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The Coffee Table That Inexperience Built

February 6, 2012

First of all, thanks to the awesome folks at for publishing my bench hack.

As I said in the bench post, I didn’t need the Lack table anymore because I finished up a coffee table that I made. Note that until today I hadn’t said much about the coffee table and this was because I hated it when I first finished it. I was disgusted with all the little problems with it. My opinion has softened on it for a couple of reasons, so I’m posting it now.  Others have said that it’s not as bad as I made it out to be, but I figure the majority of that is just being nice. My husband said it was supposed to be “rustic” so a few small problems aren’t that big of a deal. I don’t agree but that was really sweet of him to say.   My opinion has softened mostly because despite its faults, it is still very functional and still looks better than the old one. But the second reason is because I learned a lot from this experience. A lot.

The Alot belongs to Hyperbole and a Half

Why did it not turn out as good as I’d hoped? Because I underestimated the effect warping can have the finished product. Because I overestimated my ability to counter the warping through excessive use of flat brackets. Because I fought the wood and the wood won.

You can see the problems in the photo. The warping of the piece on the top left, and the fact that I have a small nearly 1 inch thick shim under the far left leg to keep it from rocking so bad that drinks immediately fall off. (Holy jigsaw, you have no idea how many times I had to reword that so it didn’t sound like a bad romance novel. Who knew furniture building vernacular was so fraught with sexual undertones?) Anyway, I first thought I would shave off some of the other table legs to get it all even. The problem is the flat surface itself isn’t so flat. I was kind of hoping that gravity would take hold and it would even itself out a bit. That hasn’t happened, of course. At this point, I may just permanently adhere the shim. It will be far easier than shaving down the other legs. We’ll see. I haven’t yet made up my mind. We’ll keep the coffee table for now. Luckily it cost me next to nothing, because I took most of the wood from the dump at our old apartment. (Like I did with the headboard, only I didn’t use warped ones for that.)

Things I like about it include the stain. It turned out really nice. I used to be so scared to stain wood, but it’s really quite easy as long as you go slow, have plenty of rags, and see beauty in small (note: small) imperfections. I also like how beat up some of the boards are, since they are “reclaimed”. I like that it’s much bigger than the Ikea one, although I’ll make the next one even larger.

Now about that learning thing. It wasn’t just Don’t use warped wood! I also learned that I need to invest in a few tools if I’m going to keep trying this whole furniture building thing. Things like a, oh I don’t know… … … a router maybe? A jigsaw perhaps? Yeah. I like working with wood. I like doing this stuff. It’s fun for me, so I really need to pick up a few of the basics. When I bought my sander I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it. Turns out I’ve used it probably once a week since I bought it. I know that buying these tools won’t be a waste of money. It’s part of the investment in my house. I just need to start budgeting for it.

Anyone want to send me a Home Depot gift certificate?



Oh well. No harm in asking, right?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2012 2:50 pm

    I think it looks good, too. If you can get access to a table saw you might try cutting all the legs to match, otherwise I’d go with the shim. I know if I tried to cut legs to match without a table saw they would never match, no matter how well I measured. BTW, Home Depot has training sessions where they teach people how to do things so you might keep an eye on that for future projects, and see if there are any local woodworkers groups that meet if you want to do more furniture. There’s a local woodturners group here that meets and sets up all their equipment at the meetings. You could get access to good tools.

  2. February 6, 2012 7:40 pm

    it thinks it looks great! love the stain on it.

  3. February 21, 2012 7:11 pm

    Thanks for liking my post! I also love the stain, and the table looks great with the rest of your decor.

    There are a few schools around here that offer ‘tool libraries,’ maybe there’s something like that in your area. I’ve never actually used one, so I’m not sure if they have larger tools to use on site (like a table saw), but it might be worth looking into!

  4. February 21, 2012 8:53 pm

    Hmmm… there are a lot of schools around me, so I’ll definitely look into it. Thanks. Yeah, I like the different concepts on your site – how you show many choices and how each one changes the concept. It reminds me of when I was doing interior design. It seems like it was a lifetime ago. I owe my Photoshop skills to the renderings I had to do for clients when they wanted changes like a different wall color.

  5. February 26, 2012 6:57 pm

    Great looking table, has a Zen look! Not many tables made today, unless they are more expensive, have that much wood. Great rustic look too!

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