Reclaimed Lift-Top Coffee Table





Introduction: Reclaimed Lift-Top Coffee Table

My favorite part of reclaimed projects is that you get to take items that one person may have deemed old, unusable, or lifeless and give it a second chance to be something beautiful with a whole new sense of purpose. Woodworking is something I have a passion for, and seeing as I only do it in my spare time, I try not to spend too much money on my projects if I can help it. Another reason I love reclaimed projects; they are usually cheap and/or free. My buddy and I have a few years of woodworking experience under our belts and decided to tackle this project together. Alright, let's make!

Step 1: Reclaim Some Wood

Our first step in this project was to reclaim some wood. In our day job, my friend and I both work at an outdoor furniture and hot tub store. As most of you may not know, older hot tubs (and very rarely some new ones still) are wrapped in a cedar cabinet. Cedar is light, easy to work with, and most of all weather proof. Seeing as most hot tubs sit outside for the their lives, these cabinets do a pretty good job weather proofing hot tubs but they also take a beating. Not long ago we picked up an old hot tub that had seen its last day and had been thrown in the back behind our store waiting to be taken to the dump, cedar cabinet still in tact. Being the wood workers we are, we could not let usable wood go to waste...

Step 2: To the Drawing Board

Our next step was to examine the wood we had reclaimed, and start brainstorming. We talked about many different ideas but one that came to mind for me was a lift top coffee table. It was a project I have had on my "want to-do list" for quite some time, but never got to it (you know how that goes). I've always loved the usefulness of a lift top table and the duel purpose it serves. Once upon a time I had seriously looked into starting the project and sought out buying the hardware kit for the lift mechanism. After some shopping around online I was discouraged to find that most finds were way out of budget or not what I was looking for. This time around, we decided we would just make our own...

Step 3: Building the Frame

For the frame, we decided to resort to some redwood that I had received from a neighbor that had torn down a deck and, you guessed it, was ready to throw it out. Once again seeing an opportunity, I snagged a lot of good pieces before the rest were dumped. The pieces I used were actually 2x6's that had previously been used as deck supports that I ripped down on the table saw into 2"x2"s and 1x2's. These were then used for the frame of the table base.

The vertical pieces in the outside corners were notched for 1x2's to frame out the top of the table base. Along the bottom of the base we also added small 45 degree supports to help maintain a square frame and also give us material to attach casters to at the end of the project.

Step 4: Do You Even Lift?

Our next step was to tackle the lifting mechanism. For this we went to some hardwood I had snagged from a pallet. We ripped down the hardwood into pieces that were approximately 1 inch by .75 inches at various lengths. This part took a little time to figure out. The system we chose is pretty straight forward, two pivoting arms on both sides of the table that would attach to a cross support on the lifting top on one end and the base on the other. A couple key points on this part was to nail down what height we wanted the table to sit at in the closed position, and what height and overhang we wanted the top to have at in the open position. This would then determine what size pieces to cut for the pivoting arms and what positions the attach them to the top and bottom cross bars. Once we had those figured out, we made up a "mock draft" of sorts with a couple scrap pieces of thin hardboard to verify that our placement and sizes were correct. We then cut the hardwood, and precisely drilled for the lock nuts, washers and bolts to connect.

Step 5: Just Face It

At this point with the frame and lift mechanism done, it was time to start adding the outside of the base. These cedar tongue and groove boards looked pretty rugged when we picked them up. After a little TLC (and a lot of sanding), they turned out great. The length of pieces we had gave us some obstacles on what kind of design we could do. We wanted to do something more than just run the boards vertical all the way around. We ended up settling on running the slats horizontally on the ends of the base and then vertically on the front and back. We also gave the bottom lip about a half an inch overhang off the bottom of the frame for aesthetic purposes knowing we were going to put the table on casters. All these boards were glued and tacked on with an 18 gauge nailer.

Step 6: Top It Off

From the beginning we knew we wanted to do some sort of design aesthetic for the top. We tossed around a lot of ideas and came up with something that we thought would look good and match the perpendicular element of the base. One important aspect of the top was that we didn't want the cedar planks to run all the way to the outside edge. We were concerned that, if the cedar planks were being grabbed and pulled on in order to lift the top up, we could risk popping a plank loose over time. To alleviate this concern we decided to fabricate an L-shaped piece using the reclaimed deck wood that would attach to the plywood base on the top, and also give a finished look around the edge. Lifting on this piece would then not put any pressure on the cedar planks themselves. After gluing and leaving the clamps on overnight, it was time to sand. Once again, the transformation of these cedar planks is awe-inspiring. Who would have guessed that those dirty weathered, rotting boards could turn into something this beautiful?

Step 7: Let's Roll

The last couple steps were to add a bottom inside the base and attach the casters. The casters ended up being the only parts besides the hardware that were purchased, everything else in this project was reclaimed for free. The bottom floor inside was made out of the same batch of deck wood previously mentioned. Two reasons for using that specific wood is that I liked the wider planks for the floor, but also because it is 1 inch thick and fairly heavy adding some good weight to the base portion of the table. I wanted the base to be heavy enough that when the top was opened, it could stand having weight put on it without the risk of it tipping over. After that, it was a final once over with some sand paper and dusting off.

Step 8: Conclusion

Overall, this was an insanely fun project. I love a project that challenges you to think and get creative. This project was far from perfect and evolved throughout the process, but, ultimately I think it turned out better than I could have imagined. I am extremely happy with the end result and I am ready to put it to good use (like I currently am, writing this Instructable on it!).

At this point the wood does not have a finish on it. We are still debating on wether or not we'd like to stain it or leave natural and seal with poly. Tell me what you think in the comments!

Thanks for tuning in, until next time!

Reclaimed Contest 2017

Second Prize in the
Reclaimed Contest 2017

Furniture Contest 2017

First Prize in the
Furniture Contest 2017



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42 Discussions

Wow, it's cool!

Couldn't think of a pun for conclusion? I can't either, but the rest of it was clever... You got a smile, not a laugh, but definitely a smile out of me.

2 replies

I must've been all "punned" out! I'll take smiles though! Happy to hear my Instructable is at least spreading smiles!

| love this project. I can see this table would serve well in my house and I want to make one for my family room.

May I ask if "the lifting mechanism" can be purchased from the hardware stores or online store like Amazon?

Excellent Instructable! Could we get a copy of you layout for the placement of the pivoting arms? That would be very helpful. Thanks.

2 replies

Hadn't thought about uploading something like that... Let me see if I can draw something up for you!


7 months ago

Great Instructable. I would suggest one modification. Adding some skirting around the bottom would hide the caster wheels to make it look more like a piece of furniture than just a storage box when closed.

Very cool. I pulled the cedar off of a junk hot tub my house's previous owers left us and used them for a variety of smaller projects, including siding on a treehouse. I definitely want to build this.

I'm confused on the licensing on this project though. Doesn't "all rights reserved" imply no implied rights to duplicate?

1 reply

I am on the hunt now for more cedar hot tubs, I can't wait for more for my next project! I apologize for the licensing, I must've set that by mistake. I have since changed it to "public domain". I think it is more appropriate for the culture of Instructables in the first place. Of course I would love to see others make something like it, hopefully with their own unique twist!


7 months ago

Wow! Nice job! One thing about finishing or not. Wood is porous, and dust will find its way into the pores and make your nice work look kind of grungy after a while.

1 reply

Agreed. I think we have settled on a stain and it will definitely get a few good coats of poly on it!

Yes, the pivoting arms are actually pivoting on the bolts themselves. We have washers on the outside and one in between the 2 pieces of wood to keep the friction at a minimum. We talked about actual bearings but wanted to keep this project a little simpler and with hardware I already had.

Great build and a proper 'ible for a change (most are rubbish now) - these lift up coffee tables have been one of my "bucket list projects" for a while. Great use of the cedar.

For the finish may I suggest a 3rd option as it's cedar? Sho sugi ban. It was designed with cedar in mind (though other woods work too) a good torching to get the cracking effect, followed by several applications of a deep penetrating oil like danish, tung or even linseed of you can stand the wait for it to dry.

Apart from being in vogue at the moment, it will give a bit more interest as cedar can be a bit bland with little grain effect going on.

The glass topper is also a good idea I think

I don't usually vote on these as most of them are rubbish but this one deserves it - well done!

1 reply

Truly appreciate the comment! The method you described is actually something I had just explained to my buddy who helped me make the table. I've seen it before and think it is a really cool concept. I don't think it'll work for this project, after talking with corporate (my wife) we may end up going for a stain to match the rest of the living room furniture. But I definitely have that on my "bucket list" for projects.

Ol dad

7 months ago

First time I've voted without fearing to lose my vote for waste. Good job buddy

1 reply

Thank you! Much appreciated!

Nicely done! I like the opposing boards on the top to add some character and break the monotony. Based on what else I see in the picture, my vote is to use some poly and keep it looking as natural as possible!

1 reply

Thank you! That is what we were hoping for, not monotonous but not over the top. Thanks for reading!