Have an old tailgate laying around? Have an empty space in you home, apartment, garage, man cave, etc. that needs to be filled? Want to make something any car nut will love? If you answered yes to any of these then the tailgate coffee table is for you!
Back story: after more than two years of work rebuilding an old truck I have been left with lots of spare parts, in this case an old tailgate that was well past its prime. Using my tailgate (any brand and model year will work; best bet if you don't have one is to check out your local junk or scrap yard) as well as other spare iron and ply wood I was able to create a new center piece for my living room. Hope you enjoy.
What you will need:
- Tailgate (any make and model)
-1/4 inch sheet metal
-paint (paint gun/rattle cans)
- Metal grinder
- Ply wood
-some nuts and bolts
Step 1: Step 1: Making the Legs
First you are going to want to measure your tailgate as every make/model is different and assuming you will be using an old beater of a tail gate there will be imperfections. on the tailgate I used there was a slight bow in it from years of use which is why it was not being put back onto my truck.
Corner plates. First of you will want to cut four square plates from a steel sheet, 1/8th inch should do the trick. These pieces will be the corner plates on the underside of your tailgate that will attach the legs and frames to the actual tailgate. After you have your four plates cut and fitted where you want them in the corner you will want to drill three holes in each plate. The holes will be for mounting the frame to the tailgate, if however you do not want to see bolts through the top of your table then the plates can be welded later. In my case I choose to drill three holes per corner to allow myself to remove the legs to have an easier time while moving it as well as allow myself to replace different legs in the future if i desire. For drilling the holes I made one in the exact corner of the plate and one hole on either side making an "L" shape in holes about 1/4 inch from the edge of the plate. Where the holes are drilled are not super important what is important is that you drill the holes on sections where the plate is flush with the underside of the tailgate. If you look at my tailgate you can see I drilled the holes on the raised section opposed to the lowered. You also want to make sure that the holes are some what symmetric on all the plates just for aesthetic reasons, a drill press comes in handy for this task but is not needed. After the holes in the plates are drilled lay them onto where they will be mounted on the tailgate, mark the holes and drill through on the tailgate.
Legs.To make the legs I used 1.25 inch square tubing that I had an excess of lying around from a previous project. I cut 4 lengths of my desired height (in this case I wanted my table to stand 3 feet off the ground with the top on so they were cut to about 2.75 feet). Next I cut two lengths of angle iron from and old bed frame that would act as cross supports as well as be able to hold a shelf under the table. I cut these two lengths by laying them on the tailgate and marking the length where needed. After the angle iron is cut it is easier to pre-drill holes for a shelf now before all together. Finally I decided that I wanted my table to have feet so I cut four small 1.25 inch square steel plates, and drilled a hole in the middle of them. I then took the small plates and welded them onto the end of the legs that would be on the floor, the hole in the center would later be tapped for the feet of the table to screw into.
Welding. You may find easier ways to do this but the order that I did everything in was as follows:
- 1) spot weld the 1.25 inch square caps onto the end of your legs, make sure the hole is drilled before welding as drilling after welding it to the leg is much harder
- 2) Find your desired height that you would like your shelf to be at and weld a piece of angle iron across to two of the legs. The key here is to make sure that everything is set up level and square or your shelf will be off and crooked or slanted. after one side is done repeat the process on the other side
- 3) Take your original square plates (drilled with the "L" shape holes) and bolt them to the underside of the tailgate where they go. Stand you legs up with the shelf bar attached (should be looking something like an "H" at this point) onto the center of the plates. It is a must that you make sure they are not leaning one way or are off center as you want your table balanced, this can be a time consuming step but its worth it to make sure that it is correct and straight. When you get the legs straight and where they need to go spot weld them in place. repeat on the other side.
- 4) After everything is spot welded in place unbolt the legs now attached to the corner plate from the table in order to do a complete weld around all areas.
- 5) optional; After everything has a solid weld around them go ahead and grind down the welds just to clean everything up
Step 2: Step 2: Paint
Now that the framework for the legs have been welded and ground down you can turn more of your attention to the centerpiece, the tailgate. This part is 100% up to your preference of style and skill level.
First you will want to make sure you properly sand down the surface to remove unwanted material as well as give the paint a rough surface to stick to, my tailgate was close to how I wanted so I used a small grit sand paper and brillo pad to just scuff the surface. Next you will want to clean the surface thoroughly making sure to remove oils and other particles that will show up as impurities in the paint, paint thinner, acetone, or mineral spirits work great. Do all of these steps with the legs as well as they will need to be painted.
First step of painting after the surface is prepared is to put on a coat of primer, I used a metal etching primer to make sure I got good adhesion and coverage. You can find a spray can of this that will do the job at Ace Hardware. As you can see from the picture I formed a tripod out of ladders that allowed me to hang the tailgate in the middle of and use a spray gun (you do not need this you can easily just use spray can, I used a spray gun because I had it from painting the truck and thought why not). After the primer was dry I decided on a white tailgate so I got a can of white oil based paint, thinned it with acetone and sprayed the tailgate for 3 coats. Since the paint was glossy I decided not to do a clear coat. For the legs I simply used a gloss black rattle can to finish the legs off after the primer had dried.
once again however this is just what I did, this is your project get creative and use what you have to make something awesome!
Step 3: Step 3: Putting It All Together
After the paint has dried you can now tap, a.k.a. cut groves into the small steel plates at the bottom of the legs for the feet to screw into. I then bolted the tailgate onto the pair of legs, I used stainless steel hex bolts because I thought they looked the nicest out of what I had. After the table is bolted together it is essentially complete! if you choose to make the shelf then this is where you will want to measure out how big of a piece of plywood you will need and cut it to length. After cutting my shelf I decided on a dark stain with a polyurethane clear coat. When the stain is dried you can slide it in and screw up through the angle iron into the shelf. The shelf not only adds a nice place to put magazines and remotes out of direct sight but it also adds a lot stability and support to the table but connecting both sides.
Step 4: Step 4: Finishing Touches
When rebuilding my tuck I had thought that I wanted to add decals to the new tailgate that was installed onto it. Later on I decided that I did not want colored letters on my tuck but I thought that they would look great on the table so I added the letter stickers which I believe made a big impact. If you also like this look you can find them on almost any restoration car and truck site that sells parts for your make and model of truck, personally I ordered mine from Brothers Trucks. Finally I ordered a piece of tinted glass to lay on top and make a flat surface from my local glass store.
If I was to do this again I think that I would have ordered glass to fit down inside of the tailgate instead of across the span, (if you go this route I would really like to see how it turned out for you) across the span works well however I am nervous that someone will be careless and slam their feet down on it and have it shatter, so like I said maybe think about just a piece of glass to go down inside of the table if you decide to go that route.
Hope this helps, Good Luck!