Coffee Around the World-Create Your Own Custom Coffee Table




Would you like to have coffee in Europe, take out in China, and a burger in America all at the same time? So would I! Unfortunately this is not an Instructable on how to be in more than one place at a time or travel the world. However, with your own custom world map coffee table you could use your imagination and it would almost be the same! In this Instructable I will show how some basic wood working skills and tools can be used to create limitless possibilities of coffee tables.

The original idea for this project came about this past year when I saw a picture of a Risk coffee table on the internet. I love the board game Risk and decided to give making one a go. The table turned out excellent and I'm very thankful to whoever had the original idea! From there I decided to make a more practical table for the non-board-game-enthusiast types. To me a world map always brings about a sense of wanderlust, and what better way is there to start a day besides wanderlust and coffee. This Instructable will focus on how I made the world map coffee table, but I put a few pictures of other tables I've made at the end of this and if you have any questions about how to make them feel free to ask! Hope you enjoy!

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Planning

The first step to most successful projects is a good plan. Fortunately a good plan doesn't always need good illustrations, since, as you can see, I'm not exactly the best drawer. The nice part about building your own coffee table is that you can build it to suit your needs. A few factors you will need to consider before you begin are what size you want, what design you want, and what type of wood you'll use.

Your average coffee table is somewhere between 16-24 inches tall, 2-3 feet wide, and 3-4 feet long, but if you build one yourself you can take those guidelines, throw them in the garbage, and do whatever works best for your particular situation. For this particular coffee table I decided to make the top 24 inches by 42 inches. I made it this size so that it would fit in the house and so my design would fit on the table with a nice border around it.

It turns out there are many different maps of the world, so before you can start building you'll have to choose your design. The map I used was bought on Amazon from this link. If you have a design that you don't want to be destroyed in the table making process I suggest using transfer paper which can also be found on Amazon.

You can use pretty much any type of wood you choose for the table, but if you use a darker wood it may be harder to see the design.

After you've decided all these factors its time to gather supplies and get to building!

Step 2: What You'll Need

For this project you will need some basic wood working tools:

-radial arm saw(or circular saw)
-table saw (a circular saw would work as well)
-jig saw
-belt sander (or some sandpaper and elbow grease
-hand plane

Along with a few necessary extras including:

- a Dremel or other rotary tool with carving/engraving kit
- and a wood burning tool

I also used a biscuit joiner, but you could easily replace this with a drill and wooden dowels.

Wood wise I used about 16 feet of 1x8 lumber for the table top, 10 feet of 1x6 for the skirt, and 13 feet of 2*4 for the legs. Since the focus of this table is the design and I wanted it to look a little rustic I just used wood we had laying around. You should be able to find the wood you need at your nearest lumber yard.

Step 3: The Top

To construct the table top you first need to cut the boards to length. I cut four 1x8 boards 38.25 inches long. I cut them that bit extra long so that after glueing them together I could trim any edges that ended up being uneven. I ripped the fourth board to 5 and 3/4 thick so that my table would be the right thickness. I cut another board 26 inches long and ripped it in half. Each half served as an end board for either side of the table.

After you have your boards cut it's time to glue them together. To do this you'll need at least two bar clamps or some other method of clamping the boards together. A good practice is to glue two boards, wait for them to dry and then glue a third board on and then the final fourth board. When glueing the boards together the grains should run in opposite direction to the board adjoining it.

Step 4: The Edgeboards

Once the main section of the table top is dry,at least 24 hours after gluing, it's time to attach the end boards. To do this I used the biscuit joiner, placing five biscuits on each side. If you don't have a biscuit joiner you can just as easily use wooden dowels. To do this you would drill holes in each side and then insert a 3/8 or 5/16 inch dowel before finally gluing the pieces together.

Once the edge boards were attached and the glue dried I used a hand plane to scrape off the excess dried glue. With the glue gone I then used the belt sander to make the table top flush.

Step 5: The Design AKA the Fun Part

This is where this project gets really fun. Once you have your table top assembled and sanded fairly smooth ( I sanded with 80 grit followed by 120) it's time to start engraving. In order to transfer my design to the table I glued my map right to the wood with spray adhesive. Gluing the map right to the wood saves time, but it leaves a sticky residue which takes time to sand off. The alternative method is to use transfer paper. To do this you tape the transfer paper to the wood and then the the map on top. Once everything is taped down you have to trace over each line of the map that you want to engrave. This method takes a bit longer to get the design on the wood but saves time in sanding.

Step 6: Engraving

Once the design is on the wood you can start engraving. Before actually engraving on the wood I recommend trying out the Dremel and engraving bits on some scrap wood because they can be tricky to get the hang of. When I was starting this project I looked up a few different engraving techniques on youtube, but that's about as far as my experience with the tool goes, which just goes to show that this project can be done by any beginner.

The first pass of engraving I used the smallest spherical engraving bit. By pushing down lightly, just hard enough to cut through the paper and slightly scar the wood, you're able to keep control of of the Dremel and stop it from jumping where you don't want it. After the first pass I tore off the paper so it wasn't in my way. I then did another pass with this small bit, followed by a pass with a medium spherical bit, and finally a pass with a large spherical bit. With each pass I deepened the engraving so that when I sanded the top there was no risk of erasing the design. If you have a different set of engraving bits you may have different sized bits than I did, but that shouldn't matter in the long run.

After using each of the bits you should have your map sitting gloriously in front of you, showing the world in all its splendor. If you glued your map right to the wood your map may be covered in black sticky gunk, but that's ok, you'll just have to do some serious sanding to get rid of it.

Step 7: The Skirt

The underside of the table, or skirt, isn't completely necessary, but it adds strength and I think it greatly improves the look of the table. To build the skirt I cut two 1x6 boards 36 inches long and two 24 inches long. I decided to give the skirt a curvy look so I drew up curves on paper, photocopied those curves so that they were all the same, and then glued them to the wood. I then cut the curves using a jig saw.

Step 8: Assembling the Skirt

Once all the skirt pieces are cut it's time to assemble. I used biscuit joinery again because it works especially well for these T shaped joints. Another method would be to use rabbit joints or possibly using dowels again. Once I cut the biscuit joints it was time to assemble the skirt. Using glue and bar clamps again the skirt will be dry in 24 hours. While you wait for it to dry you can begin work on the legs.

Step 9: Legs

For the legs of the table I cut a 2*4 into eight 21 inch pieces. I cut them extra long again so I could trim them after gluing in order to ensure they were all the exact same length. Now, I know a 2x4 may not be the most beautiful piece of wood around, but by gluing them together you get a cool looking table leg with a nice groove in the middle! Once you have all your pieces cut and glued you may find some glue has leaked into the groove in the middle. To remove this glue I folded a piece of sandpaper in half and ran it up and down the crack of each groove on each leg. Scraping the glue out with a screwdriver also worked well. This takes a bit of time but its worth it in the long run.

Step 10: Routering

On this table I made the mistake of assembling the table before routering the edges. Although it worked fine to do it in that order, it is much easier if you router before you assemble, at least for the legs and the skirt. I routered each edge of the legs and the curves of the skirt, which you can kind of see in the picture. If the pictures doesn't give a clear enough example just leave a comment and Ill gladly try and clear any confusion.

Step 11: Assembly

Finally the table is coming together and its time to put it all together and find out if you've made any huge mistakes! Lucky for me after assembly my table looked just like a table and nothing like a bowl or some other unexpected shape. To assemble the coffee table I first flipped the table top upside down, drew out the location of the skirt, and then glued and clamped the skirt to the table.

The next step requires either very careful planning, or an extra person or two to help. You can either set the legs up exactly where they need to be and then flip the table and skirt over on top of them, or you can have someone else lift the table while you set the legs underneath.

Step 12: Screw It

To finish assembling the table I removed one leg at a time, covered it in glue, and then inserted it back in its place. Using a countersink bit I drilled three holes on the top of each leg, two holes on the inside of the skirt behind each leg, and one hole on the outside of the skirt. Instead of clamps to hold the legs in place while they dry I used screws, which both held each leg in place and pulled the entire table together. Once the glue dries your table is ready for the finishing touches!

Step 13: Finishing Touches

Before doing anything else I recommend taking a step back and just admiring your hard work. Making stuff is so cool. Now, back to work! A few final touches are needed before varnishing. To fill all the holes left from the counter sink bit I used wood putty. Another possibly better option is to glue wooden dowels in the holes and then router them flush. If you haven't done it yet, now is also the time to router the edges. By routering the table top edges you also can remove the sharp corners that might hurt you if you stumble into them at night. The final finishing touch is to burn the engraving to make it stick out even more. This is another extra step, but it makes the design much easier to see once the wood is varnished.

Step 14: The Worst Part of Any Woodworking Project, Varnishing

If you didn't catch it from the title, I'm not a very big fan of varnishing. For this table I used three coats of semi gloss varnish with wet sanding in between. Once the final coat has dried, you're done! The table is finished! Theres just one step left...

Step 15: Brew a Cup and Relax

I hope you've enjoyed my Instructable! Your next cup of coffee will taste all the better when drunk over your own little chunk of the world!

Step 16: Risk Coffee Table

Here's a few pictures of the Risk table I made. I used techniques very similar to this, but with some extra stain and a nice drawer to hold all the pieces! If you have any questions please feel free to ask!

Step 17: Book Coffee Table

And finally here's an open book coffee table design. I was asked to make this table with this specific verse, but the design could easily be adapted to your favorite book quote! To make the letters I used a letter burning attachment for the wood burning tool, which can also be conveniently bought on Amazon! For the book design I just googled open book picture and there it was. The internet really is pretty neat!

Wood Contest

Participated in the
Wood Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Furniture Contest

      Furniture Contest
    • Reuse Contest

      Reuse Contest
    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest

    11 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Just seen, that it is the map of the game "Risiko"...

    I said nothing. Nice work


    4 years ago

    Nicely done, but where did you get this borders? Egypt is a "little" bit smaler, germany isnt nord europe, and so on...

    But it is a nice idea.

    Greeds from germany.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful coffee table. Very well done. Definitely added to my favs and voted for the contest. I will certainly use your plans one day to make a new coffee table, or even dinner table.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago

    Thank you very much! The vote is very much appreciated. If you do ever make something similar please share a picture,
    I'd love to see how it turned out.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I most certainly will, although it won't be right now, other priorities, but in time :)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Could you have stained the wood with coffee before varnishing? Just to make it even more of a "coffee table"...

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That's a pretty good idea! I've never tried staining wood with coffee so I have no idea how it would turn out, but I could see how some coffee ring stains would look pretty neat!


    5 years ago

    Beautiful table, but where's Tasmania?

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago

    Than you, and thanks for pointing out the missing country! Tasmania was on the map I used ( I went back and checked ) but I must have missed cutting it out. Now I know for next time!