Introduction: Wooden Coffee Table

Welcome to my second attempt at an Instructables and my first attempt at serious woodworking. The original idea was inspired by, unsurprisingly, a need for a coffee table. I spent some time looking on Instructables for ideas and found a picture of four crates lying on their sides, forming a square. In the middle of the four crates was a plant surrounded by stones. I wanted a similar look and the ability to create a center piece for the table. After trying several different designs, I settled on the design with a thicker outer border and a thinner inner border that is stained a darker color (or a different wood). In addition, I wanted to offset the center from the level of the rest of the table so that a different texture could be used such as polished rocks. As a final note, I chose to use hardwood flooring for the tabletop since it comes with tongue and groove joints which reduces its weight since a supporting structure isn't necessary underneath. Additionally, it provides a wide variety of choices for both the type of wood as well as the width of the boards.

Step 1: Materials

Here is a list of the materials I used for my coffee table.


  • Solid red oak flooring
  • Red oak wood filler
  • Mending plates (x4)
  • Oil-based stain (Gunstock)
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Wood glue (Gorilla Wood Glue)
  • Painter's tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Clear acrylic sheet


  • Red wood balusters (x2)
  • Red wood 2x4 (x2)
  • Oil-based stain (Gunstock)
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Self-adhesive felt pads

The tools I used/ had access to were:

  • Circular saw
  • Jig saw
  • Drill
  • Electric sander

Step 2: Cut Boards

The first step is to cut all the boards for the table top. The flooring I used came in various lengths and so I had to sort it into piles based on how many usable sections of wood I could get from each piece. Then each piece was cut to approximately the correct length, in this case 22.5". The more difficult part was creating the outer and inner borders. I made a jig out of some of the scrap wood and made a rip cut down the board dividing it into a 1.5" section and a 0.75" section. This cut was made at a slight angle in order to give the outside a slightly beveled edge. Everything fits together correctly if the inner border is the strip with the groove part of the joint and the outer border has the tongue part of the joint. Therefore, the boards of the panel should be arranged so that the outside borders have the groove part of the joint and the long inner border should have the tongue part of the joint. The short inner border shouldn't have a joint since it was cut.

Step 3: Create Panels

Next, I glued together the individual boards cut in the last step together with the inner border. What I found to work well for this step is to clamp down the board on the outside edge of the panel and successfully glue each board to that, keeping their edges, at least on one side, straight. To assist with this, another piece of scrap wood can be clamped down and the end of each board is kept flush to that. Additionally, to make sure each tongue and groove joint is tightly fitted, a rubber or plastic mallet can be used to lightly tap on the boards. Once all the boards have been glued together (six boards in my case), the inner border strip can be glued on to the end.

Once the glue dries, the inner edge of the panels can be cut. The inner border should still be much longer than the rest of the boards of the panel as well as, if you can't cut the boards completely precisely, the edge of the panel is a little bit uneven. This can be fixed by making a single cut along the edge so that all the boards are the exact same length. Then the panels can be fit together and small adjustments made by sanding the edges down until it all fits together tightly.

Step 4: Create Inset

This part serves a dual purpose: it is obviously part of the design and creates an inset where other textures could be placed as well as creating a frame on the bottom of the table to help secure the four panels together. Each piece of the frame was cut with the same angle as the inner pieces so that the inlet forms a smooth wall then it is screwed into the bottom of the table. In addition to this frame, to further secure the four panels together, mending plates were attached between each panel.They were placed roughly halfway between the center frame and the outer border.

The next step is to create supports for the cover of the inset. I wanted this so that the entire surface of the table could still be used despite the difference in the level. For the supports, I decided to use four squares in the corners, however I would either use a thicker acrylic or more supports if I did it again. To glue the supports in, I first cut the acrylic into a square that fit in the inset and then flipped the table over with the acrylic in the inset so that the supports would be at the correct height.

Finally, the outer border can be glued to the rest of the panels. To make sure they fit tightly, I tapped each edge with a plastic mallet and clamped it down.

Step 5: Create Base

This is a fairly simple set of table legs. The legs themselves are just red wood balusters that were cut in half. Then a jig was set up to give a slight taper to the insides of the legs using a circular saw. A tongue and groove joint was created to connect each leg together with the frame made out of the 2x4's. The frame was cut down significantly mostly for aesthetics using the jig saw and then evened out with a sander. Then all of the pieces were assembled and glued together.

Step 6: Final Preperation

Before applying the stain, all of the surfaces should be sanded down. To make sure the surface is flat, I used an 80 grit sand paper. Some of the joints, especially between panels, needed to be relatively heavily sanded to smooth it out. To further smooth the surface, I decided to use a red oak wood filler for the tabletop. This is often used for hardwood flooring to fill in any cracks or defects in the wood. A couple of the larger cracks between panels needed multiple coatings of the wood filler to completely fill it. Then 120 grit and 220 grit sandpaper were used to finish smoothing the surface and make it ready for stain. Finally, as shown above, masking tape and plastic sheeting was used to block off the center of each panel so that only the inner and outer borders are exposed.

Step 7: Stain and Polyurethane Table

This part should be fairly straightforward; just follow the instructions of the stain and polyurethane products being used. I only applied a single coat of stain for both the tabletop as well as base so that the color wouldn't be too dark compared to the unstained panels and I opted for a water-based polyurethane for the lighter, more natural finish. Once the polyurethane is applied, the color and richness of the unstained wood comes out. As a note, I found it easier to apply the polyurethane to the inset separately and then reattach it afterwards. Once everything is dry, the base can then be attached with screws into the tabletop and it is ready to be enjoyed.