We needed a coffee table for the office’s front room, and it was up to me to design and make one, which I was more than happy to do! This table has all the components I love in a project: it involved material I never worked with before (a clear acrylic sheet), geometric shapes, and compartmentalized storage. I wanted it to have an organic, found-material vibe, accented with the sharpness of the acrylic and triangular legs. I stressed tight and sharp angles while letting the sander wear down the layers of plywood in some areas. I left measurement ticks and marks unerased – I wanted the process of the build to be a part of (and apparent in) the finished piece. This coffee table is one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. Let me show you how I did it.
-3/4″ hardwood plywood (I actually used a couple different types of material I had lying around the shop to get the look I wanted. I used poplar hardwood, plain ol’ sheathing plywood, some pine board, and 1/8″ ply for the bottom.)
-clear acrylic sheet (The piece I used was about 3/8″ thick, which was perfect.)
-3/8″ dowel rod, pine
-Kreg pocket hole jig
Step One: Since I was building this thing from an idea, I made some sketches with rough dimensions. Once I had a good idea of the direction I wanted to head, I just went for it. I ripped some 1.5″ pieces from a poplar plywood sheet and started forming the legs from those. Check out the diagram to see the dimension and angles I used. I pocket-hole screwed the pieces to each other. Once I had the pieces glued and screwed, I glued in 2″ pieces of 3/8″ dowel, which I trimmed off and sanded after the glue dried.
Step Two: After I had the legs built, it was time to create the braces. At this point, several components had to be taken into consideration. The braces for the legs were also going to serve as the ends of the box, which was going to house the compartments, and which the acyclic sheet would rest on top of (with a lip, so it would be flush with the outer wall). Check out the diagram if none of this makes sense. I basically designed the table around the dimension of the sheet I had to avoid cutting it, plus is was a good size and fit the space perfectly. So the brace was made from two pieces of ply. I traced the legs where I wanted them to fit and cut them so that the legs could notch in snugly.
Step Three: After the sides/leg support pieces are made, it was just a matter of building them into a simple box, nailing on the bottom plywood, and adding some pieces in to create the compartments. I decided to paint the box before adding the legs since I was planning to just put poly on the legs.
Step Four: After the paint dried, it was time to attach the legs. Since the legs and connecting wall were 3/4″ thick, I cut eight 1.25″ dowels. I measured to find the center and drilled two equidistant 3/8″ holes on either side. (I put tape on the bit at 1.25″ so I wouldn’t drill through.) Once I had all four holes drilled, I removed the legs and applied wood glue. Then I put the legs back on, tapped the dowels in, clamped everything together, and waited for the glue to dry. Once both legs were on and the glue was dry, I sanded down the dowels so they were flush. Then I flipped the table and put a couple coats of poly on, except for any surface that the acrylic would come into contact with. I wasn’t sure if it would stick.
The acrylic fit like a glove. One important, no-brainer note: I forgot to make the box square the first time and the acrylic, of course, didn’t fit. Fortunately, my brain kicked into gear before I got too far (only had to remove the bottom ply) and I employed the square. Easy fix, but could have been avoided. I built the table to fit the acrylic sheet so I didn’t have to cut it, but that stuff is pretty easy to trim down. You basically just score it with a razor blade or acrylic cutter against a straight edge, apply a bit of pressure, and it snaps nice and clean.
Using a 5/8″ paddle bit, I drilled a hole into a corner of the acrylic so it could be lifted easily.
Credits // Author: Joshua Rhodes. Photography: Joshua Rhodes and Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.