Two-Tone Table





Introduction: Two-Tone Table

About: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.

Made from a mixture of scrap and new lumber, this coffee table uses a DIY lamination method to create a solid surface from strips of wood without the need for heavy bar clamps.  All of the strips are yellow pine except for one contrasting stripe of cedar running all the way through the structure.  A series of strips runs 4" below the top surface as a brace and a shelf for magazines or laptops.  Cover strips, with dowel plugs to cover the fasteners, make the edges smooth, concealing the thread rods that hold the strips together.  It makes for a sleek but still very monolithic form.

It uses a method of construction first posted here:  That table uses a random assortment of scrap wood, which is certainly an option in this project as well; I opted to present the different material in a more organized way this time.

The materials can vary in cost, depending on how much you salvage and how much you buy new.  I had a mixture of new 2" x 8"s (which I judged to be most cost-efficient dimension based on how many 1-1/14" strips I could get out of each board) and scrap 2" x 4"s and scrap cedar.  Along with the threaded rods, sanding belts, polyurethane, new drill bits, screws, etc., the table cost about $50 and about 30 hours of time.

Thanks to Ramell Ross for the first five pictures.

You will need these materials:

Cardboard for template
4-6 2" x 8" x 8' yellow pine or equivalent
1 2" x 4" x 8' contrasting wood
1/2" x 24" pine dowel
7 1/2" dia. x 36" threaded rods
14 nuts and washers
2 lbs 2-1/2" drywall screws
wood glue
60, 80 or 100, 120 grit sanding belts
polyurethane or varnish

You will need these tools:

Table saw
Chop saw
Impact driver (optional but very helpful)
Hammer or mallet
Ratchet set
Dremel or hacksaw
Belt sander
Ratchet straps
Orbital sander (optional)

Step 1: Templatin'

The basic design of this table is a shell in the shape of a shallow, inverted "U".  To help visualize the finished form, make a full-size template out of corrugated cardboard or plastic. Big campaign signs work well.  Measure with marker and cut it out with a box cutter.

This table is about 48" long at the shelf, 24" wide, and 17" tall.  The legs cant outwards at about a 20o angle.  The profile is a uniform 1-1/2" thick.

Fit your table to your space; it would look a little more graceful if it were longer than I made it.  

Step 2: Rippin'

Use a table saw to render all your wood into 1-1/2" x 1-1/14" strips.  Cut two or three strips at 1/2"-1" to use as the cover strips on the outside of the table.  It helps straighten out the wood to cut the board to rough widths of about 1-5/8" and then take a blade off of each side with subsequent run-throughs.  This gets the boards as uniform as possible.  When working with generally poor-quality, construction-grade, or scrap material, there may be a lot of bowing and instability.  

Make sure to make full use of all relevant safety equipment.

Step 3: Choppin'

Assemble your strips into a great big pile.  Use your template to determine the lengths of the pieces and the angle of the relevant miters.  

Chop saw the strips to the length, keeping in mind there will be two sets of alternating layers of wood: one will consist of three pieces, one top and two legs; the second will consist of six pieces, one top, one shelf, two filler strips, and two legs.  Setting up a stop on your miter saw can save a lot of work when cutting multiple pieces at the same length. Clamp a block to the chop saw at the desired distance from the blade, then chock to the block with your material, chop, slide, chock, chop, etc.

Place your contrasting stripe somewhere in this scheme to maximum effect.  Cut six cover pieces for the outside edges, mitering them at the leg-top joint.

Step 4: Drillin'

Locate the centers of all your joints in the template and drill a hole there.  Mark all your pieces and drill a hole with a 5/8" spade bit.  Counterbore six outer pieces so the nuts can be countersunk later.  A drill press would be a huge help here.  The accuracy and straightness of the holes here will make it much easier to assemble later.

Step 5: Laminatin'

Trim the threaded rods to the width of the finished table.  

Starting with the counter-bored outer strips, begin to build the table up, one set of strips at a time, using clamps and the threaded rods to encourage alignment.  Smear each strip generously with wood glue and screw to the previous set with drywall screws.  Do not set in the shelf pieces yet; just use them for alignment, without gluing in place.  If using an impact driver, drive the screw in a little, then back out, then in some more, then drive down to prevent the wood from splitting.  Impact drivers are good because they draw the wood tight if bowed.  If using a power drill, I would recommend pre-drilling to prevent splitting.

Assemble the table in two halves, leaving the shelf pieces out.  Push the threaded rods through one half, smear the joint with a lot (a lot a lot) of glue, and drop the second half onto it.  Hammer them together with a hammer and a block or a mallet.  Use two ratchets crank the threaded rods to force the sides together.  Apply ratchet straps if needed.  Allow to dry overnight.

Step 6: Finishin'

Put scraps and shims in any cracks that refuse to close, add generous amounts of glue, and let dry.  Flush out more minor imperfections with a mixture of sawdust and glue.  

Sand the hell out of the "U" with 60 grit, then 80 or 100, then 120 grit sandpaper and a belt sander.  Use the belt sander and aggressive grits to flush the pieces to one another, then higher grits and an orbital sander to get it smooth.  The shelf pieces have been so far left out so the bottom of the "U" can be sanded.  Wear appropriate dust and noise protection when sanding.

Sand the shelf pieces and slide them through.  Run a drill bit through the holes to get everything to line up, if need be.  Add threaded rods and tighten up the shelf joint.

Pilot-drill and counterbore with 1/2" holes in a zig-zag pattern on the six mitered cover pieces.  Glue and screw into place to cover the exposed ends of the threaded rods.  Fill the holes with little dowel plugs, leaving them proud of the finish surface so they can be sanded flush.

Sand again.  And again.  And a lot more.  Wipe with a damp cloth and hand-run with your favored finish.  I went with several coats of a basic semi-gloss polyurethane; this sort of table would respond great to some tung oil, mineral oil, or other penetrating sealer.  Put a couple extra coats on top and on the feet, sanding with 120 grit sandpaper in between coats.  Wax if desired.



    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest

    34 Discussions

    Is that a southern pecan beer on the table? Right on!

    Ok......Where,or better yet.....HOW..... can I drill a hole using an inch and five eighths spade bit in a peice of wood that only measures one and one quarter inch....(which is equal to, one and two eighths)...... by one and one half inch.... (Which is equal to, one and four eighths)?

    1 reply

    Seeing this table inspired me to try it myself. I now have a beautiful coffee table for my apartment! The table saw I used was pretty old and it took quite a bit of ripping to get all the pieces down to the same width. Flipping them between cuts was essential. Once you start piecing the table together, you realize just how important it is to have all your material the same width. Even with a few small gaps between a few of the pieces, staining the table made these imperfections disappear. In fact, I shouldn't even call them imperfections as I feel they add character. Thanks again for the creativity and detail in your instructable!


    Should say 1 1/4, not 1 1/14?

    I loved your design. Had to try making one myself :) Though with a small twist :)


    After looking at your projects I have to say that you have quite a head for design. That one thing can't be taught, you have to have it in you to start with. But, and don't take this this the wrong way, you need to slow down and pay attention to the details, such as joint fit and finish and grain matching. This will turn you projects from neat looking ideas into breath-taking finished projects.
    When built and finished carefully with hardwood; this one project could net you 3 to 4 hundred dollars. Not bad for an afternoon's work. You have a nice shop or at least access to a nice shop and I'd really encourage you to continue to elevate your skills to a level that your designs deserve.
    Keep on keeping on.

    oops. should be just 5/8" spade bit -- an eighth bigger than the threaded rod, to allow for wiggle room to align pieces and holes.

    Nicely done. I love the dovetail joints.

    One the third pic, the left 'leg' looks vertical, rather than slanted. Just an optical illusion?

    1 reply

    In step "4Drillin'",you said to ,....."Mark all your pieces and drill a hole with a 1-5/8" spade bit." I to understand that each piece gets a 1-5/8" diameter hole to accomdate a piece of threaded rod thats only going to be 1/2" in diameter ?

    2 replies

    yup . . . you need some wiggle room because everything may not align perfectly.

    Love this table! I am trying to convince someone around here to teach me how to do it out of leftover boards from our hardwood floors. They are 3/4 " by about 3" wide at varying lengths. I know it sounds lame but the wood is really pretty and very dense. Sanding would be errrr....well. It is Tietje Rosewood.

    4 replies

    Hardwood floors have tongues and grooves in them. You'd have to run them through a table saw to remove both the tongue and the groove. If they're unfinished, you could easily laminate different lengths together to create a longer table but if they're pre-finished, you might run into some difficulty gluing them. Good luck!

    Thank you.
    They are tongue and groove and unfinished as well. It makes for a gorgeous floor but a mess of a residue even years after all the sanding has long been completed. I still find sawdust on screens I forgot to wipe down after all was said and done. I will, indeed, need luck.

    Those are actually really handy for making frames for cabinet fronts- think the "box" that frames the front panels. You wouldn't want to laminate them such that the 3/4" edge it towards the viewer- it would hide a lot of that pretty, expensive grain. I personally would take advantage of the tounges and grooves already in the boards (if they have them) and use them to make a table top. Build it on top on a 1/4" sheet of good plywood, and cut small strips as edge trim to hide the plywood. If they are unfinised (as in, not varnished or stained), I would then use a darker stain and a shellac to make a table that complements the floor. If you are sanding something as large as these tables, you really need either a belt sander or a random orbit sander. If you don't have bar clamps or that many screws, you could glue and stack the strips vertically, top with a straight 2x2 or 2x4, and add weights to press the boards together. You would want atleast 50 lbs per linear foot of wood strips, and not add more than 12" thick of strips at a time.

    Thank you!

    I think the grain would be beautiful as furniture as well, just need more help with details and tips like yours are what make me love this site nearly as much as I love dreaming about having all the time and energy to try every project on here. It's like a giant think tank for the handy and geeky all rolled into one. And I mean that in the best way, as I take quite a large amount of pride in the geekiness of my nature.