After moving into a house and living on a tight budget from a fairly low paid job I decided I needed furniture. Sure, I had the things I moved into the house with (a mixture of hand me downs and things I had bought whilst staying with family). The cost of both brand new and second hand items being high I decided I needed something for next to nothing. With the abundance of scrap wood at my place of work I decided to build something, the only things I needed were both wood and tools.
Step 1: Aquiring Materials and Tools
Unfortunately there is a setup cost. This is the investment in tools, I spent approximately £30 on the individual pieces I needed. You may find you can spend less. Mitre block and Tennon Saw cost me £10, Set/Tri Square thingy cost a £5, I spent £5 on Sanding Paper (£2.50 for two pre-made blocks and £2.50 on a pack of sheets). Glue and Glue gun holder cost me another £10. Admittedly this is more than I wanted to pay, I could have bought a table for this but transporting would have been problematic. Other things such as a pencil for marking and gloves are part of my work kit and as such I already owned them. You can probably pick both up for less than £2 though.
Materials wise I was fairly limited. Our place of work deals with delivering wooden garden decking. This comes to the warehouse spaced on scrap wood. My choices were lumber cut to 2x2 inch x 36 inch or MDF blocks of the same dimension. I chose the lumber. Not all the scrap matches these dimensions, there are differences in both width and length but by standing them next to each other I was able to make a judgement on what would fit with what. Luckily one shipment of decking produced four rough rustic looking planks so I pilfered them before someone stuck them in a wood burner.
Transporting was a bit precarious. Wood was acquired as and when, I don't drive or have public transport access at work so I took to dragging in my oversized and old backpack and riding my pushbike with the wood on my back. Be careful when doing this, it's all I will say.
Step 2: Preparing Your Design
Once you have enough wood, in your own opinion, you need to try and work out how you are going to fit it together. Start off by laying out a basic frame to work in. Inspiration may come immediately, or it may not. Surprisingly sitting staring at a pile of wood does indeed get the cogs going. Consider the size of the frame, is it too big? Draw some pictures of what you have in mind, do some measurements of height, width and depth. This may seem a bit obvious but the amount of people who will get visions of grandeur and find they have no room to move around it after is unbelievable.
I decided I wanted something small to sit in front of my sofa, so in the midst of not worrying about the current frame size I dumped all the wood on top of the frame in a layered manner. I was trying to get a solid idea of the height I was after, in reality I also decided I liked the way all that wood looked. I threw the planks across the width at one end and decided it would look good as a coffee table. I think I spent an hour staring at wood, my girlfriend thought I was mad.
Step 3: Building the Thing
Having finalised a design of layered wood blocks under some planks, it was time to get to work. It took me a good 10 hours over a week. I have included coffee and cigarette break times in the over all time.
First off I sanded down the planks with a sheet of coarse Sand Paper. You may have Aluminium Oxide Paper or Glass Paper. It doesn't matter which, it all has the same effect. Concentrate on one side of a plank at a time till you are happy with the smoothness, changing to finer sand paper as appropriate. As it happened I sanded down with coarse, went to a medium and left it at that. That's all the work you need on them really.
Next up comes working with the lumber. Fairly easy, first you are looking to measure a width of wood for your frame. Put the ends up against your mitre block ensuring they are all in line, next make sure they are tight side by side. Do the same with the planks so they are going across the top of the wood as seen in the picture. Next get your pencil and draw a line across the lumber using the planks as a guide. If you need to do the same for the length do so, remembering to turn the planks so they are length ways on top of the lumber.
Once the measurements are in place and your lumber is marked then cut it to length using a saw. In this case I was using the Tennon Saw and Mitre Block I bought earlier. Once that is done you break out the sand paper and sand it down, after finishing laying it out in a mockup so you can see what it will look like.
Note: My design changed, I wanted somewhere to put my feet when I'm watching something or just relaxing back. As a result I put small blocks between the lumber widths on one side, replacing the lengths entirely for half of the table. It's up to you, if you want to find some wood that will fit and measure the gap between the appropriate lumber lengths or widths. Mark out the wood with the measurements you took and cut it to size and sand.
Finally you have to glue the thing together. Fairly easy, take the glue tube and mount it in the glue gun. Remember to follow the appropriate opening instructions. Working from the bottom up in a quiet corner of a room, apply blobs of glue to the corners of the the frame and press the next layer of wood down on top. Work your way up, building the frame and then add a thin strip along the top pieces before placing the planks. Put some heavy items (laptop, books, cds) on the top to hold the planks in place. Be careful when doing this, you don't want to end up with the wrong pieces in the wrong places. Now ignore it till tomorrow to let the glue set.
After all that your coffee table is finished. Place it where you want and use it, just remember that you made this.