Sweat Equity: The Coffee Table

Did I mention we did these projects consecutively, a while ago? 🙂


Just a quick follow-up for the visually gratified: a table the size of Montana!  The end table was pretty quickly followed by the coffee table (the primary thing we originally wanted).  Note the matching X style of the coffee table in front and end table in the background.

This photo conveys some of the smoothness and the shine on the surface: the table shows a little of the glow from the computer.  If you can believe it, this was entirely hand-sanded because our power sander broke at the beginning of this project and we were being lazy.


Here are the two tables with the matching basic construction shown.


  1. Consumable material: about $80 (including the stain and poly which I forgot to figure in for the last table)
  2. Manhours of labor: about 40 (this table seemed to come together quicker; it had the same number of joints to cut and connect as the previous one, and I streamlined the sanding)

No construction photos remain from this project because it was built during the pretty intense winter of 2012-2013, with occasional below-zero days and tons of snow.  We would stomp down to the freezing garage after work each night, put in enough hours to get reasonably to the next step, and then rush back upstairs.  But I can provide the lessons learned that sometimes improved this table over the last.


  1. Surface seams: a better way to smooth down the surface seams than going at it tediously from the top is to go at it from the sides of each piece before they are put together.  Also better to use a planer than just sanding to really take some layers off.  However, you can get into over-perfecting, and I wound up taking so much off the sides in the Name of Smoothness that the table top boards almost did not cover the already-constructed base by the time I was done.  Maybe smooth the top boards first and then build the base to have equal overlap in both directions.  Does that make any sense?
  2. As noted previously, I used only 120, 150, and 180 sandpaper here.  Not only was it faster than using additional sandpaper types; I think it allowed the wood to take the stain more evenly.
  3. Because this table was so large, it was pretty hard to stain the inside and underneath bits without smudging the sides and other parts.  Philosophical bonus question: does it matter if you stain/seal underneath, since this table resides in a thermal and humidity-controlled environment??
  4. Major lesson learned: the poly dried with little tiny bubbles everywhere.  Why???  We think it is because we sealed in the ~30 degree garage, outside the recommended usage range of 50-80 degrees.  As we suspected, the tiny bubbles are wearing off with time, but it is something to keep in mind.  Paint, poly, everything has a storage and usage thermal range that should be considered.

Furniture comps: this table and that table are similar to our piece at $180 and $290 respectively, and represent the most affordable of what I would want to buy from Overstock.  There were very pretty but way more expensive tables on there!  Though the DIY table is a little plain relative to these, the cost saving and satisfaction is worth it.

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