Introduction: Coffee Table

About: Making things for the thrill of it.

Hello Fellow Makers,

Today I will share with you how I made a coffee table free of glue and fasteners.You can refer to this diagram for general dimensions and the terminologies we will be using.

Step 1: Tools

I had limited access to tools which was was something I had to factor in during my design process. Here is a list of tools that are available in my workshop.

  • Miter saw
  • Band saw
  • Disc sander
  • Table drill
  • Bench chisels

These are pretty rudimentary tools that one can find in most workshops. And are the only tools I used in the making of this table. Alternatively, if you are someone who is skilled with hand tools or don't have access to any power tools, building this is still possible with just a set of bench chisels and a back saw.

Step 2: Materials

This project was made entirely of beech wood. The reason behind this choice of material is I wanted a wood that has a relatively 'quiet' texture. The joinery should be the main focal point of this design, therefore having too much grain would only distract from that. Having said that, there are plenty of other species that fits this description, so feel free to experiment with what's available in your local wood supplier.


You can start by picking up wood strips that will be used for the legs / aprons / stretchers in the following dimensions

  • 20mm x 40mm x 2m (legs)
  • 10mm x 40mm x 4m (long stretchers/aprons)
  • 8mm x 20mm x 4m (short stretchers/aprons)

These are off-the-shelf dimensions available at my local wood supplier. If you live in countries with imperial systems you can always get the closest thing, just remember to adapt the slot sizes later on to match the new cross sections.

Table top

  • 45cm x 95cm x 2.5cm edge joined

Since I did not have access to a table saw I had to get it cut at the shop. Most shops such as Home Depot would offer this service if you provide them with the dimensions.

The entire material purchase added up to 96CHF (100USD). 46CHF for the wood strips, and 50CHF for the board.

Step 3: Making the Legs

The length of the legs will determine the height of your finished table. Usually for coffee tables the rule of thumb is the top surface is no more than 5cm lower than the height of your sofa seat. So the length of the legs is a dimension you can adapt to your living situation.

In this case, the legs are made from 20mm x 40mm wood strips at 44.2cm in length. You can start by cutting them to the right length with a chop saw or miter saw.

Next you would have to introduce the slots. This is done with the same technique as cutting a mortise, if you don't have much experience with doing this you can refer to this great tutorial by Paul Sellers.

For location and dimension of the slots see diagram below.

Step 4: Making the Stretchers/Aprons

The long stretchers & aprons are made from 10 mm x 40 mm wood strips and the short stretchers & aprons are made from 8 mm x 20 mm wood strips.

Since there are no mortises on the stretchers the slots can be first cut on a band saw then cleaned up with a hand chisel.

The tapering on the end of the long aprons were formed on a disc sander. I would save this operation to the end.

A bit of paring would need to be done on the short stretchers & aprons to give the joints the tightest fit possible. This was a constant back and forth between shaving thin slices off with a chisel and testing the fit.

The easiest way is to refer to the diagrams below to understand the correct dimensions and quantities.

Step 5: Making the Table Top

The table top was cut to the right dimensions at the shop. 45cm x 95cm x 2.5cm edge joined.

The only thing that is left to do is to cut four niches where it will come in contact with the top of the legs. This can be done using the same technique as cutting a mortise. Here's another great tutorial for cutting mortise that does not go through. The niches are 1cm deep, a sliding square is used to make sure all the niches are consistent in depth.

Step 6: Apply Finish and Assemble


Before applying any finish, all the pieces should be sanded. I went from 100 to 220 grit. For the finish I used linseed oil which is great for indoor furniture and can be easily apply with a clothes. I applied 3 coats with 20min in between.


If all the parts are cut accurately, this will be the most satisfying part!

    1. Feed long stretchers through legs.
    2. Slide short stretchers in place
    3. Slide in long aprons
    4. Slide in short aprons
    5. Place table top in place
    6. Done!

    Step 7: Footnotes

    1. I've always loved the aesthetic of interlocking timber joinery, and I wanted to use this project to test and experiment with that. I built this mockup when I first had the idea, and this little guy gave me the confidence to proceed when I realized how strong the joint was without any gluing.


    2. The decision to not use glue also gave it the freedom of adaptation over time. It allows the table to be component based, changing the dimension means replacing certain parts of the table (legs or stretchers) instead of the whole thing. After all, furniture should be evolving entities that can adapt to the way we live.
    3. I think glass would also be a great choice for the table top since it would allow the joineries to be more exposed. Ultimately, that is where all the hours of crafting went into.
    4. When I was making this table I did not have writing this tutorial in mind, therefore I was not actively documenting the process. I now realized how valuable it is to see the process photos and will take this into consideration in future builds.
    5. A fellow Instructables member caught me on a little omission I made in my instructions. They were the four little wedges that slides under the long stretchers (seen in photos at the top of the post). I left out this detail in my writeup because I didn't think they were integral to the structure of the whole system. If you choose to include them the dimensions are 10mm x 10mm x 36mm.
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