How to Make a Coffee Table With Lift Top




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How to make a coffee table with a lift top mechanism and aluminum legs. The lift-top allows for bringing the table up to perfect height for dining in front of the television or bringing your laptop up to an ergonomic position. Watch the included video for an overview and be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly videos!

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Step 1: Cut Aluminum Tubing

We'll start off by making the legs out of 3/4" aluminum tubing. What I like about using aluminum is it's soft enough to cut with ordinary woodworking saw blades.

Step 2: Chamfer Aluminum Tubing Edges

I'll then chamfer the edges to allow a channel for the brazing material.

Step 3: Clean Aluminum

Before brazing it's very important that the aluminum is clean.

Step 4: Soldering the Aluminum

Clamp up the tubing and start heating the aluminum with a propane torch. Aluminum will start to melt at 1200 degrees fahrenheit but the brazing rod will melt at around 700 degrees so we want to get the aluminum hot enough to melt the rod without melting the tubing. Getting the tubing hot enough may take 4 to 5 minutes. You'll know when it's hot enough when the rod starts to melt on contact. Rub the brazing rod along the channel until it's filled in and finish it off with some more heat. If you don't get the aluminum hot enough the brazing rod will just clump up and not stick to the tubing. This takes some patience and practice as my first few tries resulted in failures and ugly joints. You'll want to repeat the process on all 4 sides of the tubing for a strong joint.

Step 5: Sand, Prime and Paint

Then I'll sand, primer and paint my legs flat black.

Step 6: Cut Plywood to Size

Cut all your plywood pieces to width and length.

Step 7: Crosscutting Plywood Without Tear-out

Crosscutting plywood with a combination blade almost always results in tear out and I find the easiest way to prevent that is to just cover the plywood with painters tape.

Step 8: Rip Thin Strips for Edge Banding

To cover up the exposed edges of the plywood I have some 1/16th inch thick walnut that I'll rip into 3/4 inch strips. You could also use a 3/4" thick walnut board and rip thin strips off of that or even purchase some pre-made walnut edge banding.

Step 9: Edge Banding

Now I'll just glue it down to the exposed edges of the plywood and clamp it down with painters tape.

Step 10: Glue on Panels

On the top side I'll use painters tape to mark the inset. This will also protect the wood from glue squeeze out. I'll then add some glue to the bottom of the pieces and set them in place using the blue tape as reference.

Step 11: Add Screws for Reinforcement

Let that sit and dry for a bit, flip it over and add some screws for reinforcement. Glueing it before adding the screws allows for perfect placement.

Step 12: Add Corner Accents

I'll then add some corner accents buy just gluing and taping them in place.

Step 13: Screw on Legs

For the legs I'll just drill holes and screw it in place. I'm using 1 1/4 inch pocket hole screws because of their large head.

Step 14: Screw on Rockler Lift-top Mechanism

For the Rockler lift mechanism I'll just set it inside and use the same screws to secure it in place.

Step 15: Screw on Lift Top

The easiest way I found to attach the top is to set it in place and slowly lift it up and allow the mechanism to raise with it. Make sure the wood doesn't slip, clamp it down and screw it in place.

Step 16: Finish With Boiled Linseed Oil and Polyurethane

I'll then take it all apart and and finish the wood with boiled linseed oil and a few coats of polyurethane.

Step 17: Rubber Feet and Bumpers

Put it all back together, add some rubber feet and some rubber bumpers and that's it!

Step 18: All Done!!

And that's it! You can find more details as well as plans for this project on my website. Let me know what you think in the comments below. I'll also do my best to answer any questions you have. Now go make something!

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    35 Discussions


    3 years ago

    How stable is this when the top is fully opened? It looks as though it could be easily tipped.


    3 years ago

    It would be nice to know the dimensions prior to purchasing the plans, so I know if it would work or not. Very nice looking.


    4 years ago

    Beautifully made. Perfect.
    But--sorry I felt disappointed that you actually did not make the mechanism!!!

    1 reply

    4 years ago

    Amazing. Must make it.


    4 years ago

    the mechanism cost too high i guess

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    My stepdad's trick for mounting that top would be to use the thinly padded double stick tape cut as a few small squares. It reduces alignment problems, and it's thin enough to not cause any trouble when finally screwing it in. It also helps to have two people setting the top down onto the bracket assembly to keep corners aligned.

    I want to build one of these as a desk of some kind. Does the armature lock in place? I'd not want to type on something which has bounce/wobble or worse come crashing down because I set something like a textbook on the top.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Such a space saver, i would add two sides around mechanism, and make space for lap top charger, remote controls and other space invaders. . . and mosdef a some locking in open position . . .

    Nice tutorial, nicely edited, all steps . . . good work

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Step 18

    Like this. I was expecting just a hinged top, but this type of top could even be used for dining, although it might be too easily tipped when in the up position.