Coffee Table W/ Raising Top/compartment




I decided I needed a new coffee table so I set out to build something that maximized storage, that could be used to as a work surface for my laptop, and looked halfway decent. So I came up with this design.
It has:

-Storage for oversize books

-A large cedar lined drawer for wool blankets, etc.

-A segmented top that will raise up and over to allow me space to work on a laptop and provide a nothing if not strange compartment for storage of small things.

-and Casters in case i want to move it (these can easily be replaced with short 3" legs)

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Step 1: Tools and Materials

For this build I used a lot of usual carpentry tools and some can be substituted if you dont have a huge shop.

Tablesaw (Circ-saw could work)

Chop Saw


lots and lots of clamps




3/4" Paint grade Plywood

1/4" Plywood (for the drawer bottom)

1/2" Plywood (for the drawer sides)

A big chunk of hardwood or veneered plywood (for the top)

Glues (primarily wood glue, but also spray contact cement for the felt)



Drawer runners (either purchased or homemade)

Screws (a range depending on the need about 1" to 2")

Tension Springs, 6" (small gas springs would be really nice)


Aromatic Cedar

Step 2: Design

First Step was to figure out was how big I should make it. I settled on 18" tall, 24" wide, and 48" long.

I did the initial design on paper with pencil, cause it's easier. But then I moved to a 3D program and worked things out more concretely.

There are three segments to this table. The drawer, The Bookshelf, and the Lift Top.

After working out these dimensions I moved to the cut list.

Step 3: Cut-List

First Thing is first.

The majority of this will be built from 3/4" Birch Plywood. Which comes in sheets of 48" x 96".

I essentially made three carcasses, then screwed to the bottom and then to each other.

Lay out your Rip's first then your Cross Cuts. There are some programs that will do this for you, but where is the fun in that?

As you can see the pieces for this build make for an odd set of cuts. I had to rip then cross cut then rip some more.

Step 4: Build the Carcass

The three carcasses can be seen in the photos above. One deep wide one for the drawer, One Shallow one for the storage, and one just big enough for my largest books.

I glued and pinned them together with the nail gun before screwing everything together.

The boxes at this point do not have a top, just a couple of 3" strips of plywood, something to secure the top to.

I finished the edge-grain of the plywood with 3/4"x3/4" strips of solid wood glued and clamped to the ends. After the glue was dried I sanded the strips smooth and flush for painting.

Step 5: The Raised Top (AKA the Hard Part)

This was tough. I took a lot of time to figure out the geometry of this moving part.

I knew the raised piece would need four supports.

But I needed to figure out:

-How high it was to raise.

-How far over it was to move.

-Then combine that with how long each support could be and still fit into the storage area.

-I also had to work out the spacing of the bolts for the supports.

I wish I could get into more detail of how I did this but time and a bad memory prevent me from getting there. Besides I think your own project may have different requirements and dimensions.

There was a lot of drawing and eventually a full-scale mock up before committing to anything. (there is no substitute for a full-scale mock up)

After the supports were laid out and bolted in, I need to make a structure to connect all the supports and to screw the table top to from underneath. (that was very simple)

To help with lifting and closing I added a tension spring to each support. I simply looped the ends of the springs around the bolts. I used 6" springs, just shorter than the distance of the two bolts. This is a little too much, the top can "launch" into the upright position too fast. HOWEVER, the springs do help keep the top down as well.

Step 6: The Table Top

The table top was a strange experiment in lamination. I wanted hard wood but I have a limited budget. I had a large Cherry board but it was a mess. Full of holes and somewhat warped. So I ripped it down to 1/4" strips and laminated those strips to a piece of 3/4" birch plywood. Then when that was dry I cut it to the size I wanted (48"x24"). After that I hid the edge-grain of the plywood with 1" strips of cherry, mitered and glued.

This worked surprisingly well. The top has a really nice color to it and I like the edgegrain of the cherry much better than the face grain.

The only thing I think I would have done differently is waited a while before lamination for the wood to stabilize. It is winter now and the cherry has shrunk leaving only slightly visible gaps between them. It's enough to drive me mad, but most wont notice.

Step 7: The Table Top Part II, the Big Cuts

The table top once finished needed to be cut into three pieces. and those cuts needed to be cut at a bevel so that when the middle raises up and sets down it doesn't bind up.

I chose an angle that matched the angle of the supports had when raised. ( I can't recall what that is now)

anyhow. This is a scary part of the build because I could easily cut at the wrong measurement (I've been known to do that.) or the wood could chip out and leave a ragged edge.

I First laid the top on the carcass and decided where to cut. Then Before Cutting, I laid down some blue tape where the cuts were to be made (this will help prevent chip-out)

then I used a tee square to transfer those lines across the width of the top with a pencil.

Then, I used another straight edge to cut those lines with a utility knife (this will also help prevent chip-out)

THEN I got out my cross cut sled, set the bevel on the table saw and began my cuts with a deep breath.

Step 8: Finshing Up.

I finished by laying out the cut pieces of the top onto the carcass and lining it all up perfectly.

Then I carefully marked and screwed all the pieces into place with pan head screws.

I screwed four locking swivel casters to the bottom (these could easily be some wooden feet)

and finished any sanding and painted the plywood and oiled the table top.

I had some felt and glued that into the compartment. I built the drawer from 1/2" plywood and faced it with a chunk of painted 3/4" plywood. Then the drawer was lined with some thin strips of aromatic cedar I had lying around.

It was a fun project. I'm happy with it but I miss feeling like I can put my feet up on the coffee table like I used to.

Plywood Contest

Runner Up in the
Plywood Contest

Living Without Closets Contest

Second Prize in the
Living Without Closets Contest

1 Person Made This Project!


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19 Discussions


3 years ago

MRM1, great job on the coffee table. Looking at the picture you can not tell the table opens up. The wood work finish on the sides also hid the joints of the plywood. What type of handle did you use on the draw, I could not see the handle in the photo? Great job and good luck in the contest.

2 replies

Reply 3 years ago

Hey thanks. Good question. I took these photos before I found a drawer pull I liked. I ended up going with a recessed brass campaign pull. It was a bit expensive but I spent very little on this project so I didn't mind.


3 years ago

this would be great on my mini fridge. and put in beers :D


3 years ago

A great one....! I'm tempted to build one! :) I'll vote for you!


3 years ago

Absolutely love this design, especially for any small double duty space and I hate to be the buzzkill, but I feel compelled to warn that it is inherently dangerous and if not properly placed under tension and without a falling safety catch, it is dangerous enough to break bones in adults and kill small children and pets.

Just make sure in these designs that the elevated section is always takes far more force to close than to open. Spring, compressors, counterweights etc are not optional and should support far more weight than just the tabletop.

I did a quick but working prototype of this type of design without any tensioning and with the mechanism exposed. While I was fiddling, it fell like a guillotine snapping a 1/2x3/4 softwood firing strip like a pit bull with a milk bone. Scary.

I also think you should plan to have catch that activates upon violent downward motion. I say this because the other thing I did with the prototype, after giving it a counterweight to serve as a spring, was accidentally fall with near my full weight on the elevated section, and since I outweighed the tabletop and thus the counterweight by mumble-mumble kilos, down it came like blade again.

I've got so many toddlers and pets running around that I decided to back burner the project while I thought about it some more. The immediate temptation is to elegantly balance the lid so it moves up and down with just a touch of the finger. But after watching how hard it could come down, especially if a spring or compressor failed, I thinking my eventual version will be so stiff, you will have lean or practically sit on the thing to get it close.

But then again, I am a paranoiac designer.


3 years ago

I didn't make yours. but I made mine!


3 years ago

Thinking this would look great for a work bench. Great work OP. Will be making one soon.


3 years ago

Beautiful! did you use any particular software for the parallel lifting mechanism for the top?

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

I just used sketchup until I couldn't. I had to draw with regular pencil on paper for awhile (I think better that way). Then I just had to jump in and start tinkering with the mock-up. I wish I had more to say about it in the instructable. but it was such an internal thought process that most of what I figured out wasn't recorded.


3 years ago

Looks really good. Clever using the old wood cut into smaller 1/4" pieces to make the top (w/ edging).

Wish the springs were mentioned. What type of springs are they, just regular tension springs?

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

Thanks. I was limited on time and didn't mention the springs. I'm hoping to edit them in soon. They were just tension springs, only slightly shorter than the gap between the bolts when raised. If that makes sense.