Introduction: Coffee Table Upgrade!

Summary: Extra storage and a top that raises up to meet you - and your needs!

What's the job of a coffee table these days?
Rest your drinks on?
A stable surface for the odd TV dinner?
Rest your feet on?
How about storage?
What about laptops? Ever bent over your coffee table to use your laptop? How about sitting on the floor and trying it?

Several years ago, we bought a coffee table that was pretty much what we wanted.
It was large, rustic-looking and solidly built.. but a bit high!

We'd find that we'd sit back on the couch at the end of the day and put our feet up, only to find the coffee table was so much higher than the seat of the couch that it would soon be biting into our achilles tendons.

It was last day of my holidays and I found myself sitting back, watching "Hot Fuzz". After shuffling my legs about on the table trying to get comfortable I thought it was about time to put a long held plan into action.....

So, I checked with the boss and she liked the sound of my idea - mod the coffee table or get a new one!

-Lower the coffee table
-Add storage area/s
-Add some kind of funky lid to get to the storage areas

Step 1: What You'll Need..

Tools I used..
Screw drivers (electric driver/drill makes this more fun)
Pinch/wrecker bar or something similarly thin and strong to prevent you bending your screw driver.
Old blanket to catch splintered wood, screws, scraps and keep the boss happy ;)
Oh, and ear protection (hammering the pinch bar and smacking at the wood from the underside of the table generated a fair bit of noise and caused my ears to ring before I grabbed the 'muffs)

Parts required to make something similar at your place..
A similar table to start with ;) - Something with a fairly heavy base if you are going to make it open up..
Nyloc nuts
Hardwood for the cantilever hinge
Any extra wood required for shelves etc.
Replacement wood for any bits you damage
(I had to sacrifice the top routed edging as it was nailed and glued to the table and the table top)

Step 2: Dismantling the Old..

After gathering my tools into the lounge so that I could finish watching the movie *grin* I began to dismantle the table.

I started by removing;
the drawer - I slid it out,

the black steel edging pieces - unscrewed them with the electric drill and a phillips #2 bit,

the wheels - unbolted them (these were my first mod to the coffee table as soon as I got it home)

the legs - unscrewed the 4 inch screws and smacked them off with the handle of the hammer to break the glue,

the bottom routed edging - these were glued and nailed, so it got interesting here. patience was the key. I used the pinch bar to gently prise them off, starting at one end and moving along.

the top surface and the top routed edging - trying not to break the wood, I prised the table top away from the base and the routed edging.

In the end I got impatient and frustrated and kicked at the table from the under side.
I can't recommend this as it split the wood of the table top.. fortunately I noticed before I kicked a hole straight through ;)

Step 3: Now That You've Broken It, What Is the Plan?

Time to make some choices..

Hinge the table top from one side? - I chose not to. You'd either have to remove everything off the top or tip everything off. Also, in my case I had design issues with the routed edging at the top making any kind of simple hinges difficult.

Mount the top on a slide? - That could work.. some kind of drawer rails.
Would probably require a commercial kit, but could look cool. Hmm.. not as good as my other idea.

What about splitting it in half and hinging both halves? Or having both halve slide open?
I considered it..

What about a cantilever hinge? Yeah, I think I like that best..
Cantilever (like the hinges on the toolboxes below) means the top will be flat while it is closed/open and while it is opening.

Okay.. now what about storage options?
I had considered storage bins on either side of the existing drawer.
After looking at how the cantilever hinges would work I realised there wouldn't be much room for storage bins in the side.. I also figured that bins wouldn't be so practical.

So I took some measurements and considered a tray above the drawer.. I went with this option.

Step 4: Working Out the Hinges..

Okay, so I didn't take photos of the scrap wood I used to get rough measurements.. but you will get the idea.

I used the scrap wood to confirm my assumed knowledge and workings of cantilever hinges without wasting the hardwood in testing.

I didn't do much measuring, other than working out the maximum size I could make the hinges and have them fit in the table.

I should probably have also compared it to the couch..

I can't give you much more of a guide than to say look at the pictures below.
Note that the shorter bits of wood are the parts that move. All the bits of wood that are touching make up one hinge.

The moving parts are attached to the long parts at the same distance apart and at the same height.
The moving parts are all the same length.
Follow these two statements and your tabletop should remain level whether it is open/closed or moving between the two positions.

To provide info on the pictures themselves..
the first picture is working out where the holes will be drilled.

the second is illustrating how the hinge will look when open and confirming that my placement of the holes is correct.

the third is counter-sinking the bolts

the fourth is the roughly completed hinges (I later added nyloc nuts after discovering regular ones unscrewed with the hinging motion).

Step 5: The Storage..

I then added supports for the tray shelving above the drawer and placed the 3ply wood into position.

Check the pictures..

By this stage I have already chopped the top and bottom off the coffee table (notice how the unstained parts where I removed the routed edges is no longer as big? - 1/2inch instead of 3inches)

To do this, I VERY CAREFULLY ran the whole box over the table saw after VERY CAREFULLY checking that I'd removed all nails and screws.

This was a little awkward due to the size and weight of the box shape that makes up the table. Though not as heavy as it was with the routed edging and table top.

Step 6: Surface Preparation..

Okay.. the structure is there, now it's time to prepare all surfaces and put it back together..

I used a belt sander to remove most of the previous stain.

Incidentally, it was "old teak" and the original manufacturer was quite rough in putting it together, slopping in about in parts (as you can see from the first photo in the intro) and only sanding roughly to give it that "rustic" look.

Sanding the hole thing gave it a more finished look in the end - and removed old coffee rings!

Okay, so for tech spec's I think I used something like 80 and then 120 grit belts.
I also filled any holes and dints with wood filler. The table is pine, so I bought.. er.. pine!

Step 7: Reconstruction..

Put it all back together and check out how it works..

Updated instructions-
Apologies - seems I was a bit over the whole thing by the reassembly stage and initially skipped the details on how I did the most important bits..

To measure where everything should attach, I vaguely recall turning the whole thing upside down and marking it off.

While it is upside down- -Measure the table top against the outer edges of table to ensure it closes centrally and will look neat when up the right way.

-Insert the hinges into place in the closed position.

-Mark the hinges against the table top to ensure you will attach them at the right spot when they are closed.

-Mark the hinges against the inside of the table, so when you flip it all back up the right way you know where to attach it.

-Place a 1x2 inch (2.5cm x5cm) strip of wood against the end of the hinges that should attach to the tabletop.

-Mark the spot where that strip of wood should attach to the table top - placing the 2inch (5cm) side down and the 1inch (2.5 cm) edge against the hinges.

-Remove the table body, leaving the table top on your bench. -Put the hinges aside.

-Take the 1x2 inch (2.5cm x5cm) strip of wood and pre-drill the holes through the 1inch section.

-Choose some screws that will not go through your 1inch piece of wood AND the table top - ie: you are going to screw that strip of wood to the table top and you want small screws so they don't go through more than 90% of the table top thickness.

-Using the marks you made, glue and screw the strips of wood on the table top. -Remove the table top. and put it aside.

-Put the body of your table back on the bench, up the right way and attach the hinges to the body of the table.

-Extend the hinges to the open position.

-Clamp them into place so they won't move much.

-Glue the tops and side of the hinges that would butt up against the strips of wood on the underside of your table top.

-Carefully place the table on top.

-Clamp the hinge against the strip of wood and carefully drill and screw the hinges into the strip of wood attached to your table top.

-Remove the clamps and try opening/closing before the glue dries..

Step 8: Stain and Seal It..

I bought a Wattyl product that both stained and sealed in one go - it was cheaper than separate stain and seal products.

Unfortunately, the finish on that wasn't so great.. so I went back and bought a second Wattyl clear sealer product. Much better. Both were water based "for easy clean up".
Oh.. they were both meant to be "satin finish" as well.. but I reckon the end result is more of a gloss finish.

So for the details, I painted two coats of the stain on everything. Because the surface is the main part of the table everyone will interact with, I paid special attention to that and additionally added the second clear seal product (3 coats).
I gave a light sand between coats with black, wet and dry sandpaper that is something like 800 grit (if I remember correctly?!)

The routed edge bits were the hardest to prepare for painting.. I used paint stripper on them in the end.

To scrape that off the paint stripper and old stain gloop, I used the hook-like can opener you find on a swiss army pocket knife (the shape fitted nicely into the routed edging).

Step 9: The Final Product..

Bah! I took a break during the middle of this project (In fact, we got a new cooker, fridge and rangehood, so I butchered the kitchen benches apart to fit those in - perhaps a story for another day)

..but the table is is finally done and we love it.

End result..
Closed, the table is lower than it was.. like a regular coffee table. At the end of the day when you put your feet up, it is relaxing - not uncomfortable.

Open, and sitting at the table on the couch, it is a little higher than a standard table would be if you sat down to it on a chair, but it is great.

We have the extra storage and can sit up to it quite comfortably to eat.

Changes I would make..
I would definitely measure the overall open height against the couch seat if I was going to do it again. A tad lower would be slightly more practical.

Step 10: The Bonus Round.. Make Your Own Coffee Table.

So, you've decided to make one yourself - from scratch!

Here's something that I've drafted up following several requests. I'll work on it more when I get time, perhaps even turn it into a separate Instructable.

Here we go..

**Some references to assist:
Inches to millimetres:
Types of wood joins:

**Shopping list (after reading details below first):
Fancy edging (described below)
Bullet-head nails ranging between 3/4inch long and 2 inches long
Mitre saw and box (or drop saw if you have one)
Caster wheels (if you want this on wheels)
Wood to make the table - lots x 3/4inch thick panel. (do your measurements first)
Screws ranging between 1 1/2 inch and 2 inches long.
Sandpaper - something like 180 grit for rough stuff and 600 - 800 grit to prep for painting.
Wood filler to hide any bad holes you make (that matches your wood type - eg: pine for pine)
Wood stain + brushes/rags
Satin or gloss finish.
Wrought iron (or similar) handles for the drawer.
Corner straps (these are just light tin painted or powder coated black)

For the main bulk of the table, you basically need to make a rectangular box.

Rough measurements:
(bearing in mind that the couch in the photo is a three seater - sometimes it would be nice to have the table longer, others it would be nice if it was smaller. Adjust to suit your needs.)
40 inches long (two sides)
24 inches deep (two ends)
16 inches high (all this wide)
(you may consider reducing/increasing the height a little depending on your couch/seating)

Panel thickness:
About 3/4 inch thick will give it some decent weight. You may consider 5/8inch thick too.
Mine is 3/4.

There are three options to make the box.

Buy pre-joined panels to cover those measurements - which will be more expensive, but quicker and neater.

You could join boards of wood to make the top and side panels
(EG: use dowel/biscuit joins to glue 6inch wide, 3/4inch thick planks of wood together to make panels of 16 inches wide for the sides )
You will need to plane and sand these flat once joined. That will add a fair bit of extra work.

Use ply wood and then use pine edging to hide the ply ends (specifically on the table top).

To join the wood to form the box shape:
You could use butt joints (this is what my table is) or if you use ply, you might want to hide the edges with mitre joints.
Again, here's the link to types of wood joins:

If you are going for the rustic look, nail holes aren't an issue in the outer edges - they add character.
Don't forget to use wood glue for extra strength and clamp it while the glue dries.

Wheel/corner braces:
On the inside of the bottom corners of my table, there are triangular bits of wood that are used to hold the rectangle square. They are glued and screwed (clamps helped here).

Size: Mine was about 6 inches on the short sides (get two 6inch square boards and cut them diagonally)
You will need 2inch or longer screws to get through your 3/4inch box and a decent depth into your triangle.

To work out the height from the bottom edge, the rough calculation is
wheel height minus 1/4 inch if you are going to use the table on polished boards.
wheel height minus 1/2 inch if you are going to use the table on carpet.
wheel height minus a bit more than a half inch if you have thick carpet or shag pile :)
(Thicker carpet means your table will sink into it.. hence more clearance)

I recommend decent rubber wheels, particularly if you have polished boards, but that will depend on your budget and taste.
(Remember they pretty much won't be seen).

Don't buy wheels that are too big - remember they have to rotate in about 2 1/2 inches of room depending on their mounting plate.
If you do buy wheels that are too big you will either have to return them or make bigger corner braces, which will bring the wheels further into the centre of the table and reduce stability.

Hopefully your fancy edging will be at the right height to cover the screw holes in your outer edges - mine was. If not, you can fill them with wood filler.

Play around with dimensions here until you get what you want, but don't forget to leave some space at the top and bottom above/below your drawer for the moulded cornice pieces to give it a fancier finish. Leave more space at the top if you want to have a deeper tray beneath the table top.

If you are careful, you should be able to cut a hole in the side and use that as the face of the drawer (small drill bits and very careful jigsaw cutting with a guide to keep your cut straight). Easier if you are going for the rustic, rough/ready look.

If you want your drawer to slide through both sides like mine, I would recommend cutting them both at once before the box shape is assembled. This will ensure it is accurate and will reduce the overall weight while you are working on it too.
If you want it to look less rustic and more calculated, I would suggest cutting the hole smaller than you want, discarding that wood and cutting new panels for the face of the drawer, so that it fits exactly.

For the drawer sliders, you want to make a little ledge between the holes on the longer sides.
You can see the best example of this in Step2 where I was dismantling the coffee table.
Do this by butt-joining the two bits of 3/4inch x 2inch bits of wood along the long edge.
They are as long as the gap between your two long sides - don't forget to measure.
You will obviously want one on each side of the drawer and two of the same for the top edges, so the draw doesn't tip badly when it is half open.

Fancy wooden edging:
Go to your local carpentry/home hardware store and get some edging.
I don't know what the proper name is or what they call it where you are.

(Best examples of this are in Step2 or the final product)

It will usually be made out of pine. It may be called "cornice", or they may call it "routed" edging or simply edging. It may be in an area that has picture frame or skirting boards.

You need enough to go around the top and bottom edges (depending on the look you are going for).

Once you get it home, you need to Mitre cut this. Make sure you measure correctly and that you cut the correct angle! You are trying to match the outer edge of the table with the inner edge of your edging.

Mitre cuts will require a powered drop saw (I don't have one of these yet) or a mitre box and tenon saw (you can often buy these in a joint pack).

Glue and nail these to the box. Quick clamps may help (unless you can talk a friend/wife/kid into holding it for you). You want the top edge to match that of the box - same for the bottom.

Table top:
Using one of the same three methods you used to get panels for the box, you need to make a table top.
The table top should have roughly 3 inches hanging over on each side of the box.
So, you are aiming for 46inches x 30inches.

Or, considering your cornice, you might want to measure the length and width of the top edges once you have installed that and make sure there is at least one inch hanging over the edge for your fingers to grip when you open the top.

*If you bought a pre-assembled panel, or joined planks of wood to make the panel, you may consider putting a 1 1/4inch edge on each end of the table top (factor this into your final measurement) for a fancier finish.

*If you decided on ply wood for your panels you will want to put and edge all the way around to hide the ply edging (trust me, it looks better). This will require mitre cuts again and nails longer than

See steps 1 - 9 of this Instructable for cantilever hinges..

To finish, fill any nasty holes and sand with 180 grit, then 800grit sandpaper.
If you want, apply a stain (to match your tastes/existing furniture etc).
Do a very light sand between coats with the 800grit sandpaper.
Apply finishing sealer (I like satin personally) and again lightly sand between coats with the 800grit.

Install drawer handles and corner straps.