How To DIY A Reclaimed Wood Coffee Table

Greetings! Before we get started on this fun project I would like to introduce myself. My name is Zach Schiller and I am a 3rd year Interior Design student at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham. Recently I was offered an internship position at Mint to Sell Home Staging and Redesign. Working for a staging company couldn’t be a more perfect internship for me. Growing up in a military family, my family and I moved around A LOT. Now, that may sound like a terrible thing. However, I loved it. Whenever it came time to relocate to another place I always begged my mother to bring me with. I loved looking at all the potential houses, and studying their designs, interior and exterior. Each house had a different feeling to them and smell, some good and some bad. What was most interesting to me is how certain houses would make you feel so comfortable, and some not so comfortable. But what was it about the house designs that could make you feel this way? That’s exactly what I wanted to study and now I’m on this amazing journey to create the perfect atmosphere in a house

About 4 years ago I started repurposing furniture from thrift stores. Quickly that hobby evolved into designing and building my own furniture. Looking for new furniture is an exciting adventure. However, it can be expensive.  We want the look of the high-end furnishings but don’t want to have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for one piece of furniture. If you have some creativity, imagination, and some basic wood working skills and tools, you can create your own masterpiece.

I highly encourage you to visit your local Habitat for Humanity store. They have tons of stuff you can find to use for almost any kind of project. Even better, is the money you spend at Habitat for Humanity goes directly to helping other people who are in need of assistance. Habitat for Humanity builds houses at no profit and no interest. All building costs are paid for with “The Fund for Humanity”. Many low-income families have received help from Habitat for Humanity and got involved in community groups and churches that all help with finding decent housing for everyone. I am so honored to be able to partner with Habitat for Humanity. I am beyond greatful for the amazing selfless dedication they have to our community.

I moved to the Raleigh NC area about 4 years ago. And I have been to multiple Habitat Reuse locations where I have found many gems. Many projects have been created from repurposed items found at Habitat Reuse store. I have found, furniture, chairs, a sofa, tables, wood, several chandeliers and lamps.

I wanted to recreate a coffee table from 2 different coffee tables I got inspired by. One table I saw was a Hammacher Schlemmer Analog Clocktail Table. This table has a classic look.  I am really attracted to the distressed table top. The base is constructed of steel giving it a strong appearance and has a glass top.  However it would cost you $600. The other table I saw was from the Restoration Hardware Salvaged Wood X-Base Collection.


Restoration Table

Restoration Table

This table is made with wood and has a farmhouse style to its base. It would set us back about $2600. BUT! Since we are creative individuals with a vision, we will take characteristics from each table to create our own unique piece for much less money and we can use reclaimed wood and materials that is environmentally friendly. There is nothing better than that! Also since we are building it ourselves we can personalize the table to our liking. 


Hammacher Clock Table

Hammacher Clock Table

I love this clock tabletop idea. Clocks have such a classic style and a sense of sophistication to be admired. After all, they tell the time, and time is the only thing in the world that never stops.

Personalizing the table needs planning. I'm not a fan of glass table tops. They are not kid/pet friendly and they show EVERY single fingerprint and smudge possible. So for this project we are sticking with 100% wood. Reused wood at that. Even better right? I found oak wood flooring at the Wake Habitat location and managed to find pieces that didn’t have any adhesive or residue stuck to them.      

Using reverse side that doesn’t have a finish applied to it.

The wood flooring was finished in either a Golden Oak or Colonial Oak stain. However the other side of each plank was unfinished. SCORE for us! This unfinished side is going to be the side we will be using and finishing to our liking.. There is no sense in sanding off the old oak finish when there is a perfectly good side just by flipping the planks over. Also the underside of the planks have an extra groove in them that will add to the character of our “new to us” table top.

1.     First you want to decide on a tabletop shape and size. I decided on an octagon shape with each side measuring 11’’ and has 22.5 degree angles

2.     Lay out your wood planks and connect them together on a flat surface.

3.     Create a stencil of the shape you decided on and cut it out. You can use cardboard or foamboard for this part. I found it much easier to use the “Octagon Calculator”. It gives the angles and measurements to create the perfect octagon.

4.     Draw your shape lightly in pencil on the surface of the wood planks. Or lay the stencil you made on your tabletop wood and trace around the edges of the stencil with a pencil.

Octagon Trace.jpg

5.     Now your ready to CUT! Clamp the flooring to your work table. Cut out the shapes using a circular saw or a compound miter saw. I glued all the planks together and let them dry. Then cut the shape out with my circular saw. I found this way to be much easier than cutting each plank individually on a miter saw.



6.     Now you want to create an under trim support. If you are doing octagon, cut each piece to size at 45 degree angles and place them together like above. Use wood glue to attach them to the planks then secure them with 1-1/4’’ brad nails. I purchased a nail gun and it saves a lot of time and it very easy to use. It only cost $70 at Home Depot and is worth every penny. Next add outer edge trim using the same method except for these edges you will be cutting at 22.5 degrees instead of 45 degrees. Since some edges may be slightly different lengths than other edges it helps to measure and cut each trim piece as you go. This way you know for sure each trim piece fits. Also it helps to number each trim piece with each edge to keep everything in order. 

7.     Decide on the height you want your base pedestal to be. 12’’ is what we were aiming for for this table. It will give our total table height around 16’’ to 17’’. If you have a taller sofa/furniture then you will want your coffee table to be around 20’’-21’’. You will need to cut out 2 pieces at 3-1/4’’ wide by 12’’ long, and 2 more pieces at 2’’ wide by 12’’ long.

8.       Then connect all 4 sides with wood glue and 1’1/4’’ brad nails. Make sure when your attaching the pieces that the smaller pieces of 2’’ wide are sandwiched in between the other 2 larger sides. 



9.  Next you want to cut pieces of wood for the top and bottom of this base. Measure the inside length and width of the base and cut it out. Attach with wood glue, one of these small pieces to the underside center of the tabletop. I found the center of the tabletop and drilled a hole to mark the center. 

10. Reinforce with 1’’ brad nails through the top of the tabletop.

11. Now we can construct the floor base part of the table. Being the artists we are, we get inspired from other artists. Farmhouse style tables are very popular right now and it will be the perfect style to compliment our reclaimed materials. Get a 2x4 that is at least 4’ long. The 2x4 we are using has holes, and old screw and some normal wear and tear from a previous project. This is ok because it adds charm to our table. Just make sure to take the any screws or nails out before you cut. 

12.   Cut it evenly in half so you have 2 pieces at 24’’ long. Lay down 1 of the 24’’ pieces onto your table. Take the other piece and cut it to size. To do this you will have to subtract the width of the 2x4.  The dimensions of a 2x4 are really 1-1/2’’ x 3-1/2’’.  (Keep this is mind with most lumber) subtract the width from the length of one 24’’ piece. Which would be 24’’ minus 3-1/2’’.  Now you have your new length for the second piece to your floor base, which is 20-1/2’’. Next you can cut off exactly 3-1/2’’ of the second board. Then cut this new sized board directly in half.

13. To get the angled look on the floor base we made out of 2x4s, simply bevel cut each edge of the board at 22.5 degrees, or whichever angle you desire. Be careful not to cut off any length of the board. 

14. Next we are going to attach the floor base pieces together. I LOVE this Kreg Jig kit I got from Lowes a couple years ago to make pocket holes. It was only $30 and does the job well. You will want to drill pocket holes into the 2 shorter pieces. I drilled 2 pocket holes into each smaller board.  

15. Add wood glue to the edges and connect them to the center point on your longer 2x4 board. 

16. I found some scrap wood about ½’’ thick that we will add to the bottom of the floor base to make it stand more evenly on the floor. And it also gives it added visual dimension. Cut 4 pieces at the same width as the 2x4 feet. Add wood glue and attach to the bottom of each foot with 1’’ brad nails. Since we are using nails to attach these you want to make sure that the nails are slightly recessed into the wood. This prevents the nail heads from scratching a nice floor or getting snagged on your carpet or rug. Use a Phillips screwdriver on the head of each nail and bang with a rubber mallet to push the nails in a little more.

17. Remember the 2 very small pieces of wood we had to cut out for the top and bottom of the base pedestal? The first one we attached to the underside center of the tabletop?  Now we will attach the 2nd piece to the center of our floor base. We will use 4 wood screws. Predrill 4 holes for 1-1/2’’ wood screws.

18.  Add wood glue to the bottom of the small piece and screw in your screws. Add the whole center support base. Use wood glue and 1-1/2’’ brad nails. 

19. To add to the Farmhouse style we need to add diagonal base supports. To do this we need to cut out 4 pieces at 8.25’’ long and angle the edges at 45 degrees. Now we can attach them to the floor base and the base pedestal using wood glue and 1-1/4’’ brad nails. 

20. Now you can fill in the edges and nail holes with wood filler. Always add a little more wood filler than you need because it does tend to shrink when it dries. Even wood filler that says it wont shrink, still shrinks a little. Once the wood filler has dried you can go over your filled edges and entire base with 120 grit sandpaper, then again with 220 grit sandpaper. Working with sandpaper is important. It preps the surface for paint and/or stain. If you do not properly sand the surface, your end result will not look great. f you are using an orbital sander make sure to take your time. If you rush with an orbital sander you will get deep scratch marks. I use the rule of thumb to sand 1 inch per second. 

21. Before we add the tabletop were going to paint the table base. Trust me, it's much easier this way. I'm using a latex paint I found at Wake Habitat. It’s a beautiful neutral gray/beige color and kind of has a chalky appearance to it once it has dried. Which is perfect!  Paint the table base and don’t worry about painting it perfectly because we will be distressing it next.

22.  Once the paint dries you can start the fun part of aging the table base. I used my Dremel tool with the 120 grit sander attachment to distress the edges of the base. Sand the edges and corners of the table base. And don’t worry about being perfect because its supposed to look a little rugged.

23. Now we will stain the tabletop. I couldn’t decide which shade to stain so I created stain samples on scrap wood flooring pieces. The floor planks are oak so they have a natural reddish tint to them. I decided to go with a gray stain. It's important to know about the wood you're working with. Oak is a slow growing tree. This means that the grains are tight. This also means that it will not soak up stain as well as other wood will such as pine. I applied a thicker layer of gray stain and let it sit for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes I wiped off the remaining stain. Do not let excessive stain dry on your wood. It will create future problems. Now you want to let the stain dry completely.

After wiping off the stain

After wiping off the stain

24. After the stain has dried completely you can paint. We're going to use Roman numeral numbers for the clock numbers. I have these letter stencils and will only need to use the I, V and X stencils. For the paint color I got a sample size of Behr enamel paint cheap from Home Depot. I love this color because it’s a dark blue called “Starless Night”. Stain has an oil base so you want to make sure you use an oil base paint like enamel. You can use acrylic paint on top of oil base paint however there are a few more steps you will have to follow and it doesn’t always work out like you want it to. Arrange your numbers how you prefer them to be laid out on your tabletop. I traced in pencil where each number would go to make sure they were all evenly spaced out. Then you can paint over each number with your enamel paint. When you have your stencil where you want it use small pieces of tape to hold it down. If you have never stenciled before, just remember that less is more. If you load your brush with too much paint, the paint will bleed under the stencil and make a smudgy mess. Not good. Use a foam brush and dabbing motions with your brush for best results. Remove the stencil and wipe off any excess paint on the front AND back of the stencil before reusing or you will get wet paint onto random places on your tabletop. 

25. Once the paint has dried you can do a light sanding with 220 grit over the numbers to give it a distressed look. I added another stencil painting in the center of the tabletop that has sparrows and a flowy design. I like this stencil for this table because it has natural curves that help break up all the sharp angles of the octagon.  Once this has dried repeat the light sanding with 220 grit.  Wipe off any paint dust with a damp rag.

26. For the final tabletop finish we are using satin polyurethane which is also oil based. It's best to use a good quality natural bristle brush with oil bases. Brush on the polyurethane with long even brush strokes. Overlap half of your previous brushstrokes when you start a new row. Do not be tempted to pick out any dust or small bugs that fall into your wet polyurethane. Unless you have tweezers on hand, just let it dry where it is.

27. After it has dried for the recommended amount of time, (refer to the polyurethane can) lightly sand over the tabletop with 220grit sandpaper. This is where you will sand off those pesky dust specs or the mosquito that landed on your wet finish. Wipe off the tabletop with a damp rag and repeat steps for another coat of polyurethane. I put 3 coats total.

28. LAST STEP! The light is in sight and we are almost done! The very last step is to attach the tabletop to the base.  Add your wood glue and secure it with 1-1/2 brad nails around the edge just like you did in Step 21. That's it! We're done! Enjoy and show off to your friends your custom made reclaimed coffee table.