Coffee tables are magnets for clutter. Traditional living room litter -- magazines and beer cans -- have now been joined by a bevy of digital detritus. Mindful of this problem, I built this coffee table as a wedding present for two old friends who live in a small apartment on the outskirts of New York city. Made from salvaged Douglas Fir, it features a wide laminated top and a slatted shelf for stashing those everyday artifacts. The top, slats, and legs all push and pull past one another, creating an understated visual rhythm equally at home in a modern or traditional room.
Simple lap joinery and pegged-screw connections make this a relatively straightforward, intermediate-level project. It took about 30 hours and cost $25, primarily in sandpaper, finish, and brushes. Prime old-growth salvage lumber like this usually goes for about $1-2 a linear foot if you have to buy it.
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You will need these tools:
- Table saw
- Circular saw
- Drill/driver with countersink bit
- Thickness planer
- Chop saw
- Orbital sander
- Block plane
- Putty knife
- Disposable putty knife
- Sanding block
- 6 36" bar clamps
You will need these materials:
- At least 25 linear feet of 2x10 Douglas Fir, old-growth pine, or similar
- Wood glue
- 80, 100, and 120 grit sandpaper
- 3/8" plugs or 3/8" dowel cut into 3/4" chunks
- Handful of 1-1/4" #8 drywall screws
- Handful of 2" #8 drywall screws
- Clear brushing lacquer (or polyurethane)
- Latex gloves
I found these 2x10s in the basement of an old building. Some had suffered some water damage; others had soaked up some heating oil. That said, all in all, they were pretty straight, having been stored flat.
Cut the 2x10s into 5 5'-long blanks with a circular saw. Thoroughly inspect for nails, screws, or staples and remove. Rip the edges off of four boards on the table saw. Lacking a jointer, I cut 1/2" off of one side; flipped the clean side against the fence and cut off a 1/4"; then flipped and cut off another 1/4" twice more, until the board had lost a total of 1-1/4" in width. The flipping and alternating cuts is a quick-and-dirty way to clean up and straighten edges.
Cut the fourth and fifth 2x10s into 1-1/2" strips entirely.
Feed the 8"-wide boards through the thickness planer until both sides are clean and smooth.
Set the three wide boards up on cauls on a workbench or other flat surface. Puzzle the boards together until the gaps seem to fit tightly. Alternate the end grain so that it shows smile-frown-smile. This will keep movement to a minimum over time. Coat running seams with a thin, even layer of wood glue, push together, and clamp. Alternate clamps over and under the boards to prevent bowing.
Once glue has cured, set up a straightedge and trim the wild ends off. This table ended up being 24" x 48".