No offense to Ikea fans, but many of the furniture pieces offered by the king of Swedish meatballs can be easily made at home (plus, you can’t beat that handmade quality). One of the easiest pieces of furniture to build yourself is a good old-fashioned coffee table. With our help, and a few handy tips from Brad Rodriguez of Fix This Build That, you’ll be able to DIY your own coffee table easily.
Before you start, you’ll need the following:
1. A sheet of plywood, .75-inch thick.
2. 1 x Miter saw.
3. 4 x Corner clamps.
4. 1 x Bottle of wood glue.
5. 1 x Roll of self-adhesive wood veneer.
6. 1 x Utility knife.
7. Cuts of wood in varying lengths (see suggested dimensions below).
8. 12 x 2-inch brad nails.
9. 32 x Deck screws.
10. 1 x Power drill with counter-sink bit.
11. Wood putty.
12. 120 & 220 – grit sandpaper.
13. Wood stain and varnish.
Note: The supplies and steps listed in this guide reflect a basic coffee table design. Feel free to diverge from this guide at any point along the way. Just remember to measure twice and cut once.
Step #1: Choose Your Design
There are a lot of cool DIY coffee table ideas out there. The hard part is finding the right one for your living room. A coffee table should be elegant, yet unassuming. Spacious, yet low profile. Vaguely artistic-sounding words aside, your coffee table should reflect both your tastes and the needs of your household. Here are some coffee table ideas to get you started.
Step #2: Start at the Top
First, familiarize yourself with the anatomy of a coffee table, shown in the diagram below:
Starting with the top, you will work your way down until all three components are complete. The simplest DIY coffee table designs use plywood for the top, with a finished side incorporating your desired choice of veneer. You could also use a piece of reclaimed wood as your top, though it may take a little extra work to size and sand down.
Once you’ve decided on the material for your top, follow these steps to start building your coffee table:
- Cut the plywood to the size and shape you desire. For reference, the average coffee table is approximately one-half to two-thirds the length of a sofa.
- Apply thin wood veneer to the outer edges of the plywood, making sure the edging is just slightly wider than the plywood.
- Trim the edging so it lies flush with the plywood surface.
Step #3: Build the Apron
After you’ve cut the top to the desired dimensions, it’s time to build the apron – the portion of your DIY coffee table that will cover up the underside and connect the four table legs together. To start, follow these steps:
- Use either 1 x 4-inch or 1 x 6-inch stock (dimensions can vary based on your personal design).
- Cut the stock pieces approximately 3 inches shorter than the length and width of the table.
- Cut the ends of the stock pieces at 45 degree angles and join the beveled ends together with glue and corner clamps. Then, secure the pieces in place with 2-inch brad nails.
- Take two pieces of scrap wood (1 x 2 x 6-inches) and screw them into the corners of the apron. Repeat for each corner.
Step #4: Add the Legs
Now that you have your top and apron, you’re ready to make your DIY table stand upright. You can choose to use a different type of wood for the legs, though the easiest to work with is untreated pine – usually 4 x 4-inch posts – cut to the desired height of your table. Once cut, you’ll need to:
- Sand down each leg and chamfer (YouTube How-To) the bottoms to prevent chipping.
- Pre-drill four holes with a counter-sink bit on either side of each corner of the apron (total of eight per corner).
- Use deck screws to secure the legs to each corner using the pre-drilled holes, then cover up the screw heads with wood putty.
Step #5: Final Assembly
To complete the assembly, flip the table top upside down and put the apron on top of it so that it is perfectly centered. Now, attach the apron using little wood blocks, or cleats, placed on the inside of the apron. Pre-drill holes in each cleat before securing in place with screws.
Step #6: Sand & Finish
Now for the fun part! Starting with 120-grit sandpaper, sand down the entire surface of the coffee table, upgrading to 220-grit after a couple of passes with the coarser paper. Be sure to wipe off the dust afterwards.
Use your choice of stain to finish the table. A natural finish, such as tung or linseed oil, will really bring out the natural pattern of the wood. One coat is usually enough, unless you desire a darker color. Be sure to rub in each coat with a rag, and wait a full eight hours before applying the finishing coat.
Once the stain is set, you can pour yourself a cup of coffee (or scotch, neat) and put your feet up on your brand-new DIY coffee table. Got a hankering for more woodworking? Check out our guide to building a DIY kitchen island, or learn how to build your own outdoor bar.