This vodka bottle coffee table was inspired by the wonderful Ten Green bottle shelves.
In this instructable I demonstrate various simple uses for a router: rounding edges, making template curves, and cutting small circles.
You can easily make a bottle table or shelf with no router, but I wanted this project to look really nice. I also like using my router. :-)
Basically we are going to build two wooden shelves and cut holes for the tops of the bottles, slot the bottles in, and then tension the two turnbuckles to hold the whole thing together. It's genius, really.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
4 identical solid glass bottles (I used 500 mL 42 Below vodka bottles, they are long and thin)
A sufficient quantity of reasonable quality wood (I used 10 planks of white pine, measuring 90 x 20 x 900 mm)
50 x 30mm wood screws (I used square-drive, the bits never slip and eat the screws)
4 x metal hooks
2 x turnbuckles (I used the cheapest ones the hardware store had)
Small amount of chain, or a few S hooks
Router with straight and roundover bits
Pencil and paper
Saw of some kind (I used a circular saw)
Sandpaper - I used grits 100, 180, 220, 280
Eye protection (essential)
I also used the following tools, but they aren't essential:
Electric sander (without this you will need a lot of elbow grease)
Extra handheld drill
Angle grinder (for cutting chain)
This project is quite router-heavy, I haven't had access to a router for a project like this before, and I wanted to try it out various router techniques.
This project uses several power tools. Respect these tools, never take shortcuts. Safety First. Remember hearing and eye protection.
Step 2: Prepare the Wood
My wood needed a bit of tidying up to make the surfaces look nice. I sanded all the planks with 100 grit sandpaper.
I then decided which pieces looked nicest for the top, second nicest for the bottom shelf, and third-nicest for the supports.
Next, cut all the planks to length. Cut the wood with a circular saw, running it along a straight piece of scrap that you have lined up with a square.
The wood I was working with was a bit wonky (not perfectly square/straight along the edges). Not enough to see by eye, but enough so that I knew it wouldn't glue up very well. I haven't got a good setup for jointing boards yet, so I built the project with this wonkiness in mind.
Step 3: Curve the Corners
Using roundover bits on a simple corner results in a nice point, but as a coffee table, I didn't want people barking their shins on a corner.
In the past I would have made these curved corners using a handheld jigsaw, but I find that these are never straight (up-and-down), aren't identical, and need _lots_ of tidying up.
So I made a simple jig to make identical corners with my router, and again using the template bit.
You need to get the curve on the jig very smooth and circular. Check it against something actually circular, like a cut disc of wood or a mug.
The jig clamps on, lined up with the edges of the board. Move across with the router, taking away material gradually. Make sure to move the router in the correct direction and keep the router firmly level on the wood.
Tidy up the corners with 80 or 100 grit sandpaper. My corners were quite rough at this stage because of the transition from end grain to straight grain. They cleaned up fine with the sandpaper.
The corners need to be quite smooth and uniform, or the edges won't look good after you round them over.
I did my corners after rounding over the edges of the boards. I recommend doing these corners before rounding over the edges.
Step 4: Round the Edges
Next, start routing. I rounded over the top edges on each board, and the bottom edges on the boards that would form the side edges of the shelves.
I used a simple router table that I made out of MDF, an old Workmate, and a scissor jack as a router lift.
While routing, I use scrap pieces to make sure the roundover bit was at the correct height.
Remember to push the wood in the correct direction against the bit. Climb cuts are very dangerous and can ruin your fingers and your wood very quickly.
Cut gradually. I pushed each edge of the boards very gently along the bit, then a bit more firmly, then made a final run pushing the board firmly against the bearing on the bit.
Why are we routing so many edges?
Part of the reason I am rounding each edge is so that it will be less obvious in the final product if any of the boards don't match up exactly. If I left the board edges flat, any parts where they don't line up would be easily visible.
This is also the reason I screwed the boards together with supports rather than gluing them up. If you had nice straight wood then you could just glue it up (with dowels / biscuits).
Step 5: Make Bottle Top Holes
My original plan was to use my hole saw and drill press to make the holes for the bottles. However my holesaw is gettng a bit old and didn't want to make neat holes at the desired size.
I was able to make a nice smooth hole in a piece of scrap using a different holesaw blade, and used that hole as a template for my router. This involves using the metal template-following attachment to guide the router.
My router bit wasn't long enough to do the whole depth of the wood, so I ended up with a neatly square-bottomed circular cavity. I turned the planks over, drilled a large hole in the middle of the cavity and used a flush trim bit to finish the rest of the hole depth.
I then rounded out the inside of the holes. This is super-easy, and looks really cool. This part of the table isn't very visible, though, so you could leave this step out if you want.
You could make these holes after the shelves are assembled, but I found it easier to work with the individual planks.
You could also leave the holes out, but then your coffee table wouldn't have legs. :-)
Step 6: Support Pieces
The support pieces are very simple. I made my support pieces with a 45 degree angle at each end, so they wouldn't be so obvious when the shelf is made.
If you have solid wood shelves, or solidly glued up shelves, then supports won't be necessary.
The supports do help to provide more depth to screw the tuckbuckle hooks into, and also helped pull all my ever-so-slightly-wonky boards into a single flat plane.
Step 7: Sand Inside Edges
Before assembling the shelves, I sanded the inside roundover edges, because they would be difficult to sand after the shelves were together.
I sanded the edges with 180 grit, then 220 grit and lastly 280 grit sandpaper.
Step 8: Shelf Assembly
Now it's time to screw the shelves together using the support pieces.
To line up the supports before drilling, I marked their centre to match the centre line of the shelf, marked the distance from the ends I wanted the supports to be, and used my square to line up the supports at 90 degrees, the right distance from the ends. Then I clamped the support down for drilling and screwing.
I made a small paper jig to line up the screw holes on the supports in a uniform fashion. This might seem minor, but it only takes a minute to make the paper guide, and then the screws look great.
Make sure you aren't drilling all the way through to the surface of the shelves. You can put a piece of masking tape on your drill bit as a guide/reminder of the depth you are drilling.
Also, make sure you don't screw the screws in too far. It is pretty easy to break through into the top of the board if you get over-enthusiastic.
This is where two drills come in handy - one to drill, the other to screw!
Pine is very soft, so countersinking the screw holes wasn't necessary. If you are using hardwood, though, I would countersink all the holes (a third drill would come in handy).
You could glue the supports onto the planks instead of (or as well as) using screws but I wanted to be able to take the whole thing apart (to reuse the wood) if something didn't work out or if I wasn't happy with the final product.
Step 9: Roundover Shelf Ends
At this stage I was able to finish rounding over the ends of the boards. The shelves are really too big for my router table, so I clamped the shelves to my sawhorse and used the handheld router directly on the shelves.
Step 10: Sand
I wanted this project to look really nice, so I sanded the shelves of the coffee table with 180 grit, then 220 grit and lastly 280 grit sandpaper.
I just have a standard vibrating/rotating sander, not a random orbital sander (it's on my list of tools to buy, though). It does a fine job.
Yes, it seems boring, and it is a bit of work, especially on all the edges, but the electric sander makes quick work of sanding the flat surfaces.
I don't mind sanding actually, it's great feeling the wood become smoother and nicer as you work.
Step 11: Test Assembly
At this stage I wanted to make sure the thing was going to fit together properly.
I screwed two hooks into the supports under the top shelf, and a matching set into the surface of the bottom shelf and into that support.
I cut a few links of chain to extend the turnbuckles (my turnbuckles aren't quite long enough to reach from top to bottom). S hooks would work great as well.
With everything upside down, I set the bottles up and attached the turnbuckles, shuffled the bottles a little, and then everything locked into place nicely.
Step 12: Adjustments
At this stage I did notice a subtle flaw: there were some small vertical gaps forming due to the planks being bent upwards and downwards by the bottles pressing on them. My solution was to add a small additional support to each end of the shelves to hold the planks together.
If I was building the table again, I would put the supports where the holes for the bottles are, locating the turnbuckles between the bottles. This would eliminate the bending problem.
That was actually my original plan, but I ran into some problems during building which made it simpler to place the supports beside the bottles.
Step 13: Finishing
I finished the wooden parts by wiping on five coats of thinned polyurethane (50% polyurethane, 50% turps). You can buy commercial wipe-on polyurethane, but it is easy to make yourself from standard polyurethane.
The thinned polyurethane was easy to apply and I had no trouble with brush-marks. You do need to be alert for runs and drips though.
I sanded lightly between coats with 320 grit sandpaper. You can also sand out any drips/runs.
Finishing can be the most boring part of a project. To speed things up, I:
- Hung the shelves from the ceiling in my workshop to make it easy to apply finish to both sides of the shelves at the same time.
- Wore an old coat to protect my clothes (no need to put on old clothes for each coat)
- Wore disposable gloves (no need to wash polyurethane off hands)
- Used cheap, throwaway foam brushes (no brushes to clean)
I did a few more coats on the tops of the shelves, where the wear will be. I did the final coat with the shelves horizontal on my sawhorses, so there would be less chance of runs.
The polyurethane came out looking very shiny and plastic-looking (I prefer danish oil finishes), but it will be a tough coating which should work well against the mugs and beer bottles that the coffee table will encounter.
Step 14: Final Assembly
Assembly is the easiest step.
Step 15: Afterthoughts
The glass bottles are quite thick and solid and, once compressed into the coffee table, very strong. Glass as a material is very strong in compression. If I was strength-testing my table I would expect the wood to fail before the bottles broke.
"Aren't you a little short to be a coffee table?"
If you wanted, you could easily increase the height of the bottles using a few discs of wood glued to a cork stuck in each bottle.
Look after your bottles!
Before starting construction, one of my original four bottles fell off a wobbly shelf and broke on my concrete workshop floor, meaning I had to find another identical bottle.
Halfway through building, I found that the top and bottom shelves were not quite the same width (slightly wonky wood, again). So when lining up the supports, bottle-holes and hooks, I measured from the centre line formed by the middle planks. That way, the slightly different widths didn't matter.
I think the table would work with just one turnbuckle. You might have to make sure the hooks were sturdy enough to take that much force though. You could make the hooks more secure by using a hook that bolted through the board, or ceiling hooks that have a metal base and four screws.
A triangular coffee table would look cool and only require three bottles.