Introduction: Coffee Table Using Recycled Materials

I made this coffee table from recycled materials I had laying around my shop. The decorative shapes are metal laminate pieces from a disassembled electric motor, that I painted and glued onto a semi transparent plastic sheet salvaged from a flat screen TV that was thrown out on the street. The legs are from a bunch of wine barrel staves I had collected a few years ago from a friend who has a business that re-uses old wine barrels in Sonoma county, California. I found the thick glass top at the dump, which has a re-use area where one can pick up items for free. The wood is mostly scraps I found dumpster diving, and includes a few boards of mahogany, some beautiful solid walnut, and some exotic wood flooring I can't identify. The size of the table depends on what size piece of glass top one can find.

Step 1: Paint Your Laminate Pieces

I used spray paint I got for free at the hazardous waste facility at our local dump, and some left over paint I had at the shop, to make rows of different colors to be glued onto the plastic sheet I got from a flat screen tv. Also at this point sat down to make a sketch of my idea.

Step 2: Glue Pieces Onto Plastic Sheet

I used super glue, which probably is not the best for this, but it didn't matter too much since the glass would later hold everything in tightly. I also had to add an extra row of plastic and laminates because my piece did not quite match the glass size. You can see in the pictures how I used weights to glue it down, and an example of a broken flat screen tv I used for the plastic. Cutting the plastic was pretty easy, using a utility knife and straight edge.

Step 3: Paint the Plastic Backing

After the glue dried I painted stripes on the plastic sheet, that can be seen through it to add color to the pattern. I sprayed everything with clear coat to seal it in better.

Step 4: Build an Inner "fill In" Frame

I used this exotic wood flooring scrap to build a thin filler frame around the edges, to make everything match the size of my piece of glass, ripping it down on a table saw, and then sanding it with my random orbit sander. This frame fit exactly around the edges of the plastic and butt jointed corners were held together with counter sunk screws.

Step 5: Glue Strips of Wood Onto Back of Plastic

I ripped down some wood strips on the table saw, to be glued on the painted back side of the plastic, to later hold the assembly in close to the glass. Their thickness depended on how thick the frame was, minus the thickness of the plastic, which in my case was about a half inch. This can later be adjusted by planing the strips down or adding shims to the edges (if that makes sense). I glued them on lines determined by the laminate edges, so they were not visible through the semi transparent plastic from above. I like to use old transformers as weights when I glue things down, as you can see in the pictures.

Step 6: Make the Outer Top Frame.

Sometimes I've found good long thin rips of quality hardwood in cabinet shop dumpsters, which is how I acquired these pieces of mahogany that I cut down to a uniform width of 2 inches. I then I ripped a generous rabbet to create L shaped frame pieces that could hold the glass top down. Corners were mitered to create a continuous look and I carefully nailed each member onto inner frame edges, while holding the plastic, glass, and wood tight together. I of course had to make sure everything was clean and dust free before doing this, which was a little tricky to do. An additional piece of plywood would close it all in next.

Step 7: Nail a Piece of Plywood Underneath.

I painted an old piece of 1/2 " plywood silver on one side ( thinking it might show through as a reflective background) and screwed it to the back along each edge and into the inner frame, which completed a tight sandwich effect against the tempered glass.

Step 8: Screw Down a Skirt Frame

I think this is called a "skirt" frame: Old pine shelving ripped down and screwed to the plywood, leaving a two inch space around the edges. I initially attached only the two longest opposing ones, edge down, using two inch screws in holes bored deep enough to allow the screws to reach plywood. I didn't worry about going a little too deep since there was a gap caused by the wood strips between plywood and plastic sheet. Sorry about the bad pictures here. It's been really damp and cold around here lately.

Step 9: Cut and Install Legs.

I chose barrel staves carefully with matching curves and cut them down with a 21 degree angle on one end, screwing them to the top while resting them against the skirt framing. Since the oak wood pieces had been sitting outside in the rain, I had to dry them out on my fire pit. I sanded them with a random orbit sander, cut them on a chop saw, and attached them with 2 inch screws and glue, at an equal distance from, and resting on the skirt corners.

Step 10: Cut and Install Outer Skirt.

The outer skirt was made of an old stained bed frame, mitered on corners, and cut on the bandsaw with a decorative wide v shape, to be later sanded down and re stained. Before covering the inner skirt, I added more screws to tighten leg attachments, making sure each leg was straight, by using a center mark on each end and lining it up with a framing square--which was precise enough for this project. A piece of the inner skirt was then cut with an angle (also 21 degrees) at each end to fit in between the flat leg ends, as additional support. After installing the outer skirt I again added a few more screws to hold the legs in better.

Step 11: Cut and Install Cross Members.

I cut the cross members from solid walnut pieces I had scored from another dumpster, and made another v shaped decorative cut with my band saw. A basic mortise and tenon of sorts was fashioned by using a door lock installation hole saw on the end to produce a dowel shape, into which I sawed a kerf. I then squeezed each piece into two 3/4" holes I had drilled at equal heights on the legs, and hammered in small cone thing into the glue filled drill hole, which held the joint by spreading the kerf tight. I had these small cones from a wood patching kit I had bought years ago and rarely used. They fit perfectly. These two cross members served to give the legs more strength and to support a shelf underneath for magazines and such.

Step 12: Install Shelf Pieces, Cut Legs Evenly,sand, and Finish.

I made a simple shelf out of strips of wood screwed onto the cross members, sanded everything, and applied some "Kona" colored floor stain acquired for free from Craigslist, to the skirt, and finally finished everything with Watco Danish oil (also free from the re use yard). I also cut down the legs evenly by resting the table upside down on a table and leveling it out, then using the level to mark where to cut each leg. It's amazing what you can make with free stuff.

Step 13:

Trash to Treasure Contest 2017

Second Prize in the
Trash to Treasure Contest 2017