This DIY modern maple coffee table was the first time I had combined metal and wood in a furniture project. I always wanted to try mixing the two mediums, but just had never done it. Watch the video of me making it and let me know if you would build something similar. 

Background

We recently bought a new sofa, in a totally different style for us: modern. We have grown to like the mid-century style that you see a lot right now, and it was time for a change, so we listed our sofa and oversized chair that matched on Facebook, and it was gone within a week.  

Now what? 

Here we were, wanting a new sofa, but had not finished our search for one yet. And now, we had NOTHING to sit on in the living room!  it was a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. 

The sofa we found was modern, or probably better classified as “transitional,” and the price was right, so we scooped it up. It had these feet that were kind of squarish and tapered on all sides. It made the sofa look BARELY modern, so we wanted to swap out the feet for something more mid-century. That’s where Kyle Toth came in. I reached out to him, asking if he would be able to turn some feet for the sofa, and what look we were going for. We went back and forth on wood type and some other specifics, and then he went to town. (This is not a post about our sofa feet, so I will just keep it at that for now.) The light color of the maple sofa feet made us want to upgrade our more traditional coffee table and end table.

Tools & Materials

Table saw
Miter saw
Drill & impact driver
Festool Domino
Router
Chisels
Sander
Polyurethane

Design

Legs

A long time ago, I had settled on wanting to use some sort of flat steel legs, although I wasn’t sure the exact shape I wanted the legs to be. I found some sites that made this type of coffee table leg, but when I saw one of Mike Montgomery’s videos where he featured some cool coffee table legs made a company called Industrial By Design, it solidified in my mind what I wanted to do. They have reasonable prices, and I liked the style of the flat steel legs they sell, so I bought some steel trapezoid legs from them at the standard, coffee table height of 16”.

The Top

I looked all over for some designs that I liked. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a single slab, pieces that were glued into a panel or even a panel with breadboard ends. We knew we wanted the top of the new coffee table to match the new sofa feet, so it needed to be maple. I called my lumber supplier and asked about some figured maple and he told me he had some spalted maple in stock, but it was pricey. I figured up how many board feet I needed for the whole project and decided I would go with the spalted maple. I went to his warehouse only to find that the spalted maple he was referring to was in whole slabs, starting at $825! They were beautiful, but I didn’t need that much wood, and for this type of thing, he could not just cut off a piece and let me buy that. I decided that I would just get some 8/4 maple, that’s 2” thick, and work with whatever character the wood presented. 

I paid them a little extra to joint one side, since these were over 10” wide, and my jointer is only 6.” That helped a lot. I also knew the length I wanted the coffee table, so I had them cut them into 4 pieces that were about 42” long. I think the board was about 14’ long at first.

Upon getting the boards home, we decided we wanted the coffee table to be thinner than originally planned. I could get the width we desired from only 3 of the boards. I ran them through my planer so I could see the grain better on both sides, and decide on the orientation of the boards for the panel.

I got to use a Festool Domino for the second time on this project. A neighbor owns one and he said I could borrow it for this. I wanted to use the Domino for aligning the pieces in the panel. I used the largest ones he had, I believe they were 10mm x 50mm. It took me a little while to get it dialed in where the mortise the machine drills out was in the middle of my board, but I eventually got it.

The glue-up went well using the dominos to keep everything aligned. However, I was a little disappointed at the slight unevenness of the panel after I glued them all together. Maybe I didn’t have them perfectly flat or some of them warped a bit after I got them ready, but I had to do a lot of sanding to get the table top level and smooth. That is supposed to be the point of using dowels or dominoes for alignment when making a panel, but it has just not been my experience. Multiple times, I have had ridges at the intersection of the boards, and have had to work very hard to get them flat. This is especially difficult on a large panel like this, because it will not fit through my planer. Therefore, all of the flattening must be done by a sander or hand plane.

The Dutchmen

I started with a piece of paper, laying it over the large crack at one end of the table. I left this crack as a point of attention, but wanted to use some Dutchmen, sometimes called bow ties, of a contrasting wood for even more visual appeal. At first, I drew out 6 Dutchmen, all in varying shapes. However, upon looking at them on the board, I thought it was a little too busy and they were all a little too close together. I later eliminated a few of them and dropped the number down to 3. They were all quite a bit larger than previously drawn too.

I went to my walnut scraps and found some that would work for the Dutchmen. I used the paper templates I had made to draw onto the walnut, and then cut them out at the bandsaw. Once they were all three cut out, I clamped them up and used a chisel to pair the sides down smooth, as well as putting a slight chamfer on the downward facing side. This aids in adding these to the mortise that will be cut into the table top later on.

Once happy with the overall shape of the Dutchmen, I positioned them on the table top over the crack, and used a pencil to transfer the outside shape.

Inlay

For as much material removal as possible, I used my palm router with a 1/8” spiral upcut bit. This made for quick work of most of the mortise, leaving me some around the edges to clean up with a chisel. I’m sure that the chisel work would not have taken others more experience with such things, but for me, this took a couple of hours. I eventually got them where they fit snugly, but not too snugly. I then mixed up some two part epoxy, added in some very find walnut dust to thicken the epoxy and color it, and hammered the Dutchmen into place.

The Dutchmen were left proud of the table top by at least 1/8”, so after the epoxy was dry, I used my hand place to bring the walnut down closer to the height of the table top. I used my orbital sander to do the rest. Then, I worked on through the grits of sandpaper, finishing with 220 grit. At this point, it was pretty much ready for finish.

FINISH

I started out using an equal-part blend of boiled linseed oil, polyurethane and mineral spirits, but it made this particular wood incredibly blotchy. I'm not sure what was going on, but I didn't really like it at all. Once it dried, I sanded it off so I could start over. 

I then opted for just plain polyurethane, and I am happy with the result. It really brought some of the wood's character, and I put on about 3 coats, sanding inbetween with 320 grit sandpaper. 

STEPS

1. Get some 8/4 (8 quarter) wood and mill it into the size you would like

2. Use some method for joining the boards: domino, dowels, biscuits, or simple glue edge

3. Sand or scrape them flat

4. Trim to size

5. Mark out bow ties

6. Cut bow ties

7. Finish sand

8. Apply finish

9. Clean legs and seal

10. Attach legs

Conclusion

This was a fun project, and we have really enjoyed the design that it brings to our house. Thanks for checking out the project and the video. I'd love to see it if you build one yourself. Tag me on Instagram @Brudaddy if you build one. Also, feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below or in the comments section on YouTube. 

See you next time!

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