Tuesday, July 14, 2015

DIY Mid Century Modern Coffee Table

My (Expensive!) Inspiration

This beautiful table on Etsy for $795

And this one for $475

And last there is this one for $650:

You get the idea, right?  Those prices are insane and there is no way we can afford that. So I set out to make one for around $75!

Supplies & Tools
  • 2 pieces of 2x4 veneer plywood - I used Birch and selected 1/2 inch thick, but later regretted that and recommend 3/4 inch thick, instead. (Mine was $13.67 each at Lowes) 
  • 1 roll of wood veneer - again, I got Birch ($6.58 at Lowes)
  • 4 mid-century modern table legs - I chose 12" and purchased them here ($3.32 each online)
  • 4 leg mounting top plates - either straight or angled. I chose angled and purchased them at the same place as the legs. ($1.76 each online)
  • Pre-stain wood conditioner - I already had some (~$5)
  • Wood stain of your choice - I already had Minwax "Special Walnut" (~$4.50)
  • Protective finish - I already had Minwax Polycrylic in Satin (~$7.00)
  • Wood screws
  • Stainable wood putty
  • Sand paper
  • Wood glue
  • A razor blade
  • An iron
  • Brushes for stain, finish, and conditioner
Tools you will need:
  • Power drill with drill bit
  • Electric sander (you can do it by hand, but it'll be way easier with a sander!)
  • I used a table saw to cut a few pieces, but you can have Lowes or Home Depot cut all of your pieces for you, if you want.
  • Recommended: A pocket hole jig

I had Lowes cut my plywood for me. They will give you 2 cuts per board for free, so I took advantage and saved myself the hassle. I decided to make my table 20" by 36".  I had the very nice Lowes guy cut the 20" side first so I would have two nice straight 4" pieces to make the sides from (I did not have him cut those).

Once I got my wood home, I cut the 4" side strips to 20" each using the table saw. Then I added a thin bead of glue down the side and pieced together the box, clamping it together with wood clamps. (Be careful with the glue - if you get glue all over the wood, it won't take stain. You'll have to sand it off if you accidentally get it in places you don't want it.)

Once I had it exactly where I wanted it and clamped together, I pre-drilled three holes on each side and screwed the box together. I sunk the heads of the screws down a tad so I can fill them with wood putty to stain over them and hide them. You could use nails if you want - our air compressor broke and I'm not that good with a hammer, so I used wood screws. ;)

**LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES:  I would not do it this way again. Instead, I would use a pocket hole jig and put the top screws on the INSIDE. I had a difficult time hiding them later. It doesn't matter on the bottom, so I would still do it this way on the bottom.

Once the box was together I gave it a nice sanding on all the edges. Then I wiped it down really well to remove all dust.

Next - fill your screw holes with wood putty.  (You can skip this step if you used the pocket hole jig because you will not be able to see the screws at all from the top.

Here is what my screws looked like when  filled with wood putty:

While the putty was drying, it was time to attach the wood veneer to the sides. The plywood has ugly edges, so the veneer is to make it look like one solid piece of birch. 

The top of the box is just plywood in this photo - ugly. The bottom has veneer on it - see how it's smooth now? Much better. 
The directions are on the back of the package and it is super easy. The veneer already has glue on the back that is heat activated. It says to set your iron to the cotton setting (turn off the steam) and just iron it on! (I have a nice iron so I covered it in foil first to protect it.)  Lowes only sold 3/4" veneer and my plywood is 1/2", so it's too big.  No worries.  Iron it on and then take a razor blade and cut off the excess. It looks crazy bad as you start trying to cut off the extra, but do it as best as you can and don't worry about it - you'll sand it later and it'll look amazing (I promise!).  

**Learn from my mistakes: It's seriously easier if you just buy the right size veneer. If I had used 3/4 inch plywood like I should have, this step would have been even easier! :)

Here you can see how the veneer is too big. Just iron it on anyway, then trim.

When you trim it, it looks horrible. Just stay with me here, it'll look good after you sand it!

Now back outside to sand those ragged edges down! Here is where you really want an electric sander (I used a small, handheld orbital sander), but you could do it by hand if you had to. (I'd use a sanding block at least!)  You also want to make sure you sand the puttied screw holes, as well. Be careful not to go too crazy and sand through the veneer. Remember this is plywood with a thin layer of birch (or oak or whatever) over the top of it and now on the edges, too. Don't sand through it - just sand the corners and edges until they are smooth and it looks like one solid piece of wood.

**Even if you used the right size veneer, you still want to sand all of the edges so they are pretty and smooth. It just won't take you as long if you used the right size, unlike what I did. ;)

If your veneer starts coming off while sanding, don't freak out - just stop and go get the iron and iron it on again. You probably didn't get it quite hot enough the first time.

Here is where my veneer came off a little bit while sanding - I just ironed it back on:

Here it is after it is sanded! Smooth as a baby's butt!

Next I decided to put on the legs. You could stain first and then put the legs on, but I decided it's be easier if it was up on feet to stain it.

First I twisted a leg into the top plate and just sat it on there so I could judge where I wanted to put them.

I decided on 3" in on both sides to the first screw hole - so I measured 3 x 3 on each corner and put a dot. Then I screwed on each leg bracket and twisted on the legs.

And hellooooooooo beautiful!!!

And now we stain! First step is the pre-stain wood conditioner. Follow the directions on the can - easy-pesy! Here is my table after the pre-stain. It really brings out the colors in the wood - see how half is darker than the other? That's natural to the grain. I like it, but it might be a slight issue I can work on later.

Next is the stain. I like to use a rag and in this case it's pretty much necessary since you are reaching inside the box where a paintbrush would not fit. Be sure to wear gloves - in this case I recommend long gloves so your arms are protected when you reach inside the box. I stained the bottom and legs first, then I flipped it over and did the top and the inside. Always wipe with the grain, never against it or in a circle.  After 5 to 15 minutes, wipe off any excess that hasn't been absorbed.

After one coat of "Special Walnut" by Minwax:

That darker spot is really standing out now - a little more than I want at this point. I plan to do a second coat of stain but skip that spot to try to even it out a little bit. But I have to wait 4 hours before I can go at it again. I hate waiting!

The next day I put on a second coat of stain. Unfortunately it was raining so I had to move the operation into the basement - where it is dark and photos don't turn out. So although it is darker, it's not as dark as it looks in this photo.

After second coat of stain:

The wood putty over the screws is not taking the stain as well as it should. I'm not sure why. (This is the main reason I highly recommend using the jig and putting the screws on the inside!)  I've never had this happen before. It's nothing that can't be fixed, though!  I have a bunch of stain markers laying around for furniture touch up - I grabbed one in a darker shade than the stain I used on the whole piece (in this case I used "Dark Walnut") and I used it to stain just those few spots. Since it's a stain marker it's super easy to get it just where you want it. I let it sit for a minute and then wiped it off and voila! Screws vanished.

After 24 hours of dry time I was able to start the Polycrylic finish. The can says to wait 2 hours between coats so I was able to get in 4 coats easily in one day. I don't usually do so many coats, but it's a coffee table that will likely get a lot of abuse so I wanted it well protected.

Here it is after coat #2 (again, sorry for the dark basement photo - it's STILL raining outside!)

(Anyone want that old TV in the background?? We can't give the thing away!)

After it was all said and done, here she is!

Things I'd do differently next time:
1. Use 3/4 inch wood
2. Use veneer trim that is the correct size
3. Use a jig to put the top screws on the inside rather than trying to hide them on the outside

.....regardless, I still LOVE it!!! <3  And after more than 6 months of use, she's still holding up great. I probably put enough poly on it to forgo the coasters, but I don't.  Ultimately I plan to sell this one and make another one with 3/4 inch thick wood - I think the beefier look will ultimately look better in this room.

Pin it now and use these tips later! 

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