Introduction: Reclaimed Lift-Top Coffee Table
My favorite part of reclaimed projects is that you get to take items that one person may have deemed old, unusable, or lifeless and give it a second chance to be something beautiful with a whole new sense of purpose. Woodworking is something I have a passion for, and seeing as I only do it in my spare time, I try not to spend too much money on my projects if I can help it. Another reason I love reclaimed projects; they are usually cheap and/or free. My buddy and I have a few years of woodworking experience under our belts and decided to tackle this project together. Alright, let's make!
Step 1: Reclaim Some Wood
Our first step in this project was to reclaim some wood. In our day job, my friend and I both work at an outdoor furniture and hot tub store. As most of you may not know, older hot tubs (and very rarely some new ones still) are wrapped in a cedar cabinet. Cedar is light, easy to work with, and most of all weather proof. Seeing as most hot tubs sit outside for the their lives, these cabinets do a pretty good job weather proofing hot tubs but they also take a beating. Not long ago we picked up an old hot tub that had seen its last day and had been thrown in the back behind our store waiting to be taken to the dump, cedar cabinet still in tact. Being the wood workers we are, we could not let usable wood go to waste...
Step 2: To the Drawing Board
Our next step was to examine the wood we had reclaimed, and start brainstorming. We talked about many different ideas but one that came to mind for me was a lift top coffee table. It was a project I have had on my "want to-do list" for quite some time, but never got to it (you know how that goes). I've always loved the usefulness of a lift top table and the duel purpose it serves. Once upon a time I had seriously looked into starting the project and sought out buying the hardware kit for the lift mechanism. After some shopping around online I was discouraged to find that most finds were way out of budget or not what I was looking for. This time around, we decided we would just make our own...
Step 3: Building the Frame
For the frame, we decided to resort to some redwood that I had received from a neighbor that had torn down a deck and, you guessed it, was ready to throw it out. Once again seeing an opportunity, I snagged a lot of good pieces before the rest were dumped. The pieces I used were actually 2x6's that had previously been used as deck supports that I ripped down on the table saw into 2"x2"s and 1x2's. These were then used for the frame of the table base.
The vertical pieces in the outside corners were notched for 1x2's to frame out the top of the table base. Along the bottom of the base we also added small 45 degree supports to help maintain a square frame and also give us material to attach casters to at the end of the project.
Step 4: Do You Even Lift?
Our next step was to tackle the lifting mechanism. For this we went to some hardwood I had snagged from a pallet. We ripped down the hardwood into pieces that were approximately 1 inch by .75 inches at various lengths. This part took a little time to figure out. The system we chose is pretty straight forward, two pivoting arms on both sides of the table that would attach to a cross support on the lifting top on one end and the base on the other. A couple key points on this part was to nail down what height we wanted the table to sit at in the closed position, and what height and overhang we wanted the top to have at in the open position. This would then determine what size pieces to cut for the pivoting arms and what positions the attach them to the top and bottom cross bars. Once we had those figured out, we made up a "mock draft" of sorts with a couple scrap pieces of thin hardboard to verify that our placement and sizes were correct. We then cut the hardwood, and precisely drilled for the lock nuts, washers and bolts to connect.
Step 5: Just Face It
At this point with the frame and lift mechanism done, it was time to start adding the outside of the base. These cedar tongue and groove boards looked pretty rugged when we picked them up. After a little TLC (and a lot of sanding), they turned out great. The length of pieces we had gave us some obstacles on what kind of design we could do. We wanted to do something more than just run the boards vertical all the way around. We ended up settling on running the slats horizontally on the ends of the base and then vertically on the front and back. We also gave the bottom lip about a half an inch overhang off the bottom of the frame for aesthetic purposes knowing we were going to put the table on casters. All these boards were glued and tacked on with an 18 gauge nailer.
Step 6: Top It Off
From the beginning we knew we wanted to do some sort of design aesthetic for the top. We tossed around a lot of ideas and came up with something that we thought would look good and match the perpendicular element of the base. One important aspect of the top was that we didn't want the cedar planks to run all the way to the outside edge. We were concerned that, if the cedar planks were being grabbed and pulled on in order to lift the top up, we could risk popping a plank loose over time. To alleviate this concern we decided to fabricate an L-shaped piece using the reclaimed deck wood that would attach to the plywood base on the top, and also give a finished look around the edge. Lifting on this piece would then not put any pressure on the cedar planks themselves. After gluing and leaving the clamps on overnight, it was time to sand. Once again, the transformation of these cedar planks is awe-inspiring. Who would have guessed that those dirty weathered, rotting boards could turn into something this beautiful?
Step 7: Let's Roll
The last couple steps were to add a bottom inside the base and attach the casters. The casters ended up being the only parts besides the hardware that were purchased, everything else in this project was reclaimed for free. The bottom floor inside was made out of the same batch of deck wood previously mentioned. Two reasons for using that specific wood is that I liked the wider planks for the floor, but also because it is 1 inch thick and fairly heavy adding some good weight to the base portion of the table. I wanted the base to be heavy enough that when the top was opened, it could stand having weight put on it without the risk of it tipping over. After that, it was a final once over with some sand paper and dusting off.
Step 8: Conclusion
Overall, this was an insanely fun project. I love a project that challenges you to think and get creative. This project was far from perfect and evolved throughout the process, but, ultimately I think it turned out better than I could have imagined. I am extremely happy with the end result and I am ready to put it to good use (like I currently am, writing this Instructable on it!).
At this point the wood does not have a finish on it. We are still debating on wether or not we'd like to stain it or leave natural and seal with poly. Tell me what you think in the comments!
Thanks for tuning in, until next time!