Learn to Build Simple Coffee Table

If you are looking for coffee table design plans and ideas, you will be surprised at the range of unique and creative designs available.  There are some unique designs for coffee tables including inlaid game boards, exotic shapes and even an aquarium coffee table. Making a coffee table yourself is a woodworking job. If you are someone who likes woodworking, you can design a coffee table to suit your level of skill.  If you’re a beginner, start with a very simple design. Once you have developed your skills you can explore more complicated ideas as there are many creative coffee table plans you can build. The steps below show you how to build a simple coffee table.

Coffee Table Design Plans

There are some basic principles to building coffee table design plans.

Three coffee table parts

Every coffee table design plans contain three essential parts: the top, the apron and the legs. What makes a coffee table special and different is the creative design of each of these components, how they are brought together and the materials used. The better your skills, the more complicated the design you can build.

Coffee Woodworking Plan


Draw your coffee table design

Firstly you will need to sketch your coffee table plan. Plan every part in detail. Determine the table’s length, width, height and the thickness of your materials properly. Look at pictures online or head into furniture shops if you are looking for inspiration.  When drawing your coffee table plan you can use a paper and pencil or find a free online tool for a better design. For beginners, stick to a simple shape, for example a rectangular or square table.  This stage really determines how well the whole project will go so take the time to develop complete and accurate plans.

Making the coffee table top

Plywood is a good choice for building the top for a beginner, because it’s cheap, sufficiently strong and easy to shape into any design you like. Plywood with a 3/4 inch thickness is enough. For a simple table cut the plywood into a rectangle shape and then add adhesive veneer around the edges to give a smooth and professional finish. Without it, the edges can be rough and the table looks unfinished. After the adhesive dries you might need to tidy any excess glue up with a sharp knife.  Alternately you could use salvaged timber from perhaps from another piece of furniture, an old desk or table, cut down to size.  This may give the coffee table a style more suited to your home.

Simple Coffee Table Design

Making the coffee table apron

There is no exact formula to determine the apron size.  For a simple table you could safely make the apron from lengths of timber that were 1×4 inches. You could go for a larger profile if you prefer a more solid the look to the coffee table.  Generally the apron would sit a few inches inside the coffee table top so cut the lengths a few inches smaller than the table top.  The pieces of the apron are usually cut with a 45 degree mitre so they join like a picture frame, although you can again experiment with different joint types if you are more skilled or adventurous. If using mitred joints then glue, screw and hold the joint with corner clamps. Make sure when you assemble the apron that it is flat and true in relation to the coffee table top.

Making coffee table legs

If you have chosen a coffee table design using a plywood top then you could use pine for the legs.  For a sturdy table you might use pine that is 4×4 inches. Alternately you can purchase pre turned legs or salvaged legs are an option if you want a more rustic look to your coffee table design.  Consider the height you want your coffee table to be.  This might depend on the height of your lounge room furniture if you plan to use your coffee table in your lounge room. Cut the legs to length for your planned height and smooth the cut edges with sandpaper.

Attach the legs to the apron

You now have all the parts of your coffee table ready to assemble. Start by attaching the coffee table legs to the apron. You could attach the apron to the coffee table top first but this makes it awkward to attach the legs so it’s generally easier if you attach the legs to the apron first.  Screw and glue the legs to the apron, working from the inside so the screw holes won’t be easily visible.  Counter sink the screws and fill the screw holes if you want to hide the screws. 

Incorporate the legs, apron and top

Take the time to make sure the apron and legs are properly centered on the underside of the coffee table top.  Mark the position with a pencil in case anything moves and ensure you keep checking the location of the apron and legs as you attach them to the coffee table top.  Use metal brackets or wooden blocks to attach the apron.  With wooden blocks screw and glue the block to the inside of the apron first and then to the table top.  Make sure that any screws you use are not too long as you don’t want screws coming through the coffee table top or through the side of the apron.

Finishing steps

There are endless options for finishing off your table.  To stain or paint your table sand it with a medium grade sandpaper, perhaps 100 or 120 grit followed by a finer grade such as 200.  Clean carefully with a damp cloth to remove all dust before staining or painting.  For a smoother finish you can polish the timber with fine steel wool and linseed oil, cleaning the timber with a tack cloth to get all dust off before applying a lacquer. So there you have it, the basics to build your own simple coffee table.    

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