Reconnecting People
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Furniture Design: Coffee Table

I designed and built a coffee table with a pickled white oak top on a steel box frame base.

 

I created a coffee table with a pickled white oak top and a steel base.

2016

Challenge

When my wife and I were re-decorating our living room, I decided to build a coffee table.

Outcome

Our beautiful coffee table gets daily use and frequent compliments from guests.

What I Did

3D prototyping
Carpentry
Design
Literature review
Materials sourcing
Pickling and finishing

Team

I collaborated with my dad on the tabletop. By all rights he was the principal carpenter. 

Professional welder James Harris constructed the steel base.

 
 

 

Prototyping

I cut foam sheets to various sizes and tried them at different heights. 

 
Prototype table Also pictured: I taped off the dimensions of the rug sizes we were considering, helping us choose confidently.

Prototype table
Also pictured: I taped off the dimensions of the rug sizes we were considering, helping us choose confidently.

 
 

Testing these prototypes in our living room helped us pick a size and height.

 
 

 

Construction

Welding

I hired a professional welder to make the base with one inch square steel tubing.

 
 
 

Carpentry

My dad and I cut and planed four white oak boards, then glued them together. Once the glue dried, we sanded the table top until the surface was smooth.

 

Planing

Gluing

18 clamps secure the tabletop while the glue dries.

 
 

Pickling

Our living room and adjacent kitchen feel serene and light. To match this aesthetic, I wanted to brighten the table top while accentuating its grain.

Unlike stains, pickling lightens wood with a strong bleaching reaction. Then a dilute whitewash is applied.

 
After reviewing the professional woodworking literature, I chose a strong AB bleach. Part A is sodium hydroxide and part B is hydrogen peroxide.

After reviewing the professional woodworking literature, I chose a strong AB bleach. Part A is sodium hydroxide and part B is hydrogen peroxide.

Staging tools and supplies

Staging tools and supplies

Before treating the table top, I tested the bleach on scraps.

The contrast between the original wood (foreground) and the bleached wood (background) shows the bleach's powerful effect.

The contrast between the original wood (foreground) and the bleached wood (background) shows the bleach's powerful effect.

 

This time lapse shows one round of bleaching. The wood initially darkens because it's wet.

 
 
 

Finishing

After bleaching, I whitewashed and sanded the tabletop. Then I finished it with walnut oil, which, unlike other oils, does not react with tannins to darken wood.

 
 
 

Finally, I applied a protective coat of polyurethane.