Month: July 2018
There isn’t a living room in the world that doesn’t have a coffee table sitting in front of the sofa. It is probably the single most common piece of furniture ever made. Coffee tables get abused. Drinks, hot and cold, get set on them. Food gets spilled on them. Flower pots create water rings. Magazines get tossed on them. Cats walk over them. This lowly piece of ubiquitous furniture gets almost no respect.
We’re going to change that today. I’m sure you remember our blog about building a fairly basic coffee table . It’s a good plan that will give you a perfectly good, serviceable coffee table. Build one, and you can certainly be proud of it. But let’s say you want to go a step beyond the basics. How do you make what is essentially just a rectangular tabletop held up by short legs into something truly unique? I have a couple of ideas.
If I told you my first Ultimate Coffee Table is made of 116 pieces of wood, 8 steel brackets, and 32 screws, would you be impressed or would you run for the exits? Well, before you go scampering off with your tails between your legs, just hang with me. It’s not as overwhelming as the parts list might seem.
The example shown here is actually made from Teak wood that was destined to be thrown away. So, this particular specimen is not only beautiful, but also a wonderful way to reuse scrap wood. Teak is an extremely durable, scarce, and expensive wood, so finding this much scrap Teak was an extraordinary find. But you can adapt this design for any high-quality hardwood.
In fact, you could even choose two different types of hardwood (Maple and Walnut come to mind) to create some gorgeous patterns to the design. If you do that, think beyond just the checkerboard concept. You could use the darker material to create a smaller rectangle by using it only in the second layer from the outer edges. Or you could alternate dark blocks between the second and third rows to create a zipper design. Be creative!
Whatever lumber you choose, the 112 pieces for the top (8 blocks wide and 14 blocks long) are cut into perfect cubes. Lay your pattern dry, with the topside up so you can visualize what the final arrangement will look like. This is a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together without being able to see the picture on the box. Use your own creativity to arrange the colors and grain of the blocks the way you want them. The beauty of having perfect cubes is that each block gives you 6 possible faces to use for the top.
When you are satisfied with the arrangement, apply your wood glue to the pieces and tightly clamp the entire top together. While that dries, cut the four leg pieces to the desired height. Mount two flat steel brackets to the top of each leg.
When the top has dried, use a router to carve out enough depth in the underside of the tabletop to allow the steel brackets to fit flush with the bottom. With the router bit of your choice, create a smooth edge to all corners of the tabletop. Sand and finish the tabletop and the legs before assembling them.
There are a couple of variations to this design that could be fun. For one, you could actually make the legs part of the top, by inserting them in the appropriate spots in the pattern in place of the smaller blocks. I would caution that if you choose to do this, I would still suggest mounting some “L” brackets to the inner faces of the legs to help strengthen the connection with the rest of the pieces. You could also use the legs as the very corner pieces of the top. In this case I would suggest using dowels to pin them in place and build strength. The dowels could be entirely hidden, or even go all the way through to become another design element. One other possibility is to continue the square block concept all the way to the floor. Glue and dowel blocks together to build the legs. You could even twist the blocks, say 15° at each joint.
See what I’m getting at here? The reason I think this is an ultimate coffee table design is because there are so many variations you could dream up to truly make your version unique.
Got a Man Cave or a Sun Porch? Hey, even the couches in places like these need a coffee table. But, let’s face facts; nobody drinks coffee in a Man Cave! Okay, so let’s call this this amazing twist on the concept a Beverage Table. I like it already!
The idea comes from our friends at Lowe’s, and what a great idea it is. This is a table for couches that are used for watching the game or enjoying relaxing times with friends. No 4 o’clock tea parties on this table, please!
This table is made from Cedar, which is an excellent choice for an outdoor table because of Cedar’s famous ability to resist water, weather and insects. It is also one of the most beautiful woods you can choose.
Table saw or miter saw
Drill and bits
#2 Phillips screwdriver or driver bit
4 – 1 x 3 x 10 cedar boards
1 x 8 x 8 cedar board
2 – 1 x 4 x 8 cedar boards
2 – 1 x 6 x 8 cedar boards
2 x 2 x 8 cedar board
3/4 x 24 x 48 sheet treated (CDX) plywood
1 box 1-1/4-in deck screws
1 box 1-5/8-in deck screws
1 box 2-inch deck screws
1 quart semi-transparent Redwood stain
Waterproof wood glue
1 Galvanized Steel bucket
For the legs you need to cut four pieces (A) from a 1×8 8 to a length of 11 ¾”. Then rip what’s left of that board to 6 ½” wide and cut the side legs (B) from it. Cut the 4 upright pieces of the frame (C) from a 2×2 to the same length.
Cut the upper of the 3 slats next. Use a 1x4x8 to make two 42” (D) and two 23 ¼” (E)slats.
Use a 1x3x8 to cut the short (F) and long (G) frame members. Also cut the bottom two long (L) and short (M) slats.
Rip the 1x6x8 to 5 inches wide for the top slats (I), then crosscut those seven pieces to the proper lengths.
Finally, let’s cut the plywood (H). Cut a 40 ½ X 23 ¼ – inch piece. The final cut is to create the opening for the bucket. The rim is what is going to hold your bucket in place, so measure the diameter of your bucket minus the rim. Mark a centerpoint in the plywood where you want your bucket to be and use a compass to draw the circle. Cut it out with a jigsaw, and sand the edges clean.
Make the legs first. The edge of the side leg (B) is butt-jointed to (A) and screwed to the corner cleat (C) using 2” flathead screws. Be sure to pre-drill pilot holes because we are using cedar and it will split if you don’t drill pilots. Once you have the four legs built, attach the top pieces of the frame (F) and (G) with 1 ¼” flathead screws.
I suggest building the end pieces next. Mark a line 5 ¼” above the bottom edge of each side leg and clamp the lower slat so that the bottom of the slat is on that line. The slats get mounted from the inside using 1 ¼” flathead screws and waterproof glue so that none of the hardware shows from the outside. Put four screws in each end of the slats and legs. Using a ¾” spacer, attach the middle and top slats in the same manner. The top slat should also get pocket hole screws put into it at 2 or 3 points along the inner frame pieces for extra strength.
The long slats are cut to overlap the edges of the shorter side slates, so align the bottom slat in this manner and fasten it to the legs in the same glue-and-screw manner. Install pocket screw along the top slat in 3 or 4 places.
Now, all that left is the top. The underlying cleats for the covers should be mounted ¼” in from the sides, and ¼” in from the end to allow for the necessary overhang when the top is closed. Align the top cleats 7/8” apart and fasten with glue and screws from underneath.
The build is done! Now all that’s left is to sand, sand, sand, and then apply a nice waterproof redwood stain. Let that dry for a while, fill the bucket with ice and your favorite beverages, and kick back, my friend. You just built an awesome coffee table that will be the center of attention at any summer party.
This is a terrific, um, coffee table concept offered up by Lowe’s, and I can’t wait to build one. After seeing this piece, I now think that no Man Cave, Sun Porch or Backyard patio is complete without one.
Well, there you have. My idea of a couple of coffee tables that truly deserve to be called “Ultimate.” In fact, they are both so ultimate in very different ways that you just might have to build both of them.
The Whirligig is a glorified wind vane that harnesses the power of the wind to move a little cutout of a (usually) human figure back and forth in a repetitive motion. Sometimes this poor little puppet is endlessly chopping or sawing the same piece of wood. Or it’s a golfer who swings away relentlessly at the same golf ball, only to miss again and again. And again. And again. Or it’s a washwoman scrubbing the same piece of wooden clothing back and forth, and back and forth. And back and forth.
You get the idea. A Whirligig does the same thing in a motion so repetitive that it’s just flat-out ridiculous. And yet, watching one is so soothing and mesmerizing. You can sit and watch one of these things go fruitlessly about its task for hours and enjoy every minute of it. Perhaps that’s why nearly every woodworker has more than a few Whirligig’s to his or her credit. It’s why we….
Wait, what’s that you say? What? You have never made a wooden Whirligig? How on earth did you miss that day in Woodworking school? Regardless of your skill level as a woodworker, no sawdusty resumé is complete without a Whirligig. So, let’s go back to school and dust off some of those beginner tools and skills I wrote about here.
Fanciful wind vanes have been around ever since we figured out that if you mount a flat piece of wood on the end of a stick and allow it to spin freely on an axis at its fulcrum, the thing is going to point into the wind. Then, if you put a propeller on the front end, you have created something that is harnessing the power of that wind. But what to do with it? While a giant wind turbine can turn this force of nature in electrical energy, our little 4-inch blades just don’t have enough gusto.
I have no idea who first got the idea to create a little wooden character that would harness this minute tidbit of energy to perform a monotonous chore hundreds, even thousands, of times every day. But the idea stuck and endless variations have been devised.
One of my favorite designs uses a very different kind of propeller. Where most Whirligigs have the propeller mounted at the very tip of the nose, this one actually has it mounted on the side! Put the image of a paddlewheel boat in your mind, and you get the idea. An interesting aspect of this Whirligig design is that no matter how fast the wind blows, the action remains at a fairly constant speed. The side-mounted paddles require only the faintest wisp of a breeze to get started and then rotate at nearly the same speed regardless of the wind.
The plan comes from a 1981 article in Mother Earth News as a testament to how the Whirligig concept hasn’t aged a bit. The author points out that the basic design can be adapted to any number of characters and activities.
The secret to this design is the propeller, which is known as a “wind-quartering” design. The wind blows across the faces of the blades at a very flat angle, rather than through them at a steep angle. Because the blades are set at a fairly small angle to the shaft they are rotating, this broad-sided wind pressure doesn’t need to be very strong to get things spinning.
On the other end of the driveshaft is a wheel. A small wire “shaft” is mounted at an offset to turn the rotational energy of the driveshaft into a back-and-forth movement. The other end of this shaft is attached to our poor soul who, thanks to a hinged point in his design, is destined to spend the rest of his existence doing the same action every minute of every day and night until he falls apart. So, how to build a whirligig?
Using 1/8-inch outdoor plywood, cut five fans blades in a trapezoid shape – 5 inches long, 3 inches wide on one end and 1 ½ inches wide on the other. Sand the edges smooth. Cut four dado slots at about a 15° angle across a 1-inch thick dowel that is 1 ½” long. Drill a ¼” hole into the center of the dowel on one end and glue a ¼” dowel in it. The large dowel is the hub for the fan blades and the smaller one serves as the driveshaft that transfers the energy. Glue the fan blades into the dado slots on the hub.
While the glue is drying, let’s build the base of our Whirligig. Cut a piece of wood 3 inches wide and 13 inches long. Cut a vertical dado in the back end of the piece and glue the fifth vane into it to form the tail. Cut a 2-inch block from a piece of 2×4. Mount this block near the front of the base and drill a hole large enough to insert a 5/16” bushing into each side of this block.
Now add some sort of lubricant (I think bicycle chain lube is the best for this task) to the driveshaft dowel and slide it through the bushing. Cut a 1 ½” circle of plywood. Drill a hole in the center to accommodate the end of the driveshaft dowel, and another hole near the outside edge. Glue this piece to the end of the driveshaft and a short piece of ¼” dowel into the hole on the outer circumference of the wheel. Bend the end of a piece of stiff wire (think clothes hanger wire) loosely around this short dowel, and cap it with another small circle of plywood.
The other end of this wire gets attached to whatever character you decide to create with your jig or scroll saw. The example used in these illustrations is the classic “Guy chopping wood” design, but if you search for images of “whirligig” on the internet you will find hundreds of variations. The real challenge isn’t in building one; it’s in building one that has never been built before.