I drink some STRONG coffee. So, I need one tough coffee table to handle it!
Several years ago, I did some construction work remodeling a small bank branch office, including removing the bullet-proof glass window. I saved it, thinking that it would make an interesting material to build a table from.
So, in this Instructable, I'm going to show you how to build a BULLET-PROOF COFFEE TABLE, and even test out how tough it really is!
If you just want to see me TEST HOW BULLET-PROOF it is, skip to step 7 for the demonstration video!
If you really like this project, please vote for it in the INDESTRUCTABLES Contest.
To start with, lets take a look at the tools and materials needed for the project.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
This project makes use of mostly salvaged materials. They can be some of the most interesting to work with, especially when you come across a unique piece of refuse.
The bullet-proof glass is just a little smaller than 3'x4' by an inch and a quarter thick. The edge is unfinished, as it was always designed to be hidden by the frame of the bank window. I realized that pallet-racking is designed to hold "two-by" wood, which is 1.5" thick. By using recycled pallet racking, it already has a lip for the glass to sit down into.
This project uses the following
A Bullet-Proof Glass Window
14 feet of used Pallet Racking cross-beam
2"x2" steel square tube, cut into four 18" pieces
A small piece of scrap steel plate
Paint and Primer
This is essentially a basic metal-working project, so it will need the following
Angle Grinder with grinding, cut-off, and flapper wheels
Optional: Metal Cut-Off "Chop-box" saw
Clamps for welding
And of course, you will need your personal protective gear; safety goggles, hearing protection, and work gloves and also appropriate gloves, welding helmet, and clothing for welding. Because the bullet-proof glass is heavy, safety-toe shoes are a good idea as well.
Step 2: Measure and Cut
First thing to do is measure and cut the materials to length.
I checked my measurements against the glass. It's 47" long and 34" wide. I used those as my main cut measurements, as my plan was for the sides to butt right up against the legs as corner posts. (I should have given myself a little more room - it was a tight squeeze getting the glass in when I was done!)
All of the horizontal parts of the table frame were made from pallet racking. It's roughly two inches wide by three inches tall.
The racking can be easily cut with an angle-grinder with a cut-off disc. However, I was doing the main cutting and welding at THE MILWAUKEE MAKERSPACE, where members have access to space and tools to work on projects, including a metal-cutting chop-saw. The chop saw made it easy to do square cuts on the racking.
I cut off the ends of the pallet racking and then cut two pieces just a hair longer than 47" and two pieces a hair longer than 34".
The legs of the table are two-inch-square steel tubing. The pieces I had were 36" long, so it was easy to cut them in half to make four legs that were 18", a good height for a coffee table.
Step 3: Welding the Frame
I laid one of the longer sides on the floor, and put one leg on either end of it. I then checked it for square, and tack-welded it in place. All welds on this project were just tack-welds until I got the frame into it's finished basic shape. That way, when I screwed up, it was easy to quickly grind a small weld or two to undo it.
After welding the first leg on, I repeated with the second.
Next, I made another side rail, with one leg welded on either end.
The two shorter sides won't be able to go on without the "inside lip" hitting on the other piece. So, on the two short side pieces, I used the angle-grinder to cut a 1" notch on the lip. With that removed, the inside supporting lip wraps all the way around the table.
With the glass supported on a large tool box, I was able to put the two side rails around it an rough up the table shape. I clamped the two shorter side pieces in place and tack-welded them.
With the glass out of the way, I checked to make sure everything was square, and then I made all the full welds on the frame.
That still left the legs as hollow tubes that were open on top.
I cut four pieces of scrap plate into 2"x2" squares. These were each set on top of the four corner posts and welded in place.
After that, I used the grinder and flapper wheel to round and smooth the corners of the leg post tops.
Once the metal is smoothed out and made pretty, it's time for some paint!
Step 4: Priming and Painting
I used what paint I had on hand.
To start with, I primed all the welds and any other cut ends and bare exposed metal.
After that, I went over the whole frame with a light gray color primer. The light gray covers the project well, but isn't too dark, so I could go over it with a light-colored top-coat.
For the actual paint on this project, I used an Almond color appliance epoxy paint. It's a more durable spray paint, and the color reminds me of 1980's office equipment - perfect for a bank. I also thought that the warm beige would go nicely with the green tint of the glass.
I did one coat of primer over just welds and cut metal, one coat of primer over the whole project, and then one solid coat of paint over the whole project.
While the paint dried, I worked on adding a frost effect to the glass.
Step 5: Frosting the Glass
One thing I actually DIDN'T like about the bulletproof glass is how you can see through it.
I really like the look of the glass, but don't want to see through it to the frame of the table and the floor under it. I have some experience frosting glass (for my bathroom) using a spray-on frost, and wanted to try the same effect with this table.
So, I flipped the glass up-side-down, and, making sure it was clean and dry, sprayed it with the spray-on frost.
I did two full wet coats, overlapping at 90 degrees to each other for even coverage.
Once complete, the top surface of the glass is smooth and shiny, but the frosted back obscures the view through it.
The spray frost dries very quickly. The more coats, the heavier the frost effect. I applied two coats, then let it dry.
Step 6: Assembly
Assembly is easy - just put the glass into the metal frame.
Well, easier said than done! The glass is VERY heavy, and I was working by myself.
I carefully stood the glass up on end in the frame, and then slowly lowered it to the opposite side.
I crossed the far corners with a pair of 2x4s to rest the glass on and get my fingers out from under it. Then, I went under the table, lifted the glass enough to remove the two 2x4s, and gently lower the glass the last few inches.
It was an EXTREMELY tight fit, but the glass went in and wasn't going anywhere.
At this point, I could have called the project done. Frankly, it was rather plain. I really wanted some way to further decorate the glass. I even considered getting some of those cheesy little bullet-hole decals from the auto-parts store, but they were too small for what I wanted.
If only I had some sort of way to test the bullet-proof glass WITHOUT actually shooting at it!
Step 7: Test & Distress
However, I do not own a firearm, and it would be a lot of work to drag the table off to a sportsman's club or a firing range.
I DO have a very big hammer.
I tested the glass by smacking it with a sledge. The only mark is big enough to notice, but only if pointed out to you.
Plus, swinging a sledge hammer is tiring, so I thought I would instead make use of gravity and weight. My anvil is bolted down to a stand, so it would have been a bit of work to remove, but I did have a BOWLING BALL handy.
I set up the ladder next to the bullet-proof coffee table, walked up it with the bowling ball, and dropped the ball directly onto the middle of the table.
Step 8: Backlighting and Finishing Touch
After I created the bowling-ball "battle-damage", I thought that it would look that much better BACKLIT at night with a light below the glass.
I took a few photos with a temporary light below the glass. It looks great! I played around with some rope-lights and other different types of lights I had handy.
In the end, I decided on a very simply battery operated fluorescent light. It runs on a few AA batteries, and the switch is built-in. That way, there's no cord running across my floor.
The light is small enough that it fits on the inside of the frame up the table, up near the glass, and is attached with self-adhesive velcro. It was $6 at a big-box store.
I also found a pen-on-a-chain (just like they have at the bank) at an office supply store. I bought it and stuck it on the glass. I'll never have to go looking for a pen again!