I wanted a cool, unique coffee table for my house, but couldn't find anything that I liked in my price range. My goal for this project was to keep costs to a minimum and keep the structural design fairly simple, but ultimately wanted a fun project and conversational piece. I was inspired by old Ouija Board designs, which had wonderful curved typefaces and intricate illustrations. This was a fun project and cost me around $120 to complete, and requires only basic tools.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
The table structure is very basic, I tried to use readily available sizes of wood that would require little to no cutting. I chose stain-grade pine for my table, but other types and sizes could be substituted.
5/4" x 24" x 48" Pine panel (1)
21 1/4" Pine table legs (4)
3/4" x 3 1/2" x 96" Pine boards (2)
1 1/2" Screws (1 box) - Or glue, dowels, biscuits, etc.
0000 Fine steel wool
Several brushes or rags
Sand paper (coarse, medium, and fine)
Acrylic Gel Medium (available at art supply stores)
Miter saw (Or hand saw, table saw, etc.)
Access to laser printer
Computer with image editing software
Exacto knife or scissors
Brayer, roller or spoon
Other helpful tools (not required):
Pocket hole jig
Step 2: Design and Planning
Once you know the size of the table top, you can start planning your design. I started with a pencil sketch and later scanned and traced my design in the computer.
Tip: When setting up the color black in your image editing software, it is a good idea to crank up all of the CMYK sliders to ensure that your printer lays down the densest amount of toner on the paper possible. This will increase your chances of having a bold transfer to the wood table top later on.
Edit: I have gotten several requests to post my vector design, so here it is. Please only use it for non-commercial purposes. Thanks!
Download PDF Here
Step 3: Image Preparation
Please note, it is very important that a laser printer is used, as an inkjet will not work for this type of image transfer.
It is also very important that your image be mirrored prior to printing, especially if your design has text, because everything will be reversed after the image transfer!
This part of the project will vary depending on the printing size capabilities of your laser printer. In a perfect world I would be able to print the entire design on a single 24" x 48" sheet of paper, but chances are this will not be the case. The largest size of sheet I could use in the printer at my work was 11" x 17". In the print dialog of your image editing software, select the "tile" function. I was able to fit my design on 9 sheets of 11" x 17" paper.
Next, carefully trim the prints right up to the edge of the image with an Exacto knife or scissors. Then, align and tile the images together and tape the seams from the back of the prints. Make sure that no tape covers the front, as it would not allow the transfer to work properly. This step is made much easier if you have access to a light table. In a pinch, you could hold the sheets up to a window in the daytime.
Step 4: Cutting Wood
Cut two of each of the following sizes from the two long boards using a miter saw or whatever saw is available:
41 5/8" (2)
Step 5: Wood Joints
For joining the wood I have a pocket hole jig from Harbor Freight that I really like, and have used for lots of projects. Alternatively, you could use glue, dowels, biscuits, dovetails, etc.
Step 6: Table Assembly
First attach the legs to the frame and then attach the frame to the table top. I used a little bit of wood glue on the tops of the legs. If you use glue, make sure to clean up any excess to ensure that the stain will penetrate the wood later on. Having a few clamps on hand is really helpful for this part.
Step 7: Sanding
Sand everything smooth starting with heavy grit and working your way up to a fine grit. A powered palm sander can save you some time during this step if you have one available.
After sanding, I took some tools and put some dents randomly on the table to soak up the stain and create an antiqued look.
Step 8: Staining
I wanted to use a non-toxic and oil-free stain to ensure that the transfer would adhere properly to the wood. I found a recipe to create a stain that would darken and give an aged look to the finish that works really well.
To make the stain, take your mason jar and insert a piece of 0000 Steel Wool. Then pour enough vinegar to cover the steel wool. Set aside with the lid slightly ajar for a few days. The steel wool will start to dissolve and bubble, changing the vinegar orange and brown.
Take a scrap of extra wood to test the vinegar solution. This creates a reddish brown stain. You can also brew up a cup of black tea and combine it with the vinegar solution, causing a reaction for a gray stain. I experimented with both, but ultimately decided to only use the vinegar stain.
Use a brush or rag to apply stain to your table and let it dry overnight.
After the table is dry, you may need to re-sand a little bit if the stain caused wood grain to expand.
Step 9: Image Transfer
Use a tack cloth or clean rag to make sure the table top is completely free of dust. Lay your laser print face down to align it to the table top. Tape one of the sides down to the table, this is to make sure the image stays centered to the table during the transfer.
Roll the paper back and apply the acrylic gel medium to the table top. You must work fairly quickly as it will dry somewhat quickly.
Then, starting from taped end of the laser print, carefully roll the image onto the table while using your brayer, roller or spoon to avoid bubbles and to make sure that the laser print adheres properly to the table top. With the print in place, use the brayer to flatten any spots with bubbles. Let dry overnight.
After the gel medium has completely dried, remove the tape from the back of the paper. Then dampen the surface of the paper and use your fingers or a sponge to rub the paper away. The idea is that the damp paper will slough off, leaving the toner from the laser print embedded in the dry acrylic gel medium. This part of the project is pretty messy and time consuming, but is exciting to see your design start to emerge. Remove as much of the paper as possible, but try not to rub so much that your image comes off. Don't worry too much if some of the design rubs off, as you can touch if up afterwards with a Sharpie or paint pen. I decided not to touch up my design because I liked the distressed look.
Step 10: Sealing
Almost done! Use a water-based Polyurethane to finish and protect your table. I put 5 coats on, lightly sanding and using a tack cloth between each coat to ensure a smooth finish.
Step 11: Final Thoughts
Done! Now show off your handiwork to your friends, use it to commune with the spirits, use it to display your collection of skulls, or use it for an intense game of Magic The Gathering!
Thank you for reading, I hope that you enjoyed my first Instructable!