10 Steps to Build a Coffee Table from Wood – Do It Yourself Guide

Written by Stephen

On April 16, 2021
Coffee Table DIY

Coffee tables are low tables that act as a convenient support for your beverages, remote, magazines and other bits of items that you want to access while sitting. While coffee tables are thought to have been designed as early as the Renaissance, this style of furniture first become widespread during the Victorian Era in England and has since then become a ubiquitous part of homes ever since.

If you are looking for a coffee table for your home, why not design one yourself! Coffee tables are very easy to construct and don’t require expert knowledge in woodworking to build. Here’s a step by step guide on how to make a coffee table.

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Table of Content

  1. How to Build a Coffee Table
  2. Tools & Material You Need
  • Step 1: Decide on the Dimensions
  • Step 2: Cut the Board to the Right Length
  • Step 3: Stick the Top Together
  • Step 4: Secure it With Screws
  • Step 5: Create the Apron
  • Step 6: Further Secure It in Place
  • Step 7: Building the Stand
  1. Standard Four Leg Design
  2. Single-Leg Design
  • Step 8: Sand the Surface
  • Step 9: Stain or Paint the Wood
  • Step 10: Add a Finish to Your Coffee Table
  1. Tip & Warning
  • Avoid Damaging Your Floor
  • Use a Finishing Wax with Light Paint
  • Wear Protection

How to Build a Coffee Table

Tools & Material You Need

Here is a list of all the tools and materials you will need for the project. Improvise where you don’t have the item in the checklist.

  1. Power Drill
  2. Tape Measure
  3. Stain
  4. Polyurethane or Polyacrylic Finish
  5. Paint
  6. Paint Brush
  7. Clamps
  8. Pencil
  9. Wood Glue
  10. Ruler
  11. Piece of cloth
  12. Sanding Block
  13. Sand Paper
  14. 3 Inch Screws
  15. Power Saw

Step 1: Decide on the Dimensions

For your DIY coffee table, the first step would be to decide on the dimension of the coffee table you want to build – how wide, tall and long. Ideally, your coffee table should be at a height that allows for convenient access of items on it whiling your sitting on the sofa or chair in front of it. For this example, we will be making a 48 in x 28 in x 18 coffee table.

Step 2: Cut the Board to the Right Length

Using a table measure and a pencil, make the desired lengths on the boards and cut them using a power or table saw. For this example, you can use standard 2×8 for the tabletop and apron. You will need:

  • Two 52 In
  • Three 22 In Pieces
  • Ten 28 In Pieces (extra two optional)
  • In the case of the legs, you can 4×4 boards
  • Four 18 in Pieces

Step 3: Stick the Top Together

Using wood glue, carefully stick the 2-inch sides of six 28-inch boards together so that they form one large rectangular board. Make sure that the 8-inch sides are in an even line on both ends. Use clamps to firmly hold them together until the glue tries.

Alternatively, you can cut or order a 48×28 piece of plywood for this purpose and skip to step 5.

Step 4: Secure it With Screws

Use two of the remaining four 28-inch boards as a means to firmly secure the tabletop. Place them underneath it exactly 4 inches away from the opposite ends of the 28-inch sides. Place them so that both of them lie across all the tabletop pieces. Use a power drill to carefully screw 3-inch nails into both of these boards, one or two secure into each piece of the tabletop on both sides.

Alternately, you can use the old-fashioned way and just hammer straight nails into the board but this method may require a bit more woodworking skill to achieve flawless results.

Step 5: Create the Apron

An Apron provides further support to your coffee table and also helps improve its overall aesthetics. Use the last two of the 28 in boards and glue them on their 8-inch side at 90 degrees with the tabletop. Take two 52 in long boards and apply a similar procedure for the longer two sides of the tabletop. These two boards are 4 inches longer than the sides so that they also cover the length of the shorter pieces used in creating the apron.

Make sure that the top of the apron is at even level with the top side of the table. Use clamps to secure them in place until the glue dries.

Step 6: Further Secure It in Place

Using a power drill and 3-inch screw nails, firmly secure the apron in place. As an optional measure, you can add greater structural integrity to the coffee table by adding support beams. Do this by gluing two 28-inch boards on their 2-inch sides at even distance from the center, ideally at 13 inches from it on the opposite ends. Once the glue dries, secure them in place with screw nails.

Step 7: Build the Stand

Now that the top part is complete, it’s time to build the support it will stand on. Here we will be giving two design options. The easier standard four leg design and a slightly more complicated single-leg design. Proceed with the type that suits your preferences the most.

Standard Four Leg Design

Attaching them to the tabletop is a straight forward process. Individually place the legs at the extreme sides of the inside of the tabletop, in the 4-inch space between the apron and the support boards. The 4×4 should fit in snugly but if it doesn’t just use a 320 coarse-grit sandpaper to smoothen the surface of the 4×4 until it does so.

Apply glue at the top end of the 4×4 as well as the inner sides of the apron which will touch the board. Repeat the same process with the rest of the three and secure them in place with clamps. Once dried, get your power drill and uniformly screw in the nails. Afterward, if the foot of the table feels uneven, you may sand them until all of them are leveled.

Single-Leg Design

For this design, instead of four 18-inch 4×4, you will need:

  • One 18-inch piece
  • Four 12-inch pieces
  • Two 9-inch pieces
  • Two 10-inch pieces.
  • Seven 5-inch screw nail

First mark down the exact center of the table. You can use the tape measure and a pencil to find the spot. Now stick two 10-inch 4×4 at the foot of the leg and once dried, secure them firmly using screws and a power drill. At the ends of the 10-inch boards, glue two 12-inch boards so that that foot makes a 12×10 rectangle. Wait for it to dry and secure it with nails.

Afterward, before you glue and secure the leg to the center of the table, create the support first. Using a pencil and a ruler, create a 4×4 square around the center mark. Glue two 12-inch 4×4 on the opposite sides of the square so that they are parallel to the 28-inch side of the table.

On the longer 52-inch side, glue two 9-inch 4×4 so that fit in between the boundary of the square and the support beams. Now finally, add glue on the top end of the leg and snuggly if it in between the support on the marked square. It should fit in snuggly but if it doesn’t, just sand it until it does. Once the glue

dries, screw a nail from the top, through the table and into it.

Step 8: Sand the Surface

Before you can apply a finish, it is recommended to sand the surface of the wood to make the coating process easier. Use a 320-grit sanding block to smooth all the surfaces of the coffee table. Thoroughly work across the furniture so to ensure there is no sharp edge or uneven surface remaining. This process can feel tiresome but it is essential if you want the best result out of your hard work.

Once you are done with the process, use a cloth to wipe off any dust, lint or residue that may have been left on the table.

Step 9: Stain or Paint the Wood

If you want to give your coffee table a rich, rustic appearance, coat it with a light or dark stain. However, if you want to have the coffee table look as it is instead, consider skipping to step 10.

Began by gently dipping the paintbrush into the stain, allow the excess liquid to drip off and work in a smooth back and forth stroke to apply an even coat of stain. Wipe off the excess with a piece of cloth and wait for the stain to dry for 7-8 hours before applying a second coating.

If you truly want a vintage look to your coffee table, consider applying a light stain for the top and a darker one for the log(s).

Instead of staining the coffee table, you may want to have it colored. Began by coating the table surface with a thin layer of primer and wait 1-2 hours for it to dry completely. Primer makes it easier for the paint to stick to the surface and retain its original color. For those hard to reach surfaces such as the interior side of the tabletop, you can use a spray-on primer.

Using long back and forth strokes, apply the paint evenly over the surface. Leave it to dry for a day before applying a second coat. For a distinct look, you can paint the tabletop and legs a different color of the paint. Let the paint cure for three to seven days before proceeding with the next step.

Step 10: Add a Finish to Your Coffee Table

Now with the rest of the process done, it is time to apply one final step to our coffee table and that is to apply a finish, which will help make the wood more durable and better protect it against moisture. In a well-ventilated area, apply a polyurethane or poly acrylic finish evenly over the surface. Wait for it to dry for 3-4 hours before applying a second coat.

For the finish, you can choose between semi-gloss or matte. A semi-gloss finish is more durable and easier to clean, making it ideal if you are placing the coffee table in high traffic or moisture-heavy environment such as your kitchen, living room or outdoors. A matte finish, on the other hand, gives off a better look and better manages to hide any imperfections. However, it is also harder to clean and overall, less durable.

Tips & Warnings

Avoid Damaging Your Floor

The hard and edged wooden surface of the table leg(s) can damage the flooring. Attach felt at the bottom of the leg(s) to avoid such predicaments.

Use a Finishing Wax with Light Paint

A polyurethane or Poly acrylic finish will tend to yellow over time, making less them than ideal for use if you have painted your coffee table with a lighter color. Instead, consider using a finishing wax for the purpose. Apply the wax with a clean cloth and leave it to dry for an hour. Repeat the process 3-4 times for the best results.

Wear Protection

Whenever working with power tools and wood, make sure to always wear adequate protection. Wear goggles to protect your eyes from dust and any wood shatter. When sanding or painting, make sure to wear a filter mask and if possible, work in a well-ventilated area.

We hope you found this DIY coffee table guide to be useful. Consider sharing it with others who may also find it useful. Have you worked on any woodworking project that you are particularly fond of? Share more details about it with us in the comments below.

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