Introduction: Pipe-organ-inspired Cardboard Tube Table

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

For this project you need:
1. Between 15 and 20 cardboard tubes measuring 56" long and with wall thickness of approximately 1/8." If substituting mailing tubes make sure you have a lot of them.
2. Gorilla glue--You can probably use another kind of glue, but I had this lying around and for some reason I felt like using it. If you use Gorilla Glue you should also have a sponge and water source handy to dampen the materials before applying glue.
3a. A saw.
3b. (Optional but really kind of important ) A miter box.
4. String or twine of some sort--I used some cotton yarn remnants from my ex-girlfriend's knitting project (with her permission of course! We are on good terms!).
5. A pencil you don't mind ruining.
6. Another writing implement for marking.
7. A measuring tape or other measuring device.
8. A tarp that you don't mind trashing. A garbage bag might also work.

Some optional tools and supplies include:
Paint and method for applying paint
Plexiglass or corruguated cardboard to make a flat top surface for the table
A coping saw (for cutting the plexiglass)
An exacto knife

Okay. I think that's it!

Step 2: Cut the Tubes

All in all, cutting the tubes was perhaps the most time consuming step--though not the most frustrating, that will come later.

Start cutting the main support tubes
I wanted to make a table 28" high. You can decide how tall you want your table to be.

To make a 28" high table, start by sawing 10 tubes to a length of 28." To make a table of length x, cut 10 tubes to length x. Remember! Measure twice, cut once. These are the only tubes where the length really matters. Also try to make both ends as flat as possible--using a miter box really helps--to reduce wiggle in your table. In a few moments you can (mostly) throw measures out the window, but for these ten tubes try to be delicate.

Tip: Because these tubes are made of cardboard they can tear-out easily, leaving a messy and uneven cut. In general, I sawed most of the way through the tube and then scored the underside (with a saw or exacto) before sawing the rest of the way.

If anyone with one of those new-fangled-type cutting tools tries to use one to make this table, lemme know how it works!

Cutting the short tubes
While the main support tubes keep the table standing, the short tubes fill in the spaces between and help to make a bigger table using less material. Although I will refer to these tubes as "short" the term is relative. In all I used 35 short tubes ranging in length from 4 inches to 27 inches. In general, I tried to keep the short tubes between 14" and 27." But really, just have fun with it, cut randomly. I also cut the short tubes at various angles--mostly 45 degrees, but also some at 22.5 degrees--to add to the chime or pipe organ look. Because the diameter of the tubes used in this project varied, you may want to cut a few more tubes than I ended up using. This may also be helpful in the event you find that one side of your table is weaker than the other.

Step 3: Begin Assembly

This is the aforementioned most frustrating step. Theoretically it is easy--glue the tubes in a big bundle! But in practice it is more difficult.

To start, I lay three tubes on the tarp. The middle tube is a main support ("long") and there are two short tubes to either side. Closer into the middle you want to use your longest short tubes, this is mostly for aesthetic reasons--if you use the shortest tubes in the middle and surround them with longer tubes, no one will be able to tell you used tubes of different lengths.

Wet the tubes with a sponge and then apply a thin (THIN!!! GORILLA GLUE EXPANDS!) line of glue to glue the tubes together. Then take two more short tubes and stack them on top of these three, wetting and gluing these as well. (See diagram--red tubes are short, blue are long). Make sure that the flat ends of the tubes are all lined up.

Next, you want to stand the tubes on their flat ends so that they are vertical. Then add two more short tubes (but the longest of the short tubes). Remember to wet the surfaces as you glue them! You want to have a circle of short tubes around the long tube. (see diagram)

Now you want to take your string and wrap it around these 7 tubes, near the base and as tightly as possible. Tie-off. You can make it even tighter by putting the pencil under the string and twisting it.

Let dry for approximately one hour.

Step 4: Continue Building Rings Around the Core 7 Tubes

Now that you've gotten the basic core it should get a little easier. Really from here you could probably just wing it but I will continue telling you what I did.

Tip: Whenever your construction starts to seem more like a circle or when you find yourself cursing more like a pirate you can stop, tie a string around, tighten with a pencil, and take a break for an hour.

Okay so once your core has dried, take off the string (if possible save it and use it again!). Then wet everything down with the sponge and glue 6 tubes in a ring around the core, alternating long and short pieces. Then add two short pieces alongside the long pieces you just added (remembering to wet everything). After I did this I tied it up and let it dry again.

Step 5: Go Crazy

So if you used janky tubes of various sizes like I did, your project is probably getting slightly less symmetrical. This is good. Don't worry, it will look cool. But you are kind of on your own now. Keep building around and doing what seems to make sense for the lengths and diameters of tubes you have. All I can tell you about my process after this point is the following:
1. It should be safe to make a ring or two out of only short pieces.
2. The two outer rings will each contain 3 long pieces, which you should try to make in a generalized triangular shape.
3. It is also good to move your construction around a bit, because it will get glued to the tarp.
4. Remember to tie and let dry if it starts falling apart.

Also a note on tying up:
In general you should tie very tightly at the bottom but once it gets this large, it is also a good idea to (loosely) tie the top together. If you tie the top too tight it may bow the tubes.

Step 6: Finished!

Although I said this was a table, it is actually strong enough to support my weight. However I am not sure how it would stand up to daily use as a stool and I am going to make it a table. Also it is kind of an awkward height for a stool. But you readers can do your own thing with it.

To improve its table qualities, you might want to cut a piece of plexiglass to use as a top (I also dumpstered some of that!) or you could just use a piece of regular cardboard, but then you won't be able to appreciate the honey-comb effect.

I also cut some of the excess glue out of the holes with an exacto. You might try sanding too, but I think to get anywhere in any length of time you would probably need one of those new-fangled sanding machines and I don't have one of those.

I'm probably going to paint this, in part to cover up the glue marks but I haven't decided quite how i want to paint it yet. I will update if I do. And also when I find a coping saw and finally cut that piece of plexiglass out.


justinhyp made it! (author)2009-08-05

Put different color LEDs in each of the tubes! would be AWESOME

moseph made it! (author)moseph2009-08-05


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