Yesterday, I posted an in-progress sneak peek of my DIY coffee table on the A2D Facebook page, and people had some very interesting guesses as to what it was! A coffin? A raised flower bed? A bookcase? Ha!
No, I didn’t build a coffin. In fact, I built a factory cart-style coffee table out of old cedar fence pickets. Want to see how it turned out? Here it is!
Woohoo! It’s finished!! And to think, I started off with this…
John and Alice were having their fence replaced, and I just couldn’t bear to see this gorgeous wood with all of this lovely grayed patina heading for the landfill!! I wish I had projects for all of it, but I didn’t…and I don’t have anywhere to store old wood.
I do love how the aged wood looks as a coffee table. That’s a finish that no amount of paint and faux finishing can replicate!
But my favorite part? Oh, that would be these little rope pull handles that I put on each side. I think this touch just “makes” the coffee table, don’t you?
Overall, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. In a perfect world, I would have been able to find antique metal wheels for a bargain. That didn’t happen, so I opted for these black wheels from Lowe’s.
And of course, working with old weathered wood can be quite challenging because it’s generally warped and can be brittle in places.
But I managed, and I love it. I even came across one board that had what appears to be a date scratched into it. It’s meaning will remain a mystery, but the character it adds is a perfect touch.
I also ended up making this cart taller than an actual factory cart would be. I just really wanted it to be a more standard coffee table height. It ended up being just under 18” tall.
And here’s what it looks like in the room…
Of course, I’m still a ways away from being finished with the decorating in this room, so it’s still looking a bit sparse. I’m keeping an eye out for the perfect rug, so that will lighten the area some.
Edit: Here’s the coffee table in the finished room…
So do you want to make your own? Keep reading for complete instructions. And if you don’t have any old fence picket, keep your eyes open for them! People are always replacing privacy fences and discarding the old pickets. Or you can even check websites like Craigslist and Freecycle to see if anyone is getting rid of their old fence wood. You’ll need about 15 6-foot pickets for this project.
Approximately $100. Does not include cost of pickets, which you can probably find for free.
- One sheet of 1/4″ MDF measuring 24″ x 48″ (Home Depot sells these pre-cut),
- Two pieces 1″ x 8″ lumber, each 8 feet in length,
- One piece of 2″ x 4″ lumber, 12 feet in length,
- Wood glue,
- Four 5″ wheels,
- Screws and washers (if needed) to attach the wheels,
- Eight feet of 1″ jute rope,
- Water-based clear coat.
Tools & Supplies:
- Nail gun with 1″ and 1.5″ finishing nails (if you don’t have a nail gun, the entire thing can be put together with a hammer and nails or screws),
- Miter saw,
- 150-grit sandpaper,
- Paint brush.
I started by cutting my 1″ x 8″ lumber. I needed two pieces that measured 47.25″ in length, and two pieces that were 24.25″ in length.
Next I cut my 2″ x 4″ lumber into pieces that measured 10.5″ in length. These will be the legs of the coffee table. (Note, I only cut 8 pieces, and used 2 per leg. But I would highly recommend using 3 pieces per leg.)
I then used wood glue to glue two pieces of the 2″ x 4″ lumber together, and clamped until they dried. I repeated this with the other pieces. (Again, I would recommend gluing 3 pieces together for each leg, rather than 2 pieces.)
Rather than using a separate clamp for each leg, I just put them all in the same clamp and left them to dry while I moved to the next step.
Using the 1″ x 8″ lumber that I just cut, I used wood glue and my nail gun to make a frame for the coffee table. (Note: If you don’t have a nail gun, you can use screws for this step.)
I placed a bead of wood glue on the edge of the 1″ x 8″ lumber, all the way around the frame.
Then I placed the 1/4″ piece of MDF on top and nailed it to the frame with my nail gun.
At that point, it looked like a big plain box.
I turned the box over, and unclamped the legs (by this time, they were dry enough), and placed a leg in each corner of the box. I secured the legs using wood glue and my nail gun, shooting the nails from the outside of the frame, through the frame and into the leg.
With all of the legs secure, I turned the table over and stained the top and the sides. This stain didn’t really serve a decorative purpose. The reason I did this was so that if any of the frame showed through the reclaimed wood (through knots or cracks), the frame would basically disappear. If it was left unstained, it would be very noticeable if it showed through knot holes.
With the frame complete and stained, and the legs attached, I was ready to start adding the cedar fence boards. I cut several pieces to 24″ in length, and attached each piece with wood glue and my nail gun.
I started on end, and attached them as shown.
Then I worked my way across the entire top, and to the other end.
When I had all of the top covered with fence boards, I had excess board extending past the frame, so I used my jigsaw to cut off the excess board. You can see in the picture below how the last board on the top is narrower than the others.
I covered the sides of the table last, cutting the boards long enough to cover the cut ends of the fence boards on each end, and I attached them so that they also covered the cut ends of the fence boards on top of the table.
At this point, the construction was basically complete. This how the table looked from underneath. (You can see that the MDF I used for the top had previously been used for spray painting.)
I then flipped the table upside down, and attached the wheels to the legs with wood glue and large screws and washers.
The final step was to attach the jute rope handle to each end. I started by tying two knots in the rope. This was no easy task, as this rope doesn’t bend easily. But after working with it, I finally got the knots in place.
I then drilled the holes in the end of the coffee table for the rope to go through. I actually didn’t have a drill bit large enough for the rope I selected, so I the largest drill bit I could find, and drilled three holes right next to each other for each end of the rope. It wasn’t pretty, but the knot in the rope covered it.
Then I secured the rope in the inside of the frame. I had intended to secure it by tying a knot inside, but I didn’t allow myself enough rope. I didn’t realize just how much rope the large knots used!! So I had to get creative with how I secured it. So definitely make note of this, and allow yourself, PLENTY of extra rope. (I bought six feet of rope for two handles. I recommended in the “Materials” section that you purchase eight feet.)
The last thing I did was give it a quick sanding with 150-grit sandpaper (just enough to remove any splinter-causing rough spots, but not enough to remove the patina of the weathered cedar), and then give it at least two generous coats of Polycrylic clear coat. I chose to use the water based clear coat because I wanted to keep as much of the grayed patina as possible, and oil-based polyurethane tends to give wood a yellow/golden hue. I wanted to avoid that, so water-based Polycrylic was a good choice for this project. I really concentrated on getting it well-coated in all of the cracks and knot holes.
And when it was dry, it was finished!
- Be very careful working with old fence boards!!!!! Old pressure treated pine boards can contain arsenic. To be on the safe side, wear something to cover your nose and mouth while cutting/sanding, and then be sure you seal the boards VERY well when finished.
- Look out for splinters and nails!! Those old boards can bite you if you’re not careful.
- Double check your measurements before cutting. Please don’t just go by my measurements. Your MDF board may be a slightly different size than mine, and you’ll need to adjust the measurements of your frame boards and fence boards.
- If you’re not fortunate enough to come across antique wheels at a bargain, then you can paint the wheels or use a sponge to dab on black and brown paints for an antiqued look.
- Dress up the top with a stencil to look like an old company logo.