Penny Desk!




Introduction: Penny Desk!

My hubby John and I made this fun penny desk for my office. The pennies are covered in bar top epoxy, and it isn't nearly as heavy as you might think. The process is a little tedious, but not overly difficult except for the wrapped edges, which you can always skip. Keep reading to see the step-by-step instructions.

Also, this is my very first Instructable, so my apologies if I manage to mangle it horribly. ;)

My original post regarding this desk can be found over on my blog Epbot. If you like geeky girly stuff, please drop by to say hello!

Step 1: Material Girl

First and foremost, you'll need lots of pennies. I think we used about $35 for the desk, which is approximately 40 by 22 inches. Don't have a massive change jar handy? Just swing by your local bank.

I polished half of our pennies with Tarn-X. It's super easy to use: just pour it over the coins and then rinse. Polishing some of the coins gives the end result a pretty mix of shiny and tarnished finishes.

Step 2: Prep & Landing

John built my desk from scratch to fit the space we needed, but you could use a pre-existing table top or desk no problem. We painted it black before starting to set the pennies.

Start placing your pennies on the front edge, securing them with a small dot of super glue. We clamped a straight edge ruler to guide our first line, and bent our first line of coins to fit around the rounded edge of the desk. You don't have to do this, though: you could place the pennies just on the top, and snip them in a straight line.

Step 3: Getting Bent

If you decide you do want to bend your coins to wrap the edges, here's how we did it: We wrapped a small piece of electrical tape around one of John's titanium rings to pad it slightly. (He wears a size 10.5 ring, if that helps.) Then John used pliers to bend each penny to the inside curve of the ring. Just stick the penny inside the ring, and clamp down with the pliers.

Fair warning: this requires a LOT of hand strength. Much more than I, weakling geek girl that I am, could ever manage. John wore heavy leather work gloves to protect his palms, since he had to bend a bunch of coins.

Step 4: Mind-Numbing Tedium Is Your Friend

Now, start gluing! I spent about four nights working on arranging and gluing down each coin. It would have gone much faster, but I was carefully arranging the different colors and mixing in "special" pennies (wheaties, other countries' coins, etc.) in at regular intervals. As you can see from the second picture, it only took a tiny spot of glue to secure each coin, but you *do* need to glue them all.

Step 5: Mind Your Edges

If you have a Dremel, glue the pennies on first - hanging over the edge - and then trim them off later. (first pic) If you don't have a Dremel, use heavy snips to cut the coins before gluing them down.

In the second picture you can see how John bent and snipped the pennies to wrap around the desk's corner edge. This was the trickiest part, and again requires plenty of hand strength (and strong snips!)

Step 6: Prepare to Pour!

When your surface is ready, prep your area for pouring the epoxy. You need someplace you can leave it undisturbed for about two days, and that is relatively dust-free. We set up in a back room of our house.

Cover the floor with lots of heavy plastic - very, VERY, important - as the epoxy will be dripping down to the floor - and set your desk top on some sawhorses or other stands, making sure that the edges are free.

Step 7: POUR!

Mix and pour your two-part bar top epoxy. I'm sorry I don't remember the exact brand we used, but so long as you use the stuff restaurants use for their tabletops, you'll be fine. Our epoxy was old - left over from another project - so it had yellowed a bit. You can see the golden tint in the photos. Usually epoxy is crystal clear, though, so don't let my photos scare you. :)

Once you've poured it all on (use as much as the label dictates for the amount of area you're covering), start tipping your surface to get the epoxy all the way to the edges. You want it to drip *over* the edges, in order to coat them. (See why you need all that plastic on the floor?)

Step 8: Even Things Out

To get an even coating on your edges, you may need to scoop some epoxy off the floor with a metal spatula or spoon and dump it back on the edge. Do this as often as necessary to get a smooth covering.

Also, keep in mind that the pennies on the edges will prevent the epoxy there from being glass smooth. My desk has a slightly ripply effect to the front edge, which I actually think feels really cool. Just be sure that the epoxy gets in all the cracks, and that you don't miss any areas.

Step 9: Torch It!

This part is surprisingly fun: use a small blow torch (like the one you have in your kitchen for toasting the creme brulee) and pass it quickly over the surface of your epoxy - about 6 inches above it - to eliminate all the air bubbles. (And there will be a LOT of air bubbles.) The bubbles will rise and pop like magic, leaving a glass-smooth surface. Like I said: fun!

Step 10: I Hate Waiting

And now: you wait.

Your epoxy should take about a day to set up, and two days to cure. Check the label of your epoxy, and go by that to be sure.

When it's fully cured, use a utility blade to cut/scrape off any excess epoxy drips from the bottom edges of your desk, and install it as you would any other surface.

And you're done!

Go show off your new desk to all your friends. Be sure to mention how much "cents" it makes to make a "change", etc. etc.

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    163 Discussions

    Clean Pennies: 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1-3 tsp salt, Unshiny pennies, Non-metal bowl, Paper towels. Pour vinegar into the bowl & add salt, stir. Put about 5 pennies into the bowl for 10 sec. Take out pennies and rinse in water.

    Hydrogen Peroxide will take a bright penny and darken it like an old penny. It will also clean dirt or organic material off coins & it sometimes loosens encrustations.

    1 reply

    Coool!!! I really like the idea of using foreign coins, as well.

    Fantastic project. Although it is not my type of handwork, you always learn something from other's ideas.

    18 U.S.C. § 331–Mutilation, Diminution, and Falsification of Coins.

    Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs,
    diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined
    at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are
    by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money
    within the United States; or

    Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or
    sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into
    the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered,
    defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or
    lightened –

    Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five
    years, or both.

    SO, people, stop freaking. It is totally NOT illegal. Enjoy!

    1 reply

    Thank you for the facts. Always a great part of conversation. :-)

    This is absolutely right up my alley. Great project!

    This would be amazing as a kitchen counter... or bathroom tiling.

    Destroying money is a federal crime. Just a heads up.

    1 reply

    Well, in Canada - they have stopped minting pennies so that might be a viable legal option. I gotta say though - at almost $3 bucks a square foot there are lots of other, more attractive and dare I say less tedious options available for a unique desk top. Just sayin'

    Great instructable thanks ... I didn't know about the blowtorch technique, useful to learn of this.

    To calculate how many coins you need you might want to adapt the following UK penny calculations to your preferred coin size ...

    How many British 1 pence coins could you fit in a meter squared?

    if 1p coin diameter= 20.3mm ...

    1p coins per sqm square packed: (1000/20.3)^2 = 2426.65. That s a coin

    density of pi/4 or approx 78.54%.

    But lets work out the coin density if arranged in hexagonal close

    packed layout, Let s work it out for circle of diameter=1 unit. Sketch

    4 adjacent circles with centres forming a rhombus. Within the rhombus

    you have a pattern which when repeated describes the entire hexagonal

    close-packed layout.

    Rhombus area = (1^2-.5^2)^.5 = .75^.5 = 0.86602540378

    Area which is within a circle AND within rhombus =pi*.5^2 = 0.78539816339

    Therefore circle density is 0.78539816339/0.86602540378 =

    0.90689968211. A density of circa 90.69%.

    Area of 1p coin = pi*r^2 = pi*(20.3/2)^2 = 323.6547 sqmm

    Therefore close-packed coins per sqm =

    1000*1000/323.6547*0.90689968211 = 2802.05936175

    This doesn t account for edge conditions. circa 2802 coins per sqm. Good luck!

    Dominic P

    2 replies

    I make it $2.96 per sq Ft.


    Hex-packed circle density is 0.90689968211 (all figures here are approx.)
    Diameter of US 1c = 19.05 mm.
    Area of 1c coin = pi*r^2 = pi*(19.05/2)^2 = 285.022956992 sqmm.

    Therefore close-packed 1c coins per sqm =
    1000*1000/285.022956992*0.90689968211 = 3181.84784721

    or 3181.84784721/3.28084^2 per sq Ft = 295.603318905 1c coins per sq Ft


    A ratcheting wood clamp might be easier to use to bend the pennies. Remove the soft pads, then if necessary, file a slot on each of the hard plastic arms to fit the penny into. Or if you have a Dremel, carve a curved slot in each arm. Then just pump the trigger on the clamp to bend.

    You may need to file the slots closer to the sliding bar to avoid clamp flex, but if the clamp is large enough, probably not.

    Along with checking your penny-stock for older (read: valuable) pennies, let me make another suggestion... if you find a few Canadian pennies, don't just throw them away! By putting 1-5 of them on your penny-desktop, it now becomes a puzzle to find them amongst all the others. :-)

    This is an excellent project. I've never done it and the reason I'm posting this to give people a clue that pennies minted before 1964 are 95% copper, after 1964 they are 95% zinc you may wonder why this is important. Well you see at today's metal values a copper penny has an actual value of between 2 and 3¢ each. That plus the fact that in a $25.00 box of pennies you will probably find about 12-20 wheat pennies, ok now we are talking real money here. In ten $25.00 boxes of pennies I have found 2 Indian head coins, and this is a true treasure. I can't explain why these truly old coins might be found in a box that you get at the bank but I suspect that these old coins were in a junk drawer and finnaly taken to the bank without consideration of their potential value today.

    3 replies

    Um, the cut off is 1982, not 1964. The 1964/1965 cut off was the quarter/dime silver/clad change. (half dollars/dollars still had more silver for a couple more years)

    I believe there were 7 different US pennies made in 1982. There were different variations from solid copper to copper plated zinc. There was also a minor change in the date font styles. I have all seven 1982 penny designs in a sealed set.

    IMHO your 7 cents with the variations is, how can I put it . . . cool.

    As for the cents table, very clever. I did wonder how the raised texture would be handled but the "bar table" coating answered my question.

    A great project and for the most part an excellent bunch of comments and suggestions!