DIY Midcentury Modern Coffee Table

I absolutely love the clean and versatile lines of Mid-Century Modern furniture. It’s so simple and elegant and pairs beautifully with a variety of interior styles which lends itself well to eclectic decor. When I set out to replace my hand-me-down coffee table, I was looking for something that was crisp and fresh. I knew I wanted to bring in MCM elements and needed a table that offered a little more storage than just a top attached to legs. So I took to the interwebs for some inspiration.

inspiration-pic

And Bingo was his Name-o! This is what I had in mind. It was the perfect blank canvas that I could design around. It was clean, straightforward and I loved everything about it… except the price tag. This is when the DIY voice in my head started chiming in… I mean, it’s just a box on legs… how hard could this be to build myself? Cue the DIY instructions!

Here are all of the supplies you need:
(2) 18″ x 36″ pieces of wood (I used Birch Plywood)
(2) 8″ x 18″ pieces of wood
(4) 8″ Tapered legs 
(4) Angled Leg Plates (I decided to go with angled legs instead of the straight legs – this is up to you!)
3/8″ Dowels
Wood Glue
Wood Filler
Wood Stain (if you want it stained)
Edgeband (This is optional – I chose to leave the edges of my plywood exposed)
Polyurethane

Tools:
Orbital Sander (or a lot of patience and sandpaper – but seriously, who has time for that?)
A Dowel Jig – This is the one I used solely because it was cheap. It did the job but was not the easiest to use – I’d give it 2 out of 5 stars
Drill with a 3/8″ Drill bit
Level
Screwdriver
Wood clamps

parts-and-supplies
Now, I must say that I built this coffee table with the help of my Grandfather-in-law (aka Pop) and I would definitely suggest getting someone to help you assemble this if you, like me, are new to building furniture. An extra set of hands comes in pretty handy!

I bought the wood for my table at Lowes and had them cut it down for me there since I do not have access to a saw/live in a condo with nowhere to saw things. I would definitely recommend doing it at home if you have the resources to do so. The associates there are not always the most accurate when cutting the wood down (everyone has bad days) and that is kind of a big deal when it comes to building furniture. I had quite a bit of sanding to do to get the wood to the same length and I think it just would have been easier and less time-consuming if I had just cut the wood myself. Also, I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to DIY stuff… I’m working on it, ok?! But I digress…

wood-resized
The first thing that I did was measure where the dowels would go and figure out how to use the dowel jig (YAY instructions!). This was honestly the hardest part of the whole project! I definitely recommend practicing on two scrap pieces of wood before you start drilling into your good pieces of wood. This little dowel jig did the job but it definitely took a LOT of patience, practice and 2 sets of hands. I, unfortunately, didn’t take pictures of this process but I will try and explain it the best I can.

This is the basic process of how the dowel jig is going to work:

doweledjoints
Diagram from Hobbit House Inc.

I evenly measured out 4 places where I wanted the dowels to be on each piece of wood. Be sure to discretely mark the wood to remind yourself later how each piece of wood lines up (i.e. Mark each edge of the connecting boards with a number to pair back up later). Follow the instructions for whichever dowel jig you have to create the holes on each piece of wood. We marked our drill bit with tape to make sure that we wouldn’t be drilling down too far. I also recommend clamping everything down to ensure that the dowel jig does not move when you begin drilling… this was definitely the trickiest part!

CAUTION: Learn from my stupid mistakes and be sure to use a piece of junk wood between the clamp and your furniture wood – If you don’t, you end up with a nice little dent in the wood where the clamp crushed its little footprint into your furniture! (see picture of wood above)

Once all the holes were drilled on all the pieces of wood, we dry fit the table together to make sure that everything fit perfectly before we glued it together.

clamped-table

When everything looked like a good fit, we took the pieces apart again, applied glue to the edge of the board and down into the holes and reassembled. When you are doing this, make sure it is done quickly to ensure the glue does not set before the pieces are assembled. Once everything was assembled again, we clamped down the wood and let it sit overnight.

overhang-edge-detail

If you want a nice smooth corner, the board will need to be assembled with a 1/16” – 1/8” lip to sand down flush. This is a bit tricky with plywood because if you sand the “finished” face of the side board down it reveals the plywood adhesive beneath. Not cute.

sanding-done

Would you just look at that beautiful edge!? Nice and flush! I decided to leave the plywood edges exposed and to just sand them nice and smooth. If this isn’t your cup of tea, adding edge-band to the panels is another option. I also filled all of the seams with wood filler. This is optional but I just thought it made it look a little more finished.

attach-legs-and-clear-coat
Next, I screwed the leg plates to the bottom of the table and screwed in the legs. Just be sure to measure equal distances in from the exterior edges.

coffee-table-finished-with-title

I applied 3 coats of satin finish, water-based polyurethane and sanded with a 220 grit sandpaper in between coats and this is the finished product! I could not be any happier with the way it turned out! I hope you guys enjoyed this post. Let me know in the comments if you have decided to give this a try, and if you did, how it turned out! Until next time, Happy DIYing!

 

Leave a Reply