The one project every DIY person seems to do at one point: A coffee table from reclaimed materials. For this project I used wood and metal both from throwaway pallets, and turned it into this coffee table. You can see more about how this project turned out on my website here.
Step 1: The Boards
For this step I cheated a little bit. I knew I wanted this table to look really nice, and that meant I needed my boards to be as straight as possible with an even thickness throughout. I knew I wasn't going to succeed in that by just using hand planers, so I went to a local workshop that had access to a jointer and planer, and asked them if they could prepare the boards for me. Normally, this is something they wouldn't do, but they liked the idea, so they made an exception. The boards came back beautifully cleaned. I don't recall ever having boards this clean to work with!
Step 2: Dowels and Jigs
Since I wanted the boards to be as tidy and as neatly done as possible AND I wanted to use dowels to reinforce the final slab, I needed a better jig. The previous one didn't work out as well as I'd hoped, so I made new ones. Maybe I'll do a mini instructables on those jigs later. The original jig was based on a youtube video I found here. I made my version with a bit of overhang so I could flip it around and I made the body too thick, which meant I couldn't properly drill through the jig.
I also found during my last project with the boxes that if you use the same side of the jig all the time, there's a bigger chance for the holes you drill to be slightly misaligned. I rememedied this by making a jig with a smaller body and shorter arms. I would clamp the boards together and mark where the holes needed to be for the dowels. Then I would put the jig on the first board and drill, then for the second board, I would flip the drill around and drill from the other side. This way, even if the angles were a bit off, at least the angles of the holes matched each other. This worked quite well.
For this project, I spent money on tools (clamps) and the only other money I spend was on the rods I would cut dowels from. It was much cheaper to just buy a few rods and cut them at lengths of 4 cm. I then took a file and ground the top of each dowel down a bit to make it easier to fit them into the holes... This whole process, from creating the jigs to filing down individual jigs took quite some time.
After the jigs were done connecting, gluing and clamping the boards was easy and straightforward. I had 6 boards total, so made 3 sets of 2, clamped and glued, waited for the glue to dry, then connected the set. When all 6 boards were connected I sanded the whole thing down and had an awesome looking slab.
Step 3: Circle Saw Track Guide and Table Top
Another thing I knew I was going to need was a track guide for my circle saw... oops... another resource I spent money on. I bought 2 small sheets of plywood, a thin one for the base, and a thicker one for the spine. I cut a strip as straight as I could get it from the thick one and screwed + glued it to the thinner sheet. This spine will be what keeps your track guide straight, and will be the area where you can clamp your track guide. So make sure your spine is wide enough so you can put clamps on it without getting in the way of the saw as you run it along the guide.
Once that had dried I ran my circular saw along the spine, cutting through the thinner sheet of plywood. I'm sorry I don't have a photo of the finished track, maybe I'll update it later to give you a better idea, or do another mini instructable.
The reason I wanted to use a guide rail was that after I had glued all my boards, I wanted to cut the ends off as clean as possible. I didn't want to have the risk of the circular saw sliding and getting caught behinds some bump somehow (I had sanded the slab down nice and smooth... but still... safer = better)
To protect the edge of the slab from tear out I put on a few layers of painter's tape around the edges. This would also turn out to work wonders once I started welding the metal frame.
I measured to get a nice 90° cut at the edges, then clamped my track guide and made the cuts. I now had a finished table top.
Step 4: Fitting the Frame Around the Table Top.
To start with I took some metal profiles I scavenged off some old metal pallets and started to clean off the rust on them.
To fit the frame as closely around the table top as possible, I cut the pieces I was going to use and clamped them as closely around the table top as I could. I started on one end, touch welded that, and worked my way, measured, cut and touch welded at the other sides as well.
This is where the painter's tape had another benefit: I prevented (too deep) burns on the wood. It was difficult to strike a balance between touch welding the sides together strong enough to hold, and too strong to A: burn the wood and B: warp the metal. These profiles were thin, and it was tricky to get the amperage right with using the thinnest electrodes I had. By that I mean: getting in that fine spot where the electrode doesn't stick to the material, or burn straight through the material.
Step 5: Welding the Rest of the Frame
After the frame had been touch welded all around the table top, I took the top out and did a full weld around the frame. This was tricky because it was easy to burn through the metal profiles. I ended up burning several holes, then drip feeding material back in to close them (=play with your melting bath and add one drop at a time). When a hole was filled up plenty, I ground off the excess beads. Luckily the drip feeding didn't appear to seal in any slag.
Then I took corner magnets (another thing I purchased for projects like these a while ago... another hidden cost) and measured down and welded on the legs. They needed to be equal in length, and completely at a 90° angle. To prevent accidentally welding in the magnets, you remove them as soon as the feet are attached. But during the welding of the first leg, the heat warped the metal, so I had to cut it off and reattach it at the right angle again.
I added in supports at the feet to the profiles had a big of surface to them and wouldn't cut into the floor. I did this by first welding on a piece of leftover scrap at a 90° with the magnets, then cut them off and shape them with a grinder.
Initially I wanted to put adjustable feet in there for uneven floors. So I had to drill holes in the feet and thread them. But because the metal was thin there was no room for a thread through it. So I cut off another piece of scrap metal and welded a tiny piece in each feet to make it thick enough. Unfortunately, eventually I couldn't drill all the way through this, so the adjustable feet will not be on this table... maybe on another project.
When all this was done I ground everything down nice and smooth, and put a coat of paint on it. Don't know the kind, the cheapest one I can find in whatever sale or flee market. I choose black over transparent.
Step 6: Reinforcing the Legs
I ended up redoing the corners to reinforce them. They were probably sturdy enough, but now they will surely be :)
First I cut some leftovers into the right shape, then ground the paint of the area I would weld again, and welded the new supports in place. I ground off all sharp edges, made the thing nice and smooth again, and put 2 more layers of paint on it.
Then I took the wooden table top, put a few coats of oil on it (Again, some outdoor oil from a sale, but regular linseed will do the job as well) and after that dried I had a new awesome reclaimed pallet coffee table.