that my table would never fall apart on me.
Step 6: Assembly and Final Touches
After all the parts are made it is time to assemble the table. Put the bottom onto the center post first. After firmly pressing the pipe into the connector grab the top and do the same. Congratulations! you just completed the plumbers pipe PVC table. This table will be sure to draw lots of questions and have others asking how you did it.