HOW TO MAKE A SIMPLE PINE COFFEE TABLE OR TABLES

MAKING THE COFFEE TABLE BASE - Marking out, Assembling.

MARKING OUT

Marking out the coffee table base. Spread an old blanket or dust sheet on your level surface and lay the coffee table top face downwards on the blanket. Using your straight edge, draw a line 1" in from the longer edges of the coffee table top and then draw a line 3" in from the shorter edges to produce a rectangle as shown in the diagram left.

Next mark out another rectangle 1/4" in from the first one. Saw one end of each of the the four legs to square using whatever means you have available and then saw the legs to to exactly the same length, (16").
Letter each leg on the top, i.e. A, B, C, D, and mark each corner of the underside of the top to correspond. Also mark the two outside faces of each leg.

Stand each leg in turn in position on the top with their two outside faces exactly in line with the corners of the outside rectangle as shown in the diagram and carefully mark round the inside faces of the legs with a sharp pencil. Remove the legs and set aside.
Select and mark the best face to be the outside face of the coffee table rails and saw one end to sqare. Pull the table top out so it overhangs the front of your level work surface by about 4". Place the first rail on the top with the outside face exactly in line with the inner rectangle already drawn on the top, and the end that you have cut square exactly in line with left hand pencil line showing the inside face of the left leg. Cramp the rail to the top in this position with the 2 G-cramps putting a bit of waste wood between each cramp and the surface of the table and one for the top of the rail to prevent the cramps denting the surfaces.

Arrange the brackets as shown in the diagram on the MAKE TABLE HOME page with the slots all pointing across the width of the coffee table. Drill pilot holes and screw two of the slotted brackets to the inside of the first rail with a pan head screw and washer through the middle of the slotted hole into the table top.

Now make a pencil mark at the right hand unsquared end of the rail exactly in line with your pencil line for the inside face of the right leg. Letter the rail and its corrosponding position on the top as you did with the legs.
Unscrew the screws from the rail, remove the cramps and the rail, and use the combination square to mark out square in line with your pencil mark. Repeat this procedure for the other three rails. You can now saw all the rails to length.

ASSEMBLING THE BASE OF YOUR COFFEE TABLE

Marking out the legs of the coffee table.The following method is designed to be a faster way of doing the joints than using a dowelling jig which in my experience takes almost as long as doing the job properly and using mortise & tenon joints.

Before you assemble the base, sand all the components with whatever method you have available using 80 or 100 grit sandpaper or sanding belt. It is a lot easier to do it at this stage than when the base is assembled.

Replace the four rails on the coffee table top in their correct positions and re-screw them to the brackets. Place the first leg in its correct position and pencil round the end of the rails onto the inside faces of the leg.
Remove the leg, find the center line of the thickness of the rails, and transfer it round onto the outside faces of the leg with your square. Also transfer round the line for the bottom of the rails. (it will be on top as the table is upside down)

On the outside face of the leg opposite the long rail mark two points on the center line 3/4" in from the top and the bottom of the rail and on the face opposite the short rail mark two points 1-1/4" in as shown in the diagram.
The diagram shows the leg looking at the two outside faces with the long rail to the right and the short rail to the left. Repeat this procedure for the other 3 legs.

If you have a pillar drill, use the pilot bit that suits the 4" screws that you bought and drill right through the legs at each point that you marked them, then, holding each leg in its correct position on the table, use the same drill bit mounted in a power drill to drill right through these holes into the ends of the rails ( you will need a long series drill bit for this ). If you don't have a pillar drill, just hold the legs in position and drill right through them into the ends of the rails at the points marked trying to keep the drill as near as possible perpendicular to the faces of the legs.

At this point you have a choice. If you want a quick job with less lasting power, remove the legs again, drill through the existing holes with a drill bit one size greater than your 4" screws for clearance, counter sink the holes and then screw the legs into place using the 4" screws. Fill over the screw heads with plastic wood or brummer stopping and sand flat when dry.

Next alternative is half and half.
Jointing the legs of the coffee table.Fit the drill bit the same size as your dowel into the power drill and stick a bit of electricians' tape round it about 1/2" from the end.
Remove legs from table, drill 1/2" into the bottom two holes in each leg up to the tape. Change bits to the clearance bit and drill right through the same holes with it, and then screw the legs into place through the bottom holes only.
Apply sash cramps to just above the top holes with some waste wood between the cramps and the legs and pull the legs tight against the ends of the rails but don't over tighten.
Next using the drill bit the same size as your dowel wrap some electricians tape round at 4-14" from the tip and drill through the top holes in the legs into the ends of the rails to a total depth of 4-14" up to the tape marker.

Saw your length of dowel into 8 pieces of dowel 4-1/2" long then with a stanley knife slightly sharpen one end like beginning to sharpen a pencil so that the front edge won't snag as you are driving it home. Place each of the dowels in a vice or clamped in a workmate and cut a small V along the total length with the stanley knife. The reason for this is that the tight fitting dowel driving the air and the glue into the hole will split the rail unless you give it a means of escaping, believe me, I've done it.

Mark each dowel round with a pencil at 4" from the tip. Apply plenty of P.V.A. glue into the mouth of each top hole and drive the dowels in with a mallet until you reach the pencil mark, (see USEFUL TIP 2 in the left column). This should give you about 2" of dowel into the rails with 1/4" clearance at the end of the hole. As you drive the dowels home you will see a big squirt of glue coming out of the end of the V cut. Don't worry about it, that is what the V cut is for.

Next cut 8 smaller dowels about 1" long and applying glue as before drive them into the lower holes to cover the screw heads. Wipe off excessive glue with a damp cloth and saw all the projecting dowels off just proud of the leg and sand them so they form a feature by protruding slightly.

For the most sturdy joints, dispense with the screws and use dowels in all four holes in each leg.

Finally, after leaving the table for a couple of hours for the P.V.A. glue to go off, remove the four brackets from the short rails, and replace with one centrally positioned bracket to each short rail scewed to the table top through hole which is slotted in line with with the length of the table. This is so that the centre line of the top is held in a fixed position so that any shrinking or expanding occurs evenly towards or away from the fixed centre line rather than all in one direction, (the 4 removed brackets were needed to keep the short rails secure during marking out and the jointing process only).

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