Sofa Arm Table




Introduction: Sofa Arm Table

About: Growing up in a rural area in the East of England I've always been interested in nature and trees and eventually found myself building things from the wood I could find. This has led me to follow my passion ...

My good friends needed something to keep drinks on whilst at the sofa and so asked me to build them a sofa arm table. The arm of their sofa certainly isn't orthodox so this wasn't as straightforward as it first seemed but adding a small piece on the side proved to be the simple solution. I made it from reclaimed pine with sapele dowels and finished it with a hard wearing varnish, so hopefully it'll cope for a while with the various spills and scrapes its likely to encounter.

I hope you enjoy this Instructable and the accompanying video, more detailed instructions follow below.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Tools -

- Pencil and rule

- Combination square

- Knife

- Tenon Saw

- Smoothing plane

- Clamps

- Mallet

- Chisel

- Flush cut saw

- Brace and 6mm bit (or drill)

- Pein hammer

Materials -

- Around 80cm of your chosen wood

- A small piece of wood to make dowels

- Wood glue

- Sandpaper

- Painters/masking tape

- Varnish (or your chosen finish)

Step 2: Making the Prototype and Cutting the Wood

I decided to make a prototype for this build as the sofa arm is such an odd shape I wanted to make sure it fit before I began making the final product.

When cutting the pine I decided to cut all the lines deeply with a knife. This was not only to mark it clearly but also to try and stop the pine breaking out when I started sawing it, a problem I regularly encounter with soft woods. There's only 4 pieces to this product (besides the dowels) and it can quite easily be made from scraps you have lying around.

After I cut all the pieces I set up a plank on my workbench to push against to plane each piece down with a smoothing plane. I also made sure to clamp each piece into the vice and make very slight adjustments with the plane to make sure all the ends were square. As this table is made with butt joints the ends of the boards, as well as the faces, need to be as square as possible.

Step 3: The First Glue Up

This first glue up is just to get all the pieces in place and solid enough to drill and insert the dowels. Gluing end grain onto anything is not really a strong enough bond to ensure years of use. After putting glue on the ends of the boards and the faces of other boards I began to clamp them all into place.

Its important to ensure that each piece is being clamped squarely to another piece. Sometimes I had to adjust the positions of the clamps to make a board angle one way or another to ensure it was all square. I also made sure to keep checking with a small square.

I waited a day for the glue to dry before the next step.

Step 4: Drilling the Dowel Holes

To get the dowels in the right place I measured half the width of the boards with a combination square. I then stuck some painters tape down on the edges and marked a line down the length of the tape with the combination square. I set the two end dowels in 1.5cm from each side and then one in the centre between them.

I added the painters tape for two reasons, firstly I didn't want to put any extra pencil marks on the table and also the tape seems to help stop too much breakout when drilling the holes. As you can see it required some creative clamping when drilling into the unsupported side!

I used a 6mm drill bit and went down to a depth of about 4.5cm, to ensure accuracy I added a piece of tape to the drill bit to show where I had to stop for each hole.

Step 5: Making and Insterting the Dowels

Using the drill bit where it was marked I held it against the sapele and made a mark just a little bit longer than the depth of the holes. After cutting that section off I could chisel down it to split pieces off and then chisel it again to split those pieces in half. It was then just a case of whittling the dowels down with a chisel or knife until they were slightly thicker than the 6mm hole.

The satisfying part is tapping the dowels through the dowel plate (a process you'll miss if you buy the dowels!). After tapping a dowel through the hole I then just used another dowel to hit on the top of it to get it out of there.

I squirted a little bit of glue into each hole and then put a small amount on each dowel before tapping them in firmly but carefully with a pein hammer.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

When the glue dried a day later I used a flush cut saw to trim off the dowels. As there were some small breakouts around the dowels I mixed up some sawdust with glue and rubbed it into the gaps. When it dried I used a plane and some sandpaper to smooth it all down and chamfer the edges.

Step 7: Applying Finish and Having a Drink!

I applied three coats of a hard wearing varnish to the arm table to try and combat the amount of spills and scrapes it might encounter. As they have a two year old boy who seems to love using it as a car platform I'm guessing its gonna need that varnish!

It was a fairly simple build and required a very slight adjustment when placing onto the sofa, I had to add more of a chamfer to the inside edge to make sure it didn't scrape the chair material too much.

If you enjoyed that then please leave a thought below, all criticisms, comments and general greetings are welcome. If you'd like to see extra photos and videos of my projects as well as what happens in and around my shed then give the Timber Anew Facebook Page a like, hope to catch you soon! Thanks a lot!



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    22 Discussions

    I'm trying to figure out what's to stop the table from tilting; seems that the straight side would ride up so the whole thing would gradually tilt sideways...

    1 more answer

    I initially thought the same thing when seeing many of the versions of sofa tables that are out there. This sofa was more of a challenge because of the odd shape of the arm, but that's the reason why I designed it with a piece angling toward the sofa. Its a very snug fit and actually kind of slots onto the arm rather than just sitting on it. I can see why you'd think it would tilt though.

    Omg Thhat is reallly cool and it frees up spaceon the floor, I have a serious question though, How much would you charge me to make two of them . I llive in an apartment that. Has little to no space, aand i do not have the tools to make thhem however i am willing to purchase them. PLEASE RESSPOND back and let me know if we can work. Ssomething out. Thank you in advance, ..

    5 replies

    Oh thank you Faith, that's very kind of you to say. Unless you live in the UK I'm not sure it would be worth your time as the postage to the US or Canada for example would be astronomical!

    Omg thanks so much for your help. HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS and thanks again

    My pleasure Faith, I hope you can find someone on that list to help you out. Merry Christmas!

    Is there anyway you could find out how much shipping would coast approximately???I really want them, .. just aaan approximation I llove inn Tucson Az. . If that helps.. Seriously waiting for your reply.

    Your Instructable is very clear and easy to follow, with great photos. Your point about the hard wearing varnish is right on. I often use polyurethane and have been happy with that. Thank you for a job well done!

    I know your friends will happily receive years of good use and plenty of compliments on the addition to their sofa. I made one of these sofa-shelves years ago but it was a much easier build because the end arm was more vertical, therefore more comfortable and serviceable.

    Keep those 'ibles coming! Carry on!

    1 reply

    Well thank you very much Bev! Yes I think the hard wearing varnish is a must to be honest, not just for the drinks but also their little boy has decided to use it as a road for his cars!

    I think my shed could do with some of your organisation tips!

    Nice job. I made one similar.

    3 replies

    Looks great Mark, I like the angled bit you put on there, it makes sense!

    I would never admit that I have a beer belly but let's just say some people need more room than others.

    Hahaha, well then it certainly seems to serve its purpose.

    Your arm table is great but your instructable is really awesome Clint!

    1 reply

    Ahh thank you Stephan! A gentleman as always!

    love this! So clever and practical! something I really need on my lounge!
    I noticed your lounge is rather "firm" I wonder how this would go on one that has softer finishings. (I obviously have one that has big soft cushioning!) lol I guess the only way to find out is to give it a go =) Thank you for sharing.

    1 reply

    Aw well thank you very much, its really just a modified version of others I've seen around here n there. Its my friends sofa and you're right, it is rather firm. I suppose it would work on a soft arm as long as it fitted snugly around it. I'm sure you'll figure it out!