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Building a Simple Coffee Table

Here's how to make a simple coffee table that will look great in any living space!


Back in December, I was approached by a friend of mine inquiring about building a coffee table. He told me that the one he currently had was cheaply built and beginning to fall apart, so this time around he was looking for something a little stronger that could last a while. Working with that, I began, as I always do, by creating a design in Fusion 360.


It's a super simple design that could easily be finished in a variety of different ways to fit any style. My friend was looking for a table that had a darker color to accent the furniture he already had in his apartment, so I ended up finishing it with a walnut stain. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, before we can finish a piece it has to be built!


The supplies I used on this project are as follows:

(purchasing through these affiliate links supports DIY With Ry)

Cutting the Lumber


When cutting down the lumber for each project, I always try to tackle the biggest boards first. From my experience, these boards usually require the most work so I find it more productive to tackle them first before moving on to the smaller boards. For this build, the biggest boards were the 4x4 posts which were used in the legs and lower frame rails. I started off by getting the posts, along with the rest of the lumber, cut down to length on the miter saw. On the 4x4 posts and the 1x10 boards, I had to make each cut twice since I was using a 10-inch, non-sliding miter saw.


After the boards were cut to length, I proceeded over to the table saw where I finished making all of the cuts. For the legs, this was trimming them down to their final 2x2 dimensions. I ended up making two passes again on the legs since the table saw couldn't completely cut through the posts. Once the legs were done, I turned my attention to the lower frame rails. These needed to be cut to size and have a 1" rabbet cut along the inside edge to receive the the lower shelf. I repeated this process for the 2x6 boards that would be used to frame the table top. The last thing to do from there was to trim the upper frame rails, lower shelf pieces, and table top center boards to the correct width.


Assembly


Now that the lumber was all cut to size, the assembly process could begin. My original idea was to try using a more traditional method of joinery to grow my skills in woodworking. But after that didn't quite work out I resorted back to using pocket hole screws and glue. I first built up the two end pieces, then attached them together with the long frame rails as this seemed like the easiest way to assemble the table. After the frame was built up, I turned my attention to the table top. I tried my hand again at using dowels to join the table top frame together and this time worked out better. Last thing to do was to attach the boards that make up the lower shelf and table top using glue and brad nails.


At this point I began dry fitting the table top to the base, but held off on completely attaching it until after I stained everything. This made it easier to reach all of the various areas of the table.


Sanding, Stain, and Finishing


We've hit everyone's favorite part of the project, time to sand things smooth! Since no one should be directly eating off of this table (at least I hope they don't...), I didn't bother with sanding to an incredibly high grit. Starting with 80 grit to knock down a lot of the saw marks and other irregularities in the wood, I worked my way up through 120 grit for a majority of the table and finally to 220 for the table top itself. I figured that the table top would see the most usage out of the rest of the piece, so I took careful attention to make sure it was smooth.


Once the sanding was completed, I went over the entire table with a coat of Varathane Premium Dark Walnut Stain. The can states that you can get full coverage in just one coat, and for what I was looking for it did just that. If you did want to get a darker look however, you could apply another coat. Finally, after the stain had a chance to dry, I attached the table top to the base. To make it a little easier to align the top, I had previously drilled out holes on the top and frame for some alignment pegs to be located in. Adding some glue and clamp pressure ensured that the top was securely attached.


The last thing to do from there was to apply finish. I chose Varathane Water-Based Polyurethane as it is easy to clean up, and with a couple coats, provides a good layer of protection.


My friend ended up loving the table. He even texted me about a month later to say again how happy he was with it! Overall, I'm extremely happy with how it turned out as well. This was my first real furniture build, so there was definitely a little trepidation going into it. But in the end it was a really good learning experience.


Some things that I would change in the future if I were to build this again would probably be material selection, doing a little more research into how to use dowel joinery in a project, and maybe spending a little more time on sanding. But you can also go overboard with things like sanding so at some point you just have to be happy with the work you've done. And with that, it's on to the next project!

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