Upcycled Helm Coffee Table




Instructable on how to make a coffee table from some old materials including a ships helm. I made this for a school project on upcycling and would appreciate any feedback on the product and the instructable.

Step 1: What You Need


  • Ships helm (I got mine from a local reclamation yard)
  • Something to use as a base for the table, I used the leg from a billiards table also from the reclamation yard
  • Grey paint primer
  • Paint any colour you want (I would suggest a satin finish)
  • Reinforced glass sheet the slightly larger than the helm (needs holes in specific places see step 4)
  • Thick rope
  • Felt
  • A circular piece of mdf with a radius slightly larger than half the radius of the glass
  • Super glue
  • Masking tape
  • Fixing resin (something like this)


  • Angle grinder
  • Paint brushes
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Sand paper or sander

Step 2: Cleaning the Metal Parts

As most helms that are available and aren't to expensive are usually pretty dirty and rusted the first job is to clean the helm. First using an angler grinder with a disk similar to the one shown in the pictures remove all the rust from the metal bands on the edge of the helm this should leave the metal shiny looking.

Then using a spanner remove the inner plate of the helm, this should be made up from two separate pieces of metal one flat piece and one that goes all the way though the helm and supports the pieces of wood that go into the centre of the wheel. Clean the rust off of these two parts with the angle grinder to the same finish as the bands.

Step 3: Renovation of the Wooden Sections of the Helm

I initially sanded down all of my helm so that it is smooth but I didn't take all the paint that was already on the helm off as it had clearly been there a long time and I was struggling to get it off.

After this I covered the metal bands roughly with masking tape and cut away the bits that were not on top of the metal with a Stanley knife. The masking tape was so that no paint would get on the metal. I now applied two coats of grey priming coat, and following that two coats of paint, this left a smooth shiny finish on the helm, so i removed the masking tape.

Step 4: Sizing the Glass

I ordered my glass from a company called Roman glass and it should be about the size of the helm but slightly larger. Using the flat metal plate that was taken off when the metal was being cleaned, measure the width size and spacing of the holes on this plate and they should be replicated on the centre of the glass. Reinforced glass cannot be altered after it has been brought so make sure the measurements are right before ordering.

Step 5: Making the Table Base

Cut the object you are using to make the stem of the table down to a suitable size (the table should be about 40cm tall when finished) make sure the cut edge of the stem is flat.

Now prime both the mdf circle and the stem of the table with to coats of primer and then give both two coats of the paint you used on the helm.

To attach the base to the stem drill 8 holes evenly spaced around the centre of the bottom of the mdf base, then counter sink these holes. Place the stem on the floor (top edge downwards) then place the mdf base on top of the stem bottom upwards and screw through the predrilled holes into the base until the screws are flush with the bottom of the base.

Step 6: Felting and Roping

Cut a circular piece of felt the size of the base and glue it to the bottom of the base using super glue this will mean that the table wont scratch wooden floors.

Now add the rope to the base by putting looping the rope once around the stem of the table, then put nails through the rope into the stem, after the first loop of rope begin putting super glue down on the base and wind the rope round the stem this should make a spiral of rope that covers the base and surround the stem.

Step 7: Final Assembly

As this is quite a complicated step I have added drawings showing the order in which the materials should be arranged. First mark up the top of the table stem using the holes in the metal plate that goes all the way through the helm. Now drill these marks using a drill bit that is wider than the bolts that will go all the way though the helm and into the table stem.

Next place the flat metal plate on top of the glass and then put the helm on top of that and then finally the last metal plate, place the bolts you are using all the way through these layers and then flip them over so the bolts stick upwards out of the bottom of the thick supporting metal plate.

Fill the holes drilled in the stem of the table with the fixing resin, this sets in a matter of minutes so the next part of the assembly must be done very quickly. Flip the stem and base of the table so the bolts go into the resin filled holes. place something heavy on the base of the table and lave the resin to dry. Once the resin is dry the table can be flipped over and the protective plastic removed from the glass and the table is finished.



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    18 Discussions


    2 years ago

    AMAZING! very nice :D Love it!


    3 years ago

    What was the diameter of the ship helm?

    1 reply

    I really like the look of this table - it's very striking. I first saw this a while ago and have been toying with the idea of making something similar for my in-laws, who are sailors.

    Has the MDF base held up well? Is the table at all top-heavy?

    Excellent project and an excellent read - great work!

    1 reply

    the mdf base has held up really well actually, no problems with it. and i havent had any problems with top heaviness either its been walked into and accidentally kicked without falling over.


    4 years ago

    would never have thought about using rope at the base. good idea!!


    4 years ago

    Awesome Work. I Really Like You Idea Of Making A Coffee Table With Ship Helm And I like The Hard Work You Did For Making This Helm Coffee Table :)


    4 years ago

    THAT is an awesome idea!


    4 years ago

    This is awesome.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I have see glass table with an engine, and now with this. My life is complete now. Beautiful work.


    4 years ago

    That looks awesome!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This looks great! Really nice job incorporating found/salvaged materials.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent job! If you come across an item as cool as an old ship's helm, I think it's obligatory that you make something awesome out of it.

    Which you did! Thanks for sharing this.