Reclaimed Wood Coffee Table Build

A couple of months ago, a neighbor in the middle of a house remodel stacked a ton of wood in his driveway, free for the taking.

Pile of reclaimed wood

I’d been thinking our coffee table was long-in-the-tooth — legs squeaked every time we touched it, and not very mobile – wouldn’t it be great to have it on casters so we could wheel it out of the way to play Kinect games?

Picking the right casters

Decided to have a go at building some furniture.

I had grabbed an old fence gate as part of the booty, and realized it would make a great tabletop. But it was too wide, so started by doing surgery on it to make it narrower.

Surgery on an old fence gate

Overall, the strategy worked well, but by letting a found object dictate the shape of the final product, ended up regretting how close the gate frame was to the table edges.

Had seen a table recently on giant wheels, so thought really big casters could become part of the aesthetic. In the end, wished I had gone even bigger on the casters (might still do that).

Had to do a fair bit of gluing and clamping to take care of splits in the old wood, make it seaworthy for a living room inhabited by a 10-year-old.

Gluing and clamping old wood where it was split

Deciding how much paint to strip was a puzzler.

Stripping paint

I wanted an “old” look, but at each step in the paint stripping process (outdoors, wearing chemical gloves, thanks), found myself wanting to go farther. Ended up taking it all the way down to bare wood, which I thought looked less junky. Looking back at these pictures, kind of wish I had stopped after the third go-round. But ah well.

Sanding between each layer

Wanted it to have a lower shelf to store magazines, and came up with the idea of running copper pipe between the side legs, and just letting a plank rest on top. Pulled old pipe from the scrap bin at Ace Hardware, and used their pipe cutting tool to get the exact length. First go turned out to be 1/4″ too short, had to make a 2nd trip to get it right (Ace dude said I was the first customer he’d ever seen putting the tools back where I found them!)

Drilling out insets for copper pipe that will hold lower shelf

Test fitting copper pipe

Originally planned to strap the shelf to the pipe with leather thong, but decided in the end to just let gravity do its job.

Shelf in place, w/casters

In the end, it’s OK. Really enjoyed the process, but but not totally happy with the result. Wish I hadn’t applied the urethane (I liked the original, lighter color).

Urethane made the wood a *lot* darker

Wish the gate frame wasn’t so close to the edges.

Starting final assembly

Wish I’d picked bigger casters. Wish the legs didn’t end so abruptly. The whole thing just seems more bulky and trashy than what I was going for. But ah well, it’s a learning process.

Not gorgeous, but happy anyway

Doesn’t matter though – feels SO good to work with your own two hands, to turn nothing into something, to end up with something functional. We’ll live with it for a while, see how it goes.


Flickr set

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