Introduction: Cardboard Coffee Table

This is my take on cardboard furniture. I made a coffee table previously, but it did have problems. I hope I've fixed those problems in this version. It's a monopod  - it has just one foot. This has a big flat base so that when it's in use it can be pushed out of the way. Hopefully this has got rid of any weakness where the legs join on to the top. My table is decorated with discarded chocolate bar wrappers - but you can choose your own decoration.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials and Tools

Cardboard is the main thing you need. Before I started this build, we got a new cooker delivered. Luckily for me it came with two big bits of cardboard, top and bottom, both built like shallow boxes. The top was polystyrene reinforced with lovely bits of wood. Added to this pile of scrap, I added some stout boxes I was hoarding in the garage.

My original fascination for working with cardboard was the way the corrugations could be reinforced by gluing two layers together at right angles. I've since learned (the hard way) that the weakest point is the folds where the box flaps are. You can see here that I've reinforced them.

The only tools I used were a tenon saw, a hammer and  chisel, a file, a box-cutter knife, some big scissors and some wood glue.

Step 2: Make the Pyramid

In this step I'm going to show you how I made the pyramid. First I cut out the four triangles. Because the box I was using for the base and top was rectangular I made a rectangular pyramid with two different sizes of triangle. Instead of just cutting triangles, I put two tags on each one, so that they would all interlock properly. Took a bit of head scratching but I got there in the end. For convenience I labelled the four sides N, S, E & W although I suppose ABCD or 1234 would have worked just as well.

For the base, I took one of the shallow boxes apart and cut the tags at an angle so they would fold in nicely. I also labelled them to match their triangles.

When this was done, I glued three of the four sides to make a big flat area, which was glued down and weighted with books. I glued it  by interleaving the tags. You can see in photo 3 I also labelled the tags so I knew which tag went onto which side. You can see this shape in photo 2. When it was dry, I folded it up to make the final pyramid which was glued direct onto the base, again weighted with books. (My 2 year old was on hand to give advice)

Step 3: Making the Table Top

I was really lucky with my raw materials. As well as big table sized bits of cardboard, I got some wood that was used as reinforcing inside it. So I started off with a rectangle of wood that fit inside, and cut down the other bits to make a framework that would fit over the pyramid. Rather than being all accurate and measuring, I just cut mortice and tenon joints as I went along, using each piece as guide to mark out on it's neighbour where it should be cut. I then chamfered the inside of the centre rectangle to fit over the pyramid. Again, this took a lot of trigonometry and thinking, but it worked quite well. You can see in picture 3 I had to chamfer and then check it for fit and then chip a bit more away. Picture 4 shows it with the top fitted over the wooden framework.

Step 4: Top Pyramid

The cardboard that I made the sides out of was too thick and heavy to make a nice looking pyramid from, so I cut up an old cereal packet to make a pyramid to fit over. This actually was the hardest part of the job, getting a pyramid that would fit nicely and have the right look so it appeared to be all part of the same thing. In the end it fitted inside the hole in the top of the cardboard top quite nicely. Picture 2 shows it being glued in upside down.

Step 5: Final Assembly

My first attempt at gluing it all together came to grief when first of all my two year old and then my five year old tried to climb onto the table. Even though it was strong enough to hold a laptop up, it couldn't cope with this load, and actually stripped off the top layer of the cardboard pyramid as the wood glue when set was stronger than the cardboard.

Eventually I had to glue it together upside down. This meant that the glue seeped down into all the joint and also filled up all the gaps caused by my rather amatuerish woodworking skills! I left it upside down for a few days to properly set hard. A work-mate came in really handy here as I could open it just enough to accommodate the top pyramid.

Step 6: Decoration and Final Thoughts

For decoration I spent months hoarding old chocolate wrappers. They were then cut down and glued onto the table. Really there isn't a huge amount to say here. I like this approach as it means pretty much the whole table is recycled. The central pyramid has a recycling symbol made out of two different types of chocolate foil.

The Mark 1 of the table was decorated with a huge map created from old road atlases. And I also have thoughts about using old election leaflets too. Really your imagination is the only limit here!

I will say though, the whole top is covered with sticky-backed plastic. This seems to protect the cardboard from day to day spills. The first table I made survived nearly 18 months of daily use - and it wasn't spills that finished it off either.

The table is now in daily use and works really well. Being flat across the base it can be slid around the floor as needed and it does seem strong enough - now the children have learned not to climb on it!