Thursday, June 13, 2013

I need a coffe table, I have pallets.

A Rustic Coffee Table from pallets.

So I needed a nice rustic looking coffee table for our living room and I dont like to buy things so I figured I'd just make one.

First, I needed a nice top. I didn't really want to build the whole top from scratch. After searching around, I found that the previous owners had left an old rickety kitchen table out in the yard. Im not a "Wood Expert" but I think the top was made out of Oak or something very hard and dark. The base was pitifully unstable but I would be chucking that anyway. Unfortunately, the table was also left out in the yard for about 3 years. In Seattle weather, that pretty much means, the table had been turned into a  giant sponge soaked through with water. I pulled the table into the porch to let dry.

The table took about a month to completely dry to the point that I could sand it. I took the top off the base and tossed the base away. I sanded down the top to get rid of the old paint and stain. The sanding process took a long time. I started with 60 grit and a hand block, but after about 30 minutes, I realized this was not going to ever be done this way. I switch to 36 grit but this was also taking a toll on my patience. I made a trip to the local pawn shop and picked up a 20 dollar Belt Sander. After a trip to Harbor Freight for some 36 grit belts, the table was well underway to getting the top stripped away. After a little while, the wood grain finally started to show through. The whole top was warped pretty good form all the rain and weather, and even though I was going for a "rustic" look, I also didn't want drinks to just fall over when you set them down.

I took a trip to Harbor Freight and picked up a hand plane. I got to work trying to even out the top a little better. I got it pretty close to straight by hand and I felt like this was good enough to keep drinks from tipping over and remotes from rolling off. Once I had it down to the way I wanted it, I switched to 60 grit and started sanding again. I sanded and sanded and then when I was done, I sanded some more. Sanding wood is very boring but its very important for a nice finish. I switched up to 180, then 220. After what seemed like an eternity, the table was nice a smooth and I felt it was ready for some stain.

We picked out a Rustoleum Ebony stain and I applied it with a rag to the table. I applied it pretty heavily and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes before wiping it off. Most of the stain soaked into the wood during the this setting time and the excess wasn't very much.  The can says to coat with Polyurethane within 1 hour so I applied the first coat about 30 minutes after wiping off the stain. I applied about 5 very thin coats about 1 hour apart and let them dry for 1 week.

For the base, I knew I wanted to use pallets and I wanted it to look like I used pallets, but I didn't want it to look like old gross nasty pallets. My idea was to sand down and refinish the pallets like the table top.

I started with a couple of raw but good looking pallets.
Good lookingPallet. The wood isn't badly warped or broken
I broke these down by removing all the nails. So... I'll tell you, this part is MUCH harder than it sounds. Pallets are put together very well and these used some crazy twisted screw nail things. It took me awhile to get all the wood apart.
I needed to simply cut one pallet down to size but I needed the wood for the legs.

After cutting down a pallet to the right size for the base, I went at it with my belt sander with 36 grit.

This is half the pallet sanded with 36 grit

This gives you a better view of the slats after being belt sanded down with 36 grit. Notice the nice wood grain is showing through now compared to the non-sanded slats that look nasty and yuck. Wood grain is better.

After sanding down the whole piece, I added the same ebony stain. I had to lay it on thick and quickly because this thing is like an English muffin with all its nooks and crannies. I wanted to make sure the stain got into all those little cracks but I also didn't want to spend so much time that it soaked in too much. I didn't want this B-L-A-A-A-C-K, i just wanted it stained. 
All stained up. One thick coat. Set for about 5 minutes and then wiped off. I let this dry for about 30 minutes and hit it with a thin few coats of Polyurethane letting them dry 2 hours between coats. I was using the brush and can variant this time and that's what the can said so I did it. 

After the first few coats, I started hitting it up with thicker coats. Some people like a satin finish,  I like a lot of high gloss clear. Just my taste.

Base is complete  now I need to build the legs. I used the extra slats I took off another pallet. I cut them down to length and shaved off the edges for a nice clean edge. I also cut one edge at 45 degrees so I could miter join them and make them look cleaner. The better the joints look on this project, the more it will offset the "Rustic" look.  They aren't perfectly straight but its good enough for what I need. 

I had to use my table saw as a make-shift jig to glue all these legs together. In hindsight, I should have used a stronger joint. I only used glue and finish nails. Next time I will use some kind of tongue and groove to make it stronger.

After the glue dried for a day,  sanded them down and looked at them for about 3 minutes. Ahh, nice work.

Now i needed the cross members. I knew I needed something strong and I was upset that I didn't do something better for the legs, so I decided to use a tongue and groove this time. The added benefit is that the joint looks really clean when done.
I have no idea how to do this joint on the table saw so I just pretended.

First I grabbed a couple of slats from the other pallet and cut them down to exactly 2.25".

Pretty good for home-made sliding miter made from particle board and angle stock huh?

Now I had to figure out how the heck to cut a tongue and groove on the table saw. I feel like a better tool would be a router but I don't have one and I'm making this up as I go along so I figured Id just do a million passes on the table at the right height until it looked close. I think it worked out OK.

I wasn't entirely sure how to cut the groove in the legs without have a large groove from the table saw blade. I figured I would just fill it with putty later or maybe just leave it for the "Rustic" look. Id like to figure out how to make the cut cleaner and have it stop at the length I need. I don't know if a router or a drill press is needed but I don't have either so..  Back to the table saw!
It fits very snug. Like a glove.

After I sand these down and add stain, it will blend in nicely  Also, a little glue and some finishing nails and this should be a very strong joint. You can see the groove extending down. This is want I want to learn how to avoid in future projects.

I sanded down and finished the cross members on the top and glued and nailed them. I also stained in the slots made in the legs so they would blend in better.

I flipped the whole thing upside down and attached it to the underside of the table with some blocks.
Then I set the whole assembly on top over the base and attached it with some screws.

All done with assembly. TIme to put the last coasts of clear.
After 3 more coats of clear polyurethane, its done. Time to move inside and enjoy my new piece of furniture.