How To Build A Modern Farmhouse Coffee Table with Steel Legs
I built a farmhouse-style modern coffee table using a Southern Yellow Pine 2x12x16 and ⅛" steel for the base. I welded the steel base at Lincoln Electric's HQ using the Lincoln Electric Power MIG 210 MP and Squarewave TIG 200.
Materials Used On The Modern Farmhouse Coffee Table (affiliate):
- Southern Yellow Pine 2x12x16
- Wood Glue : https://amzn.to/2GPjHZJ
- 6 x 40 mm Dominos : https://amzn.to/2IK199C
- 1 1/4" Pocket Screws : https://amzn.to/2JCJVMO
- Brown Mahogany Water Based Stain : https://amzn.to/2JX0tiQ
- General Finishes Enduro Var : https://amzn.to/2GOGG7k
Tools Used On The Modern Farmhouse Coffee Table (affiliate):
- Ultimaker 3 3D Printer from MatterHackers : https://www.matterhackers.com/store/l/ultimaker-3-extended-3d-printer-fully-assembled/sk/MLJS4Z1H?aff=7420
- Powermatic 15HH 15-Inch Planer : http://bit.ly/Powermatic15HH
- Powermatic PJ-882HH 8-Inch Jointer : http://bit.ly/PJ882HH
- Rockler T-Track Clamps : https://amzn.to/2IKdTNx
- Rockler Bench Cookies : https://amzn.to/2qp8c02
- Festool Domino Joiner : https://amzn.to/2GlPFwv
- Festool OF 1400 Router : https://amzn.to/2IJ4FRB
- Random Orbit Sander : http://amzn.to/2GqSRn3
- Parallel Clamps : http://amzn.to/2zgQtdS
- Fuji Q3 HVLP System : https://amzn.to/2qlPczi
- Lincoln Electric Power MIG 210 MP : http://bit.ly/powermig210mp
- Scotch-Brite Clean and Strip XT Discs : https://www.rshughes.com/p/3M-Scotch-Brite-Clean-And-Strip-XT-Silicon-Carbide-Disc-Extra-Coarse-Grade-4-1-2-In-Dia-64997/048011_64997/
The top of this coffee table is made of Southern Yellow Pine, and I used a 2x12x16 from my local home center for the source of the wood. I made sure to sort through the pile of boards at the home center and find a board with as few knots as possible.
I had the home center cut the 16 foot long board into two pieces, a 10 foot and 6 foot section. Once back in my shop, I broke the longer board down into three 40” chunks and cut the 6 foot section in half.
When working with construction lumber, I like to rip the boards down the center, removing about an inch from the middle of the board. This is where the pith area of the tree is, and this is where most wood movement occurs. There is a distinct difference in the grain pattern, both on the face of the board as well as in the end grain, so you can pretty easily pick out where to cut.
The pith wasn’t perfectly centered on this board, so I ripped the boards into halves that were slightly different sizes.
With all of the boards ripped, I could lay them out and mark out a 36” circle, to see how much wiggle room I had before milling the boards square. I had plenty of extra width, so I could rip out a few more of the problem areas with knots and weird looking grain.
Next, I got one side and one edge of each board flat at the jointer. If you don’t have a jointer, you could use a planer sled to get one face flat and a straight line jig on the table saw to get one edge flat and get the same result. I’d definitely recommend flattening your boards when using construction lumber, as it tends to be bowed and twisted.
After getting a flat reference surface at the jointer, I planed the boards to an even thickness at the planer, facing that flat reference surface towards the bed of the planer.
I actually did this process in two stages, milling the boards once, letting them rest for a couple of days in my shop to allow any movement to occur, and then milling the boards again.
Finally, I ripped the boards to final width at the table saw, facing the flat reference edge towards the fence of the table saw.
With all of the boards milled to final size, I laid them out into what I thought looked best, marked the order, and then started laying out the locations for my Dominos. I wanted to make sure no Dominos showed on the edge of the table top, so I made sure to stay clear of the border of the circle.
I used Dominos to help with alignment on the table top glue up, but biscuits or dowels would work the same way. I would definitely recommend using some kind of alignment method when working with this many boards. It makes like a whole lot easier when it comes time to sand the surface flush.
Thanks to this kind of alignment method, the glue up was really easy. I just applied glue to the edge of a board, added the Dominos, then dropped on the next board. I just repeated this process until all of the boards were together, and then applied plenty of clamping pressure, making sure I had even pressure from the top and bottom of the glue up so the top didn’t bow.
I let the top sit in the clamps for about an hour and a half, then removed the clamps, scraped off any glue squeeze out, and then let the glue dry overnight.
The routing process went pretty smoothly, although I went in the wrong direction on the first pass, which consequently loosed up the screw. This allowed the router a little wiggle room, and it cut a little bit of a wider circle on the first pass. I went clockwise on my second pass, which basically tightened the screw as I went, so I had a much more consistent circle.
I used a ¾” straight bit for this process, which was way bigger than I needed, but it was the only bit I had on hand with a long enough cutting length. I’d probably recommend something like a ¼” straight bit, which would put a lot less strain on your router.
After making the last pass, I removed the offcut and realized what had happened when the screw loosened up, and was left with a ridge all the way around the edge of the table. I fixed this by making another hole in the jig slightly closer to the bit, and made another pass to shave off that little ridge. If you have to do this, make sure to go counterclockwise, otherwise the router will get away from you.
Don’t as me how I know that….
Anyway, once I had the edge nice and clean, I added a heavy chamfer to the bottom edge of the table with a chamfer bit. This lightens up the look of the top and removes some visual weight from the table.
Next, I sanded all of the surfaces up to 180 grit, and added a small chamfer to the top edge.
I was having a hard time deciding whether I wanted to stain the top or paint the table base, or both, and my wife recommended a dark top and white base, which is actually really popular in the farmhouse style, so that’s what I went with.
For the stain, I used General Finishes Brown Mahogany water based stain. I applied the stain heavily using a foam brush, working in sections to make sure the stain didn’t dry, and then wiped off the excess with a shop towel. It’s critical to work in sections small enough so that the stain can’t dry before you can wipe it off, otherwise you’ll be left with an uneven stain.
After letting the stain dry overnight, I sprayed on a few coats of a water based polyurethane, sanding with 320 grit sandpaper between coats.
With the table top basically done, it was time for a field trip up to Cleveland, Ohio, to hang out with the folks at Lincoln Electric. Lincoln invited a group of YouTube makers up for a few days of welding instruction, and it was a blast. I’ll have a list of everybody in the video description, but the list included Jimmy Diresta, April Wilkerson, Laura Kampf, Izzy Swan, Brad from Fix This Build That, Zack from ZH Fabrications, John Malecki, Doug from RetroWeld, and Brett from Skull & Spade. There were also some awesome local Cleveland makers at the class, as well as Brian Fuller from Fuller Moto.
The class was taught by Mark Prosser and Jim Bollinger, and we learned a ton about welding, I feel like a much better welder, especially TIG welding, after the class. If you’re interested in improving your welding, Lincoln offers classes at the Cleveland location, and I’d highly recommend checking them out.
Anyway, while we were there, we had access to the Torchmate CNC Plasma table, and I knew I wanted to use that to help create my table base. First, I had them cut out my logo, which turned out awesome. I’ll be using this as a sign on the metalworking side of my shop.
For the table base, I modeled up a quick design in SketchUp and then exported the profile views. Brian at Lincoln cleaned up the file and then loaded it up on the Torchmate.
I was totally floored to see my design come to life in steel, I am definitely going to make room in my next shop for a CNC plasma, I can see them being so useful.
After getting the pieces cut, I moved onto welding the parts together.
First, I tacked one of the flat bar sections in place, making sure it was square using a magnetic square.
After tacking it in place, I ran a few longer welds on the outside of the leg, making sure to move around to avoid overheating the steel and causing it to warp. I repeated the process on the other side of the leg, tacking the flat bar in place and reinforcing it with some longer welds.
Next, I added the inside piece of flat bar, repeating the same process as before. This was a really simple piece to weld up, the biggest key was just making sure everything was square.
With all of the flat bar pieces in place, I added the other side of the leg section and, unsurprisingly, it fit perfectly. I tacked it in place and then admired my work.
Next, I went back and added full length weld beads to the edges of the legs, which was complete overkill. If I had to do this over again, I would have added some longer beads to the inside of the legs, to reduce the amount of grinding I had to do.
With the first half of the base done, I repeated the whole process for the other half. I tacked the flat bar sections in place using the MIG welder and then decided to switch to TIG to finish up the other half of the base, just to get some more TIG practice.
Instead of using any filler rod when TIG welding the base, I just fusion welded the pieces together. Since the fit was so tight, the fusion welds are insanely strong, and there was a lot less grinding since there aren’t any weld beads protruding from the surface.
With the pieces all together, I could test fit the entire base for the first time. I cut the slots slightly small to ensure a tight fit, and then ended up being super tight. Even before welding the base together, the base was plenty strong, strong enough for me to stand on. Instead of welding the base together in Cleveland, I left the base in two pieces and had it shipped back to my shop to finish up.
Back in my shop, I got to grinding down all of the welds, which took quite some time. As I said earlier, I wish I had ran fewer welds, because the full length weld beads were way overkill for a coffee table base.
I started with a grinding wheel on my angle grinder to remove the majority of the material, and then switched to a flap disc to smooth everything out and feather in all of the edges.
Once everything was cleaned up, I used one of these Scotch-Brite clean and strip discs to remove all of the mill scale from the surface of the metal.
With all of the surfaces cleaned up, I put the base together and welded the two halves together, making sure everything was square first.
I needed a way to attach the base to the table top, so I cut a few pieces of ⅛” steel, smoothed out the edges at the belt grinder, and then drilled some holes for screws, making sure to drill oversized holes to account for wood movement. I then welded the tabs in place on the base.
Before painting, I wiped down the entire surface with acetone to remove any oil or dirt, and then sprayed on a few coats of paint.
Next, I wanted to create something to cap the bottom of the legs, since they would scratch up the floor otherwise. I just got a new Ultimaker 3 3D printer from the fine folks at Matter Hackers, and I figured this would be the perfect job for the 3D printer.
I modeled up a quick little foot in SketchUp, exported it as an STL file, and then imported that file into Cura, the software that comes with the Ultimaker. I added four of the feet to the program, left the settings pretty much at the default, and got to printing.
As luck would have it, I already had white Matter Hackers Pro Series PLA filament loaded up in the printer, so the feet ended up matching the base perfectly.
After printing, I used some CA glue to permanently attach the feet to the bottom of the legs.
Finally, I could attach the base to the underside of the top using a few screws, and the table was finished.