Several years ago I built a table with inlayed compartments for the display of various trinkets, I'd always planned on making an instructable, taking pictures (unfortunately rather blurry ones, taken on a rather crappy camera, by an even crappier photographer), however never got around to it. However with school finished for the year and the furniture contest up and running, I figured now would be a good time to finally write it out. After all, who wouldn't like a snazzy new electric screwdriver.
Step 1: Supplies
Before you begin there are a few things you will require. The major component of the project is, obviously, the table. Now you can build your own table if you prefer, however, for this project I simply went to my local op-shop and found a suitable coffee table, it was stained a somewhat hideous colour, and it had a big gash through the middle, but I decided it was pretty good for the cheap price (like $7). A table with a bit of a lip around the edge is preferrable, as we plan to put glass on the top.
I was also lucky enough to find a shadow box that was perfect for the project at the same op-shop. You will likely not be so lucky however, so I will provide some brief instructions on how to make your own in the next step.
Note: Unfortunately I didn't begin documenting this project on camera until a few steps along, so I don't have many pictures of the table before I began the transformation. I also lost some photos over the years, so the Instructable is not as complete as I would like.
Other tools and supplies you'll need:
-Velvet (or other suitable lining material)
-Stuffing or cotton wool (I scavenged some from an old pillow)
-Aquadhere (or similar, clear drying wood glue)
-Power cutting tools (I used a "renovator" power tool, not as good as I'd hoped but it got the job done)
-Sanding tool / sandpaper
-Soft mallet (for those tight fits)
-Liquid nails (very optional, i used this to seal the gash in the table before cutting it, just to make sure it didn't fall apart)
-Wood stain (I used clear because I quite liked the natural colour of the wood, but a coloured stain works just as well)
-LED fairy lights (again optional, I decided to try and make the boxes within the table light up, I wasn't overly successful due to my lack of soldering iron at the time)
Step 2: The Shadow Box
If you managed to find a shadowbox at a store like I did feel free to skip this step.
The second most important piece of this project (and the one that makes it more than just a regular coffee table) is the inlayed shadow box.
Now building on of these yourself shouldn't be too difficult, simply get a length of thin wood, and cut it to lengths suitable for the number (and size) of boxes you want. Then cut slots in those lengths similar to the (very dodgy) template above. These pieces should then easily slot together to form a large rectangle, made of of many smaller rectangles and squares.
Next simply get a thin rectangle of wood and attach it to the bottom of the rectangle as a "backing."
Step 3: Cutting a Hole
Now that you have a shadow box, and a table to put it in we need to cut a suitable hole in the tabletop.
We begin by centering the shadow box on the top (or possibly bottom, whichever you find easiest) of the table, and drawing an outline of it in pencil.
Then we take our cutting tool and simply follow the lines. Note that it's always better to cut within the lines than outside them, if the hole is too small that that problem is very easy to fix, a hole that's too big, significantly less simple.
Once your hole is cut, clean it up a little with sandpaper and test the fit of your box. If the box looks like it will fit snugly (as in it takes a bit of force to get it in but it won't be damaged) then this is perfect, if the box won't fit at all then periodically make the hole bigger until it does.
This step took me a while as my tabletop was surprisingly thick.
Step 4: Sanding Down
The next thing that I did was sand of the ugly stain that was originally on the wood, revealing wood that was actually quite nice (if slightly faded).
We also want to clean up the edges of the hole a little more, just to ensure a good, clean fit.
(If during this section you sand any of the natural wood, try to catch as much of it as possible in a container, this will be explain in a later step)
Step 5: Place the Box and Seal the Cracks
The next step is to actually place the box inside the hole.
If it is a little snug then just use a soft mallet to work it in. Just before the top of the box is level with the table you will want to put a little aquadhere along the sides, just to help keep it in place, then put it in the rest of the way. Try to get it as level as possible with the top of the table and wipe off any excess glue before leaving it to dry.
Sand the point where the box and table meet to clean the join a little (also sand any other parts of the table that might need it).
Next you want to seal up the the edges, some hardware stores will colour match a sealant to your wood, however I've found that if you mix some of the wood, powdered down from sanding, in with some aquadhere, it creates a pretty good sealant that matches the colour of your table. The offcut of wood from the table is a good source of the shavings needed.
Use this same mixture can be used to seal up any other gaps in your table, the edges of mine were a little wobbly, so I used some to fill the corners, not the neatest job ever, but it worked.
Step 6: Stain
Once your table is all neatened up it's time to stain it a pretty colour.
Before you do this it mightn't hurt to clean it up a bit with a vacuum cleaner and a wet cloth.
Then simply take a wide brush and "paint" on your stain, simply follow the instructions on the can for your particular finish.
I unfortunately got quite lazy when it came to staining the box, only focusing on the top of the wood and not the inside walls, making for a slightly messy finished product. This is pretty well hidden by the velvet however.
Step 7: Velvet
While the stain is drying you have some time to make the little "cushions" for the items you will be displaying.
There are a couple of ways to do this, but the easiest is to simply cut a rectangle of material, twice as wide and twice as long as each compartment of the box. Then place some stuffing in the material and fold it into a pillow shape.
Then, once the table is dry, you are free to place the pillows into the compartments.
Step 8: Glass
You'll want to have glass on the top of your table, otherwise your items might get damaged, which would kind of defeat the purpose of the table.
I had a large piece of broken glass from my old coffee table that was big enough to cover my new table.
I took both the table and piece of glass to the local glass cutter and left them there for the day. When I returned I had a piece of glass, cut to fit the top of my table perfectly. On the way home I bought a cheap suction cup, to lift the glass up if need be.
Step 9: Optional Step: Add Lighting
I decided at some point along the way that I'd like to add lighting to my table, making for a nice display, even at night.
If you plan on doing this step please plan it out better than me and hide the wiring behind a compartment or at least attach the wires with something better than tape, staples perhaps.
I found a cheap string of LED fairy lights at the dollar shop and pushed each light through a hole in the corner of each compartment. I then simply held the wires to the bottom with tape and the battery pack with Velcro, allowing for easy removal. This ended up being extremely messy as I was forced to lengthen some of the wires by simply twisting them together with speaker wire and taping the join. I will likely go back and clean it up at some point with my soldering iron.
Note: I'm aware that I used AAA batteries in a AA battery pack but I was out of AAA's at the time.
Step 10: You're Done!
Now you're finished. Feel free to start putting some cool stuff on display in your table.
I've been using this table for years now, it protects quite a few little keepsakes and trinkets and it never fails to be cluttered with all manner of DVD's, books and remotes.
If you build something similar to this, improved on my design, or have built something similar in the past, please share it in the comments, I'd love to see other people's variations on this design.
If I've missed anything or you have any suggestions for how I could improve the instructable, please don't hesitate to tell me (even spelling and grammar)
Also if you liked this instructable please vote for me in the "Furniture Hacks" contest. That cool Semi-Automatic Screwdriver would be a great surprise for me for Christmas :P .