Zelda Pixel Art Coffee Table




Introduction: Zelda Pixel Art Coffee Table

About: Maker with an obsession for the 8-bit!

A coffee table featuring the crest of Hyrule made from over 1500 cubes of Walnut, Sycamore, Oak, Ash, and Iroko.

I wanted to try something ambitious using the cubes I had made for chopping boards, so decided to take it to the next level and make a table top!

Making this table turned into a labour of love and I'm really chuffed with the result. It takes quite a lot of tools and is a massive effort, but if you do want to make one I've done my best to document the process for you. I generally did things the hard way with this project, so if you've got any tips on how to make it easier & better please comment as I welcome the feedback!

Step 1: Stuff I Used & Design

A fair few tools going on here I'm afraid. You may be able to do it with a more limited workshop, but these are the things I used....

I picked up most my timber from Bristol Wood Recycling Project, or used bits I had kicking around the shed from other projects. I used a combination of Ash/Oak/Walnut/Sycamore/Iroko for the pixel art table top, and Walnut for everything else.

Knowing the size of my pixels, and a rough size for the table top, I set up a 51px by 31px canvas on Photoshop (the odd number gives a middle point for the Triforce triangles), and clicked on it about a million times until I was happy with the layout.

I'd like to say I planned every detail and it came out exactly as I imagined...but to be honest I pretty much winged it once I had the table top design locked down! I find that if you can work like this you're not fighting the limitations of materials & tools, and a nice design tends to emerge organically if you take your time.

Step 2: Make Your Pixels

My pixels were 15mm x 15mm, and around 20mm deep. I already had a fairly well stocked shoebox because of my chopping board escapades, but with over 1500 needed I had to make more.

It's kind of hard to figure out how many cubes you'll get out of a chunk of wood, but from an 8ft plank of sycamore I got around 500 cubes. This step is basically turning the wood you've got into 15mm square rods as efficiently as possible, then slicing them up.

I started by gathering up my woods and ripping em to strips around 17mm wide on the table saw. These were then thicknessed down to just above 15mm on my planer/thicknesser.

After planing square the un-thicknessed edge on the planer, I cut each strip down to 17mm again. At this point I knew I had 3 planed edges that were square, and one sawn edge. So it was now just a case of thicknessing the sawn edge down, rotating the rod 90o on the last few passes until the rod was 15mm square (or a few 1/100's of a mm off anyway).

I then took to the mitre saw and cut my rods into roughly 20mm bits. I cut 3 or 4 rods at a time to save time and minimise breakout. It's likely you'll lose a fair few pixels to breakout, so make sure you're making more than you need. Finally, I inspected each bit and tidied them up with a sanding block before stacking them OCD style in shoeboxes....oof!

Step 3: Prep for Gluing

Before getting stuck in with the gluing, I made a surface to lay out the design on using some ply and softwood.

Then it was just a case of sitting there with my design and placing the cubes in place. Something I had to account for was the variation in shades from the Iroko. I ended up taking it all apart, going through all the Iroko and separating it into 4 different colours, then redoing it.

The last step in the prep was to make a jig for gluing the cubes together. This was a chunky perspex covered square edge. Just look at the picture...that's what you're going for!

Step 4: Gluing Phase 1

From making chopping boards, I found that if I glued more than 4 or 5 rows in one chunk error would sneak in and things would go wonky later. So, I broke the design down into chunks that could be squared up and glued together later.

I made a video to show this step so I'll let that do the talking, but basically glue one row at a time being careful to keep things square and flat under the force of the clamps. After each row clean excess glue from the edge with a chisel so that the next row will sit nicely next to it.

There's no less than 102 separate gluing sessions to do a 51x31 design! If you want to try and do more in each chunk go for it, but the slower you work the better the results so try to be patient.

Step 5: Gluing Phase 2

Now we need to square up our chunks and glue them together.

To do this this I ran each chunk through the table saw, just skimming the edge. I worked each column at the same time so they'd line up nicely later.

Then it was just a case of gradually gluing the chunks together, resquaring, and building it up into complete surface.

To support the surface I made a frame from ply and cedar, and glued it all to that. Take care get this square and even as the top edge will be cut to match it later.

Step 6: Sanding & Edging

I went at it with my belt sander sporting an 80grit belt. The belt will get pretty hot after like 5mins, so I worked in bursts allowing the sander to cool for an hr or so.

At this stage we're just getting the surface glue off and making it even.

Once the surface was relatively smooth I cut the edge to match the ply&cedar support surface using a templating bit in my router.

The edging was made from walnut, thicknessed to 18mm thick. I cut them to length, and cut the mitres using a mitre trimmer. These were glued in place using Resintite glue (similar to urea-formaldehyde) and some clamps.

Step 7: Legs

Given how square the table top is, I wanted to have legs that were angular with a bit of a gentle curve. After some time on Google I ended up taking inspiration from the lush table shown in the pics.

There were a lot of angles going on here so I worked it out in autoCAD, jotted down the key measurements, and stuck to the plan as firmly as possible.

First I planed/thicknessed my remaining walnut to 20mm x 45mm. I then cut the pieces to length with the appropriate angles shown in the sketch above.

I didn't think gluing alone would have enough strength to hold each leg together, so I trimmed down a biscuit that slotted a hole I made with my router on the join. Then clamps and Resintite to glue one together. The other 3 legs were glued together using the first as a template so I'd know they all matched.

Now for the fun bit...shaping the legs. A spindle sander or a band saw would have been super useful at this stage, but all I had was a belt sander and a vat of elbow grease. I just went at it with the belt sander and sandpaper until I had a leg that looked pretty. The other 3 legs were shaped to match using a template bit in my router.

Step 8: Fit Legs

To attach the legs I cut shoes into the cedar frame using chisel, knife, and pull saw. I was going to tenon them but it felt like overkill for the amount of extra work.

To make them solid I made some walnut stretchers that were attached with through tenons. These were cut to fit so I can't give you a dimension I'm afraid.

The tenons were made with pull saw & chisel. I forgot to take photo's, but to cut the mortices in the legs, I used my morticer with a 30o wedge.

Annoyingly I focused on the position of the exit holes for the tenons so then had to shape the stretchers quite dramatically. Although it took a tonne of sanding, this ended up looking pretty swish.

Everything was glued in place with Resintite.

Step 9: Sand & Finish

Now for the stage that'll really test your resolve...the finishing sand! There's no secret here. Just sandpaper & patience.

I started with 120grit and kept at it until any machining marks, scratches, and glue were gone. To tease scratches out, give it a wipe with a damp sponge which will raise the grain.

Then I worked my way up through sanding grits with an uncompromising eye stopping at 800grit. I spent a ridiculously long time on this...seriously...I lost my finger prints!

Before putting on the finish I tested a bunch of oils, waxes, and varnishes. My favourite was Danish Oil. Each finish has it's own set of instructions, so read the tin for how to correctly apply it.

Following a few coats of oil that had been left to fully soak in, I polished it up with clear wax until it was shiny and lush.

Step 10: The End

So there you have it. There's not much I'd change if I did it again - maybe switch the sycamore for maple, and dovetail the corners of the edging, but overall I'm super proud of this piece.

I'd love to keep it but I've already got a cool coffee table, so this is for sale! If you'd like to buy it or commission me to make something similar please get in touch. I'm not sure how much for...make me an offer! haha

I've got a bunch of instructables on the way at the moment, so if you dig this one be sure to hit me with a follow or like!

Be the First to Share


    • Make it Glow Contest

      Make it Glow Contest
    • Clocks Contest

      Clocks Contest
    • Game Design: Student Design Challenge

      Game Design: Student Design Challenge



    7 years ago

    This is seriously the coolest table I've ever seen. I would die to own it. But i can't imagine what you'd want for it, let alone shipping from the UK xP. *SRS envy*

    I think I envy all your tools more. *drools* I love working with wood but I've got no where to do so xP

    1up Living
    1up Living

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Haha, thank you!

    There might be a local maker space you can use maybe?

    But yeah....there's nothing quite like having a shed!


    Reply 7 years ago

    Well, I just got access to such a maker space, and boy do they have *everything*. The table isn't on my high priority list right now cuz I'd like to get some smaller projects in first, but I am pretty sure I WILL make one. I'll show pictures then! :P

    (This is pretty much mirror symmetry right? Ever thought of making half of this table, twice as thick as you need, and cutting the boards in half with a bandsaw? Or even just columns of it, one set of pixels at a time...)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I note that you have the end-grain facing out (you do have nice end-grain patterns). Have you considered having the side grain facing out, to get a more solid finish? If you did, you would have the choice of having all the grains oriented the same way, or setting them "parquet" style. If you face them the same way, that would want grain to be parallel to the backing grain if the backing is solid lumber.

    One thing to watch out for, is splitting/separation of the pixel facing from the wood backing over time, as the grains are running at right angles, so shrinkage of the facing will be more then the backing, along at least one dimension.

    If you use urethane glue ("Gorilla glue") you could assemble the whole thing in one shot, without having to wait after each row. If you have a band saw, I suspect you could get away without planing the pixels. Set up everything real tight and cut all the pixels in 1 setup. Bandsaw could also cut pixels to length accurately.

    Another option would be to dye the pixels with water-based wood stain, giving you options for more colors. In your end-grain case, the wood would really suck up the dye! (Using dye stains will not conceal the grain of the wood like pigment stains).

    1up Living
    1up Living

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! Thanks for the feedback! I mostly went with the end grain because I already had a load of bits machined for chopping boards, and they're better as end grain.

    The wood under the pixels is ply so I'm not expecting any movement or separation from that. I wish I had space for a bandsaw in my little shed...it would certainly drop the work it takes to make the pixels significantly provided it could cut accurately enough.

    I've tried gluing more in one go with chopping boards, and error sneaks in suprisingly quickly. I reckon doing it the hard way on this stage makes a big difference

    I considered bringing some dyes into play but I was worried I'd get bleed. Whatcha reckon?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You need not worry about bleed. After you dye the pixels (a little darker then you want), I would wash in water to prebleed out any dye, then dry. You can repeat the process with a stronger solution if on drying, things are too light. As long as you don't put the table on the Titanic, you should have no trouble at all (are you familiar with dyewater based stains? They come as a powder you dissolve in water. Oddly, they are the cheapest and the best wood stain you can get. I add 30% alcohol to the water to get better penetration into the wood. For pixels, I would drop them into dye to soak (5 min), then into water to bleed out. You adjust the color intensity by the concentration in the solution, not the soak time). Regarding doing the stackup at once, I would prefer that as you can see misalignments right then, and make adjustments as you assemble. If you build up separately, you can't see misalignment, until it is too late. When you assemble many small things, there is opportunity for tolerance buildup. That's why I recommend cutting everything "the same way", using one tool setup, in 1 session.

    Urethane glue has no water in it to encourage bleeding, and dries hard so your belt sander doesn't gum up (a tan foam will appear that is easily sanded or scraped off). You will have an ugly mess (wear gloves, and otherwise don't worry where the glue goes). You will want to wait a couple days for setting, especially if the humidity is low

    1up Living
    1up Living

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the tips dude! I haven't used dye before, but maybe next time.


    What an impressive undertaking. This really turned out looking awesome. I really like the design of the legs too. It has a very smooth feel to it.


    7 years ago

    Wow =-O


    7 years ago

    Sweet!!! I love Legend of Zelda!


    7 years ago

    Another job well done