Introduction: Penny Desk!

Picture of Penny Desk!

My hubby John and I made this fun penny desk for my office. The pennies are covered in bar top epoxy, and it isn't nearly as heavy as you might think. The process is a little tedious, but not overly difficult except for the wrapped edges, which you can always skip. Keep reading to see the step-by-step instructions.

Also, this is my very first Instructable, so my apologies if I manage to mangle it horribly. ;)

My original post regarding this desk can be found over on my blog Epbot. If you like geeky girly stuff, please drop by to say hello!

Step 1: Material Girl

Picture of Material Girl

First and foremost, you'll need lots of pennies. I think we used about $35 for the desk, which is approximately 40 by 22 inches. Don't have a massive change jar handy? Just swing by your local bank.

I polished half of our pennies with Tarn-X. It's super easy to use: just pour it over the coins and then rinse. Polishing some of the coins gives the end result a pretty mix of shiny and tarnished finishes.

Step 2: Prep & Landing

Picture of Prep & Landing

John built my desk from scratch to fit the space we needed, but you could use a pre-existing table top or desk no problem. We painted it black before starting to set the pennies.

Start placing your pennies on the front edge, securing them with a small dot of super glue. We clamped a straight edge ruler to guide our first line, and bent our first line of coins to fit around the rounded edge of the desk. You don't have to do this, though: you could place the pennies just on the top, and snip them in a straight line.

Step 3: Getting Bent

Picture of Getting Bent

If you decide you do want to bend your coins to wrap the edges, here's how we did it: We wrapped a small piece of electrical tape around one of John's titanium rings to pad it slightly. (He wears a size 10.5 ring, if that helps.) Then John used pliers to bend each penny to the inside curve of the ring. Just stick the penny inside the ring, and clamp down with the pliers.

Fair warning: this requires a LOT of hand strength. Much more than I, weakling geek girl that I am, could ever manage. John wore heavy leather work gloves to protect his palms, since he had to bend a bunch of coins.

Step 4: Mind-Numbing Tedium Is Your Friend

Picture of Mind-Numbing Tedium Is Your Friend

Now, start gluing! I spent about four nights working on arranging and gluing down each coin. It would have gone much faster, but I was carefully arranging the different colors and mixing in "special" pennies (wheaties, other countries' coins, etc.) in at regular intervals. As you can see from the second picture, it only took a tiny spot of glue to secure each coin, but you *do* need to glue them all.

Step 5: Mind Your Edges

Picture of Mind Your Edges

If you have a Dremel, glue the pennies on first - hanging over the edge - and then trim them off later. (first pic) If you don't have a Dremel, use heavy snips to cut the coins before gluing them down.

In the second picture you can see how John bent and snipped the pennies to wrap around the desk's corner edge. This was the trickiest part, and again requires plenty of hand strength (and strong snips!)

Step 6: Prepare to Pour!

Picture of Prepare to Pour!

When your surface is ready, prep your area for pouring the epoxy. You need someplace you can leave it undisturbed for about two days, and that is relatively dust-free. We set up in a back room of our house.

Cover the floor with lots of heavy plastic - very, VERY, important - as the epoxy will be dripping down to the floor - and set your desk top on some sawhorses or other stands, making sure that the edges are free.

Step 7: POUR!

Picture of POUR!

Mix and pour your two-part bar top epoxy. I'm sorry I don't remember the exact brand we used, but so long as you use the stuff restaurants use for their tabletops, you'll be fine. Our epoxy was old - left over from another project - so it had yellowed a bit. You can see the golden tint in the photos. Usually epoxy is crystal clear, though, so don't let my photos scare you. :)

Once you've poured it all on (use as much as the label dictates for the amount of area you're covering), start tipping your surface to get the epoxy all the way to the edges. You want it to drip *over* the edges, in order to coat them. (See why you need all that plastic on the floor?)

Step 8: Even Things Out

Picture of Even Things Out

To get an even coating on your edges, you may need to scoop some epoxy off the floor with a metal spatula or spoon and dump it back on the edge. Do this as often as necessary to get a smooth covering.

Also, keep in mind that the pennies on the edges will prevent the epoxy there from being glass smooth. My desk has a slightly ripply effect to the front edge, which I actually think feels really cool. Just be sure that the epoxy gets in all the cracks, and that you don't miss any areas.

Step 9: Torch It!

Picture of Torch It!

This part is surprisingly fun: use a small blow torch (like the one you have in your kitchen for toasting the creme brulee) and pass it quickly over the surface of your epoxy - about 6 inches above it - to eliminate all the air bubbles. (And there will be a LOT of air bubbles.) The bubbles will rise and pop like magic, leaving a glass-smooth surface. Like I said: fun!

Step 10: I Hate Waiting

Picture of I Hate Waiting

And now: you wait.

Your epoxy should take about a day to set up, and two days to cure. Check the label of your epoxy, and go by that to be sure.

When it's fully cured, use a utility blade to cut/scrape off any excess epoxy drips from the bottom edges of your desk, and install it as you would any other surface.

And you're done!

Go show off your new desk to all your friends. Be sure to mention how much "cents" it makes to make a "change", etc. etc.


DaveM300 (author)2017-12-10

Clean Pennies: 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1-3 tsp salt, Unshiny pennies, Non-metal bowl, Paper towels. Pour vinegar into the bowl & add salt, stir. Put about 5 pennies into the bowl for 10 sec. Take out pennies and rinse in water.

Hydrogen Peroxide will take a bright penny and darken it like an old penny. It will also clean dirt or organic material off coins & it sometimes loosens encrustations.

DaveM300 (author)DaveM3002017-12-10

No Tarn-X !

PogueMahone1775 (author)2017-08-15

Coool!!! I really like the idea of using foreign coins, as well.

Angelo Zucco (author)2017-07-18

Fantastic project. Although it is not my type of handwork, you always learn something from other's ideas.

random_builder (author)2017-02-02

This looks great!

Zexetor (author)2016-04-11

18 U.S.C. § 331–Mutilation, Diminution, and Falsification of Coins.

Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs,
diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined
at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are
by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money
within the United States; or

Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or
sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into
the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered,
defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or
lightened –

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five
years, or both.

SO, people, stop freaking. It is totally NOT illegal. Enjoy!

WUVIE (author)Zexetor2016-10-06

Thank you for the facts. Always a great part of conversation. :-)

WUVIE (author)2016-10-06

This is absolutely right up my alley. Great project!

ksharitt (author)2016-09-27

This would be amazing as a kitchen counter... or bathroom tiling.

kdigger (author)2016-04-09

Destroying money is a federal crime. Just a heads up.

FlyPot (author)kdigger2016-09-20

Well, in Canada - they have stopped minting pennies so that might be a viable legal option. I gotta say though - at almost $3 bucks a square foot there are lots of other, more attractive and dare I say less tedious options available for a unique desk top. Just sayin'

londonskies (author)2016-04-03

Great instructable thanks ... I didn't know about the blowtorch technique, useful to learn of this.

To calculate how many coins you need you might want to adapt the following UK penny calculations to your preferred coin size ...

How many British 1 pence coins could you fit in a meter squared?

if 1p coin diameter= 20.3mm ...

1p coins per sqm square packed: (1000/20.3)^2 = 2426.65. That s a coin

density of pi/4 or approx 78.54%.

But lets work out the coin density if arranged in hexagonal close

packed layout, Let s work it out for circle of diameter=1 unit. Sketch

4 adjacent circles with centres forming a rhombus. Within the rhombus

you have a pattern which when repeated describes the entire hexagonal

close-packed layout.

Rhombus area = (1^2-.5^2)^.5 = .75^.5 = 0.86602540378

Area which is within a circle AND within rhombus =pi*.5^2 = 0.78539816339

Therefore circle density is 0.78539816339/0.86602540378 =

0.90689968211. A density of circa 90.69%.

Area of 1p coin = pi*r^2 = pi*(20.3/2)^2 = 323.6547 sqmm

Therefore close-packed coins per sqm =

1000*1000/323.6547*0.90689968211 = 2802.05936175

This doesn t account for edge conditions. circa 2802 coins per sqm. Good luck!

Dominic P

jvandeyacht (author)londonskies2016-04-03

So in plain english ... its about $3.35 per square foot?

londonskies (author)jvandeyacht2016-04-22

I make it $2.96 per sq Ft.


Hex-packed circle density is 0.90689968211 (all figures here are approx.)
Diameter of US 1c = 19.05 mm.
Area of 1c coin = pi*r^2 = pi*(19.05/2)^2 = 285.022956992 sqmm.

Therefore close-packed 1c coins per sqm =
1000*1000/285.022956992*0.90689968211 = 3181.84784721

or 3181.84784721/3.28084^2 per sq Ft = 295.603318905 1c coins per sq Ft


talonts (author)2016-04-07

A ratcheting wood clamp might be easier to use to bend the pennies. Remove the soft pads, then if necessary, file a slot on each of the hard plastic arms to fit the penny into. Or if you have a Dremel, carve a curved slot in each arm. Then just pump the trigger on the clamp to bend.

You may need to file the slots closer to the sliding bar to avoid clamp flex, but if the clamp is large enough, probably not.

zonkerharris (author)2016-04-05

Along with checking your penny-stock for older (read: valuable) pennies, let me make another suggestion... if you find a few Canadian pennies, don't just throw them away! By putting 1-5 of them on your penny-desktop, it now becomes a puzzle to find them amongst all the others. :-)

Daelke (author)2016-04-03

This is an excellent project. I've never done it and the reason I'm posting this to give people a clue that pennies minted before 1964 are 95% copper, after 1964 they are 95% zinc you may wonder why this is important. Well you see at today's metal values a copper penny has an actual value of between 2 and 3¢ each. That plus the fact that in a $25.00 box of pennies you will probably find about 12-20 wheat pennies, ok now we are talking real money here. In ten $25.00 boxes of pennies I have found 2 Indian head coins, and this is a true treasure. I can't explain why these truly old coins might be found in a box that you get at the bank but I suspect that these old coins were in a junk drawer and finnaly taken to the bank without consideration of their potential value today.

mattcintosh (author)Daelke2016-04-03

Um, the cut off is 1982, not 1964. The 1964/1965 cut off was the quarter/dime silver/clad change. (half dollars/dollars still had more silver for a couple more years)

TimB2 (author)mattcintosh2016-04-03

I believe there were 7 different US pennies made in 1982. There were different variations from solid copper to copper plated zinc. There was also a minor change in the date font styles. I have all seven 1982 penny designs in a sealed set.

duke121 (author)TimB22016-04-05

IMHO your 7 cents with the variations is, how can I put it . . . cool.

As for the cents table, very clever. I did wonder how the raised texture would be handled but the "bar table" coating answered my question.

A great project and for the most part an excellent bunch of comments and suggestions!

Daelke (author)mattcintosh2016-04-03

Indeed. My bad. My comments was made before I even started on my 1st cup of coffee. Err Oops sorry.

kelleebabes (author)2016-04-03

if you cover a bowling ball with pennies and then grout it with copper color grout it makes the coolest garden looks like you spent a lot of money on it...and once it sits outside for gets a beautiful green patina

ooohlaa (author)kelleebabes2016-04-04

i love this idea ... what kind of glue would you recomm to weather well ... also what do you mean by copper color grout do you have to blend this color yourself or is there already such a thing like by Maipei or some other mfg?

kelleebabes (author)ooohlaa2016-04-04

I'm sorry I don't remember the name of tile store I purchased the grout at...I do however remember it was a custom grout , and it was quite expensive... That was my first Pennie Ball i made, I've made several since and I found that solid colored grouts such as beige or even black looks great because , if you glue your pennies on the ball as close as you can, the spaces between aren't really noticeable...but, no matter what color grout you choice to go with...your going to be amazed how beautiful and unique your artwork looks...people will think you must have spent LOTS of money for such beautiful garden art... good luck...Kellee

ooohlaa (author)ooohlaa2016-04-04

oh sorry i see below u already answered thanx so much

JeanieM2 (author)kelleebabes2016-04-03

sounds cool, what did you attach them with?

kelleebabes (author)JeanieM22016-04-03

use can use anything like contact cement, gorilla glue or quick grip because once you finish glueing your pennies to a clean bowling ball..your going to grout the entire surface which will strengthen the bond ...use sand grout can go to a tile store and get bronze grout...afterwards you can choose to polyurethane it for weatherproofing but doing that hinders the beautiful green patina's ...

JulieW65 (author)kelleebabes2016-04-03

I love this idea. I've done a bowlng ball with mosaic glass. Pennies would look really cool.

sonopasquale (author)2016-04-04

Thanks for instructions. A little while ago, I added a brick walkway from the front gate to the front door. At the end of the walkway, I was left with a space that is unusual. At the time, and know I have a LOTTA PENNIES, I thought to fill it in with the pennies. Thanks for additional information

ooohlaa (author)2016-04-04

I usually read all comments but the legality ones were really overbearing, being myself simply a design dork/nerd :) I want to know if there would be any merit if you heated the penny with a torch and then bent it for the edges? Does zinc soften like copper does? Would the little bit of copper now in pennies heated soften up the bending process? Your rolled edges really make it more artistic. Love the whole idea, and the bowling ball idea (scroll down) also. Thanx so much for all the comments too.

Nickw50 (author)ooohlaa2016-04-04

the copper coat would burn off leaving just the zinc, so no.

ANGELOZ3 (author)2016-04-04

Table looks great, nice job. ( Scroll down for some laughs )

LynneF6 (author)2016-04-04


KevinK19 (author)2016-04-03

It is very nice! With all of the comments about the legality of using currency like seen in this instruct-able, it made me wonder about all of those quarters I had pressed in Hawaii (USS Arizona site), Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. All of those locations had a machine where you pay $2.00, then you turn a handle that squishes a quarter into a nice little keepsake. Are those illegal as well?

jvandeyacht (author)KevinK192016-04-03

No. Its just a bunch of back-yard lawyers. Its illegal when fraud is involved else they wouldnt have them at national parks. Its when you try to pass them off as something more valuable that you get into trouble.

lhlesch (author)2016-04-03

GENIUS! I love it

fridelain (author)2012-02-12

Thought you'd like to know. TL;DR: It's against the law.

MkwF (author)fridelain2016-04-03

Relax,straight liner. I RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS.. i will call the Penny Police.

Daelke (author)MkwF2016-04-03

The federal government does not have a problem with the complete destruction of any type of currency be it coins or paper bills. That merely has the effect of strengthening the currency, its negligible if not even measurable. Attempting to alter the value of any sort of currency is something they will prosecute to the fullest degree possible. Only the government has the authority to do that. Have you not noticed that when the value of silver went up the mint [government] changed to zinc plated copper and then released those new coins as dimes and quarters. Our money today is only valuable because we agree to accept that a FEDERAL RESERVE NOTE has value even if there is nothing in the federal reserve to back up those notes.

MkwF (author)fridelain2016-04-03

Relax,straight liner. I RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS.. i will call the Penny Police.

ssa-ed (author)fridelain2016-04-03

Bleach a $1 bill and re-ink to look like a $20 - that's defacing. Burning a $1 bill is NOT. Melt a 1000 pennies into a pair of book-ends, no problem. Recast them as passable Susan B. Anthony dollars - you got problems. Get it?

Tweezers (author)fridelain2016-04-03

No its not, the pennies have not been defaced.

nerys (author)fridelain2012-02-12

Incorrect. it is not against the law. its only against the law to "deface currency" is there is an intent to defraud.

this is why where's george stamps are legal and why penny smashers are legal and why making "coin jewelery" is legal and why this table is perfectly legal.

Please stop propagating that myth.

Epbot (author)nerys2012-02-13

Thanks for pointing this out, nerys. I initially had a paragraph in my intro about the legality of coin craft, but then took it out because I didn't think it'd be an issue here. Guess I was wrong! (It still amazes me how many people think this could be illegal with all the penny smasher machines out there.)

J-Five (author)Epbot2012-03-16

Well you don't need to use pennies; you could use buttons, old playing cards or any other small things. They could work.

blackfister (author)fridelain2012-02-12

you wouldnt do thi table because it againt the law?
use in an open space, use a respirator and common sense. use safly.

bajablue (author)blackfister2012-02-12

It's against the "law" to deface currency... and I am SO going to do this for a small table... in Mexico! lol... I think I'd be safe from prosecution here. ;-D

Daelke (author)2016-04-03

Yes. As I already stated I was incorrect regarding the dates when the copper penny went to zinc. There probably are other variances I am not aware of, and yes I confused silver in dimes and quarters with the minting dates for pennies.

Alexaluvu (author)2016-04-03

I think that this desk is extremely awesome, and very creative. Thanks for posting!:)

RobertA2 (author)2016-04-03

Secret Service is too busy reading Hillary's emails but will get to you in another life time.

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