Introduction: How to Make a Glowing Coffee Table From a Recycled Drum

This project really is one of my favorites. It didn't take a lot of time or money and looks great. The table looks like it was custom made by a professional, but really only requires some simple electrical work. It is the perfect size coffee table for the space.

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We had an extra, cheap drum laying around and didn't mind if it got messed up so I thought I would play around with it.  At first I thought we would throw a coat of paint on it, top it with the glass from an old patio set we had, and call it good.  My plans changed after I tore into it.

I have included a picture a picture of a drum almost identical to the one we started with.

Step 1: Remove All the Hard Ware

Planning on a quick coat of paint I started removing all of the hardware.  To remove these top bolts you can use a drum wing key or a just a pair of strong hands.

Since my wife wasn't around busy I used a wing key.

There were a lot of screws. Whenever I am taking something apart that has lots of pieces, I like to put screws back in the hardware so I don't lose them or get the pieces mixed up.

Step 2: Remove Plastic Laminate and Remaining Adhesive

Once I took the top off, I noticed that the black exterior of the drum was just a piece of plastic laminate. We decided that the paint would be less likely to peel if we removed this black piece. I assumed that the entire thing was glued and would require quite a bit of sanding, but in the end I thought it would be worth it.

I pulled the two staples and started peeling the laminate. I was happily surprised to discover that only the seam was glued and it wasn't too hard to take it off.  I thought I might need a putty knife or something to help pry, but I was happily surprised I was able to pull it free with just my hands.

There was about a two inch strip of glue residue that needed to be addressed. I used a combination of paint thinner and sand paper to clean it up, but either one by themselves would have eventually gotten the job done.

Step 3: Stain and Seal the Drum

We ended up staining the piece with Minwax's Provincial and added a couple of coats of polyurethane from a spray can. The aerosol poly is a little more expensive, but for small projects like this, it is worth it. It dries fast, leaves a flawless finish, and requires no cleanup. Just remember it takes multiple coats. If you try to do it with one thick coat you will end up with drips that look awful.  

Be sure to use a damp cloth or a tack cloth to wipe down your piece to remove any dust that could mess up your finish.  If your finish feels rough after a coat or two feel free to LIGHTLY sand with a fine sandpaper (220 or higher).  You will need to wipe down the piece again to remove any dust.

Step 4: Prepare to Light Your Table

Since you are waiting for your base to dry, now is the perfect opportunity to work on the lights for your table.  I wanted to "light" this table, but there wasn't a plug near by and there was some fear that a cord may pose a tripping hazard.  We had some battery powered LED christmas lights laying around, but I needed a way to turn them on and off so we didn't drain the batteries too quickly.

I bought a push button switch and spliced it into the lights before the first bulb. All that entailed was cutting and stripping the wires of the lights then using wire nuts to secure the leads on the switch in place.  Since these lights are low voltage, the wires are very thin and you have to be careful when stripping the insulation, so you don't cut entirely through the wire.

Make sure the lights are turned off at the battery pack before you cut the wire.  If you are extra careful type you might want to remove the batteries completely.  When you have connected your new switch replace the batteries and then turn the battery pack switch back on to allow the new switch you just installed to control the lights.  Test it to make sure it works.

Step 5: Installing the Lights and Starting Assembly

Once the drum was dry, I reinstalled all the hardware on the bottom of the drum.  I placed the lights with my new switch inside the drum.

Drums have a small hole in the side called an air hole.  I was hoping the air hole would accommodate my switch, but it was a hair too small.  I found a drill bit slightly larger than my switch, but smaller than the nut on the switch and used it to enlarge the air hole.  

I ended up securing the lights to the bottom of the drum with tape (not shown) to keep them from sliding around if the table need to be moved. We didn't want to see the inside of the drum or the individual lights, so we added rice paper to to the top to create a nice diffused light and reinstalled the remaining hardware.

Step 6: Adjust the Height and Add the Glass

I thought the legs were way too tall for a coffee table, but I wanted the drum off the floor a bit so the light could escape and create a floating effect.  So after measuring and calculating to figure out how long the legs needed to be I used an angle grinder with a fiber cut off wheel to trim my legs.  

I removed the curve portion of the legs, because I preferred a cleaner look.  Your cuts don't have to be perfect because the leg hardware allows for fine adjustment.  I removed the rubber "foot" from the cut off portion and used it to cover the sharp edge I just created.  

Once installed the new length legs and set the drum to the height I desired I placed the circle glass top in place.  We had this one left over from an old patio set, but you could order a custom size piece from a local glass shop or hit up craigslist or garage sales for a cheaper option.  

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