How to Build a Modern Industrial Wood and Metal Coffee Table

One of the very best parts of DIYing is creating something that *looks* high-end but that cost a fraction of what you could have purchased it for. Our guest today wanted her own modern industrial style wood and metal coffee table like she’d seen at the designer stores — so she made her own and saved a few hundred bucks!

Make your own CUSTOM modern wood and metal coffee table with this great tutorial from Plaster and Disaster on Remodelaholic.com. How to build a metal table base AND make it structurally sound, no welding required.

Read below for Sage’s details on building your own, and if you’re interested in adding some modern and/or industrial style to your home, try these other projects, too — and you can always add some color like Sage did to her table!

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Give Sage and her colorful style a very warm welcome back! 

How to build a colorful and modern industrial wood and metal coffee table @Remodelaholic

How to Build a Modern Wood and Metal Coffee Table
by Sage from Plaster and Disaster

It’s been awhile since I was last on Remodelaholic, sharing my colorful stairwell makeover using fabric and mod podge. Usually you can catch me over at Plaster & Disaster, where my better blogging half — Naomi — and I share our (mis)adventures as first-time homeowners in our fixer-upper houses, without prior experience and with a hefty dose of other responsibilities (like full-time jobs). From small crafts to major home improvements, we chronicle our numerous and incredible successes (while relying heavily on hyperbole), but also the inevitable disasters that happen along the way. Be sure to check out some of our favorite projects and fondest disasters!Build this modern colorful wood and metal coffee table -- a real metal base, made from basic hardware store supplies, and NO welding or fancy tools!

Today I’m here sharing a DIY wood and metal coffee table I built out of steel and plywood. Think you can’t DIY your own metal table because you don’t know how to weld? Think again! Today I’ll share how I made this coffee table for $156:

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Modern metal coffee table DIY with no welding, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.comI was inspired by some amazing sleek, industrial, modern, metal, polished wood pieces that I loved but that were totally out of my price range:

Designer metal and wood coffee table designs, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com
Sources (clockwise): Parquet Coffee Table, from Wisteria ($999) | West Elm (no longer for sale) | brandMojoInteriors, on Etsy ($1,275) | Steel and Timber Coffee Table, from Not on the High Street ($723.88)

Even though I was intimidated, I decided to try taking on this project myself. First, I need to give a shoutout to Sarah Dorsey, who has an amazing blog full of incredibly adventurous and creative projects. When I started investigating how I might construct a metal coffee table, everything I saw either involved creating a faux metal look out of wood, or enlisting your welder friend to help out. I was not interested in either of these options, and then I remembered the gorgeous herringbone coffee table that Sarah made a few years ago:

Sarah M Dorsey Designs, herringbone wood and metal coffee table

Sarah used 1″ wide steel pieces to construct her table base and bolted them together, so I thought maybe — MAYBE — it was something I could accomplish. However, I encountered some challenges along the way that caused me to alter the original design (adding cross pieces for structural support), and my table turned out looking pretty different.

Please note that I’m going to do this tutorial as though I built the coffee table correctly the first time around, but in reality I made it one way first and discovered that it was not as structurally sound as it needed to be:

Oops! How to fix a leaning metal coffee table (or build it from scratch the RIGHT way)

Please don’t think I’m trying to gloss over my mistakes, it’s just that I wrote three posts totaling more than 6,000 words about this project (making the original frame, making the tabletop, and fixing the frame), and I obviously wanted to condense that into one comprehensive post for your viewing pleasure today.

So! Let’s pretend that the plan all along was to construct a square metal box with cross supports, with angled steel forming the vertical supports and straight steel forming the horizontal segments around the top and bottom and the diagonal cross supports. I picked my dimensions by marking it out in my living room, but also by looking at the common dimensions for the lengths of steel I was buying to figure out how I could make as few cuts as possible since I was nervous about this part (in retrospect, unnecessarily so).

Coffee table with metal base design plans, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

First up was an epic Home Depot run. Here’s the full supply list:

Supplies:

  • Horizontal and diagonal pieces of frame: 6 lengths of 72″-long x 1″-wide straight steel (To have four segments around the top and four around the bottom each 36″ long, I needed four 72″ inch lengths of steel each of which I cut in half; plus I needed an additional two pieces to make my four 25.5″ cross pieces) — $58.32
  • Vertical pieces of frame: 1 length of 72″-long x 1″-wide angled steel (To create an 18″ tall table, I needed to cut a 72″ length in quarters) — $12.97
  • 14 short bolts, 2 medium bolts, and 4 long bolts and hex nuts: I selected #6 machine bolts at 3/8″ long for the short ones, 1/2″ long for the medium ones, and 3/4″ long for the long ones. The longest ones are the four that will also go through the brackets that attach to the table top plus the cross supports (so need to go through 3-4 thicknesses of steel), the medium ones are for the joints that have only brackets but no cross supports, and the shorter ones are for the rest of the joints. Make sure to get rounded head screws rather than flathead– these will actually sit more flush against the hole unless you have a sunken screw hole, which I was obviously not going to be drilling myself. — $9
  • 4 angle brackets to attach the frame to the tabletop — $1.97
  • 3 cans yellow spray paint, 1 can clean metal primer, 1 can clear gloss topcoat (all Rustoleum) — $19.13
  • White vinegar (this is to soak the coating off the metal — I’ll get to that later) — $4
  • Scrap wood (to put under the metal when drilling)
  • Pack of metal cutting blades for the jigsaw– $8.97
  • 2x multi-pack of black oxide drill bits — I really only ended up needing one size (1/8″), so in retrospect I could have just bought a few of those as singles rather than multi-packs. (To figure out what size you need, you can look online to see what bit size you should use for the bolt size you’ve purchased — just make sure to test out a hole before you drill all of them to make sure it’s right.) — $9.94
  • Plywood: We found a really nice piece of birch plywood that was 3/4″ thick — $24.99
  • Veneer edging — $6.50
  • Minwax stain(I used “Espresso”) and water-based poly: already owned

Tools required:

  • Jig saw (I own a very reasonably-priced Ryobi model that cost $60 and was a great investment
  • Orbital sander (you can sand by hand if you need to)
  • Drill
  • Dremel
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Clamps/vice
  • Safety goggles
  • Clothes iron

Total: $156

With the supplies in hand, here’s how I did it:

Step 1: Cutting the frame

This is the part I was most nervous about, but it was pretty easy. I started with the flat pieces, and marked each one with a sharpie where I wanted to cut.

DIY Metal coffee table with no welding, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Then I put two tables a few feet apart from one another, and clamped a single piece of steel across the divide with the cutting mark very close to one of the table edges. That way, right where I was cutting was pretty tightly secured to the table, but the other end was clamped to the adjacent table so it wasn’t vibrating everywhere.

Wood top, metal base coffee table complete tutorial, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

 

 

Then I got cutting! The jigsaw was so easy, it was just a matter of going slowly and taking brief pauses so the blade wouldn’t overheat. I didn’t break any blades, but I did switch it out halfway through all the cutting since the first one was getting dull (which I could tell because the saw started to jump a little). Each cut took less than a minute.

How to make a metal and wood coffee table without needing a welder, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.comHow to cut steel bars using a jigsaw, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

 

 

The trick for cutting the angled pieces was to clamp them with the angle enveloping a table edge, cut through the top edge, then flip it over and cut through the other. I learned this from much trial and error.

11 How to cut angled steel bars using a jigsaw, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

You may not be able to cut through the corner, but at that point you can easily bend and break the piece. This is where the dremel came in handy — this technique left a few rough corners, so I grinded those down quickly:

Metal coffee table DIY , Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.comtable tutorial
Super sweet action shot of sparks flying…photo cred Naomi

I arranged the pieces on the floor in a rough approximation of the frame, and used this shape throughout to keep track of the pieces and move methodically.

Metal base coffee table built with no welding, , Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Cutting the cross pieces for the diagonal supports required whipping out a little something known as the pythagorean theorem, ie middle school math. I knew that I wanted the pieces to hit the bottom of the frame at the midpoint of each piece, which essentially meant I was creating a triangle that was 18″ high (the corner angle pieces) and 18″ long (half of the bottom steel pieces), with the new piece constituting the hypotenuse. To figure out its length, I just needed to solve for “x” where x2 = 182 + 182. My calculations revealed that “x” needed to be about 25.5 inches, so I marked and cut those four pieces using the same jig saw technique.

Step 2: Drilling the holes

Next up was drilling the holes. Every flat piece needed a hole in each end, so I marked and drilled those first. To get the right location, I set them inside the angle pieces where they would ultimately go and marked a hole approximately in the middle with a sharpie. I made sure not to push the straight piece all the way into the corner, since when it’s assembled there will be a straight piece coming from both sides and they couldn’t both be pushed all the way into the same corner.

Below is not a good example of what I just described — this is before I decided to use that technique, and indeed this particular corner made for a very snug fit when it came time to assemble everything.

How to build a metal base for a coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

To drill, I clamped each piece to the edge of a table on top of a piece of wood:

Build a metal base for a coffee table without needing a welder, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

My tips for drilling are just to go nice and slow (but apply enough pressure that you’re making progress), and take breaks to wipe away the metal you’re churning up and let the bit cool.

Metal coffee table tutorial, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

 

You may break a bit or two — I broke one about halfway through the process.

Tutorial for making a wood top metal base coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

 

Drilling the angle pieces was a little harder. I wanted to make sure that each of those holes lined up exactly with the holes in the straight pieces that they would be attached to so that they would be exactly flush — I didn’t want one sticking out more than the other, which would create an uneven surface on the bottom or along the top of the frame.

When you’re drilling, the bit can jump a little as you’re getting started and the hole ends up being a tiny bit shifted from where you intended. To make sure I drilled in the exact right place, I actually clamped the two pieces together to drill into the angled piece through the existing hole in the straight piece:

DIY coffee table, wood tabletop with a metal base, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

As I went, I numbered each set of holes so it was clear which ones lined up with each other. In the cases where it was a hole that would also have one of the four attaching brackets, I numbered that too.

DIY Metal coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

I worked my way around the configuration on the floor, keep everything arranged in the right order.

To drill the holes in the diagonal cross pieces, I marked the correct location on the top where the piece would attach at each corner, and at the bottom of each length where it would attach to the bottom section of the frame. I also had to drill a hole halfway across each bottom horizontal piece where the cross-support would attach.

Build your own metal coffee table with no welding, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Step 3: Cleaning the metal

I found that there was some coating flaking off of some of the steel, especially the angle pieces.

Tips for working with steel during your DIY project, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Sarah had the same problem and had good luck soaking hers in white vinegar overnight, so I decided to do the same. Even though I planned to paint mine, I wanted to be sure the paint was adhering to a clean, smooth surface.

This presented a bit of a challenge, since my straight pieces were each 36″ long and I didn’t have a container that could accommodate them. Instead, I had to have them sticking out the side and then flip them the next morning. I did add a little water as well to increase the level of the liquid to get as much of the steel submerged as possible.

Steel bars made into metal coffee table base, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

It made it hard to get the very middle section, but I did a lot of scrubbing and basting. It ended up being good enough for my painting purposes, but if you want a raw steel look you should be sure the whole thing is submerged overnight.

Before submerging them, I tied on paper tags with the holes labeled, since I assumed the vinegar would take off all my careful sharpie labeling (Naomi’s genius idea).

Make your own metal coffee table

In the morning, I had this lovely sight:

How to make steel bars shiny for DIYers, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Mmmmm. I took a scotch bright pad to the part that had been submerged, and it was like a whole new piece of metal. The different between the raw steel and the coated steel is so striking, even on the straigt pieces where the coating wasn’t flaking to begin with:

Vinegar used in metal coffee table DIY, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

I also used steel wool to get some of the tougher spots — the coating in the places that were fully submerged overnight just rubbed right off super easily, so if I had been able to fully submerge the whole thing I don’t think I would have needed to scrub hard at all.

Once I was done scrubbing the pieces, I washed each one thoroughly with water and then dried them.

Step 4: Assembling the frame

Next it was FINALLY time to assemble the frame! This would be much easier if you had two people, but I was on my lonesome so it took some finagling to get the first pieces together and balance correctly. I suggest working your way around the frame attaching the bottom pieces to the angle pieces in each corner, then go back around doing the top pieces, then do the cross supports. It’s as simple as putting the screw through the right holes and tightening the hex nut — you can use a pair of pliers to hold the nut while you tighten the screw with a screwdriver.

No welding needed for this metal coffee table tutorial, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Metal and wood coffee table DIY, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

One hitch was that due to the angle at which the cross pieces needed to sit, on some of the pieces the corners stuck up above the surface of the frame and would have prevented the tabletop from sitting flush with the frame:

Metal and wood coffee table tutorial, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com
Ignore the fact that some of the frame is already painted yellow — remember that I added the cross supports after building the whole thing and encountering structural issues, but you will do it right the first time!

Build your own metal base for coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

I fixed this by using the grinding attachment on my dremel to patiently grind down the corners to the right level. It took awhile, but it worked.

 

Metal and wood coffee table step-by-step tutorial, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

I also attached the cross supports to the middle of each bottom piece using 3/8″ screws:

Metal coffee table step by step tutorial, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com
Step 5: Painting the frame

I had visions of a bright yellow frame, so once the frame was together I brought it outside on the dropcloth to paint. First I gave it a coat of primer, then two coats of yellow gloss spraypaint, and then finally a coat of a protective gloss topcoat. I did use scrap wood to lift the frame off the dropcloth so the bottom of the frame wouldn’t get stuck to the dropcloth by wet paint.

DIY Metal coffee table with no welding, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com
Again: cross supports missing in these photos because of the mixed up order I did this in.

How to build your own designer coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.comStep 6: Cutting the tabletop

I still needed to build the tabletop, which is made of plywood if you can believe it. We found a really nice piece of birch plywood that was 3/4″ thick and felt nice and solid. It came in a 4′ x 8′ sheet, and I had them cut it to 38″x38″ in the store so I could fit in in my car (I wanted to cut it precisely from home once I had the exact dimensions of the frame, and sometimes they can be a little off when they cut roughly at the store so I always leave a little extra). That cut left more than 50% of the original piece, and the guy who cut it was super nice and offered to take the unused part back and only charge me 50% of the original price. It’s always worth asking about this if you buy a much bigger piece and have it cut.

I picked which side of the plywood I wanted to be the top by just looking at both sides and deciding I liked the grain on one side better.

Wooden top, metal base coffee table tutorial, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Next I needed to cut the wood to the exact right size, so once I had the frame assembled I marked the final dimensions onto my wood and cut it down with my jigsaw.

Build your own metal coffee table, no welder needed!, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

The jigsaw definitely chewed up the wood a little along the top edge of the cut, so it was good that I had picked which side I wanted to be the top for the final product and placed this facing down when I made the cut.

With the cuts made, I used my orbital sander with an 80 grit sanding pad to sand both sides of the plywood as well as around all the edges. Lots of sanding was essential to getting the glossy look I wanted at the end.

Build your own metal base with wood top coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Step 7: Iron-on veneer

To cover up the unattractive plywood edges of the tabletop, Naomi found this awesome “veneer edging” that gets ironed on and then stained to match. They don’t seem to have it listed on the Home Depot website, but here’s a photo:

Using veneer edging in DIY coffee table project, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

DIY designer coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

To use it, I just followed the directions on the packaging, which were very clear. I won’t go into the full details here because man this post is getting long, but for the blow-by-blow you can check out my detailed post on Plaster & Disaster.

What a difference the veneer makes from the raw plywood edges!

How to make your own coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.comStep 8: Stain and seal

Next it was time to stain! I applied a first coat of my minwax stain with a brush, allowed it to penetrate for 15 minutes, and then wiped off any excess.

Wood top metal base coffee table DIY, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

I let it dry for four hours, and then repeated with a second coat. The following morning, I flipped the top over and stained the bottom. This time I just did one coat, since the bottom won’t be visible.

After letting that dry for 30 minutes, I flipped it over again. Since I didn’t want to wait for it to dry 100%, I actually used paper cups to create a base that I placed the wood on, that way the slightly-sticky bottom wasn’t flush against my dropcloth but I could still work on the top of the wood.

I applied a first coat of the Minwax wipe-on poly, letting that dry for a few hours.

Step by step tutorial for building your own designer coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Then I sanded the whole thing with my orbital sander, which is definitely a little scary because it looks like you’re messing up the finish. But this is the key to a smooth, glossy final product.

Custom built, designer look coffee table, a step by step tutorial, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

After sanding and wiping the tabletop clean with a cloth, I applied another coat of the poly. Once it dried, it looked so shiny!

Step 9: Support pieces

Of course, I realized that I had forgotten to do a little reinforcing that I wanted to do to prevent sagging over time, so once the top was totally dry I flipped it over and screwed three pieces of scrapwood across to back to add some support (I just cut them to size on my tablesaw):

How to make a metal coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Then I did a fresh coat of stain over the support pieces so they blended in.

Design your own modern coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Step 10: Assemble!

Finally it was time to attach the top to the frame! Enter the handy brackets I had secured to the frame when I built it. First I carried the frame and tabletop upstairs (separately, as it would have been way too heavy with them screwed together already), where I set it them place upside down and screwed the tabletop to the brackets.

Make your own metal and wood coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

Then I flipped it over and stepped back to admire my handiwork!

Beautiful coffee table DIY, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

This is by far the biggest furniture project I’ve ever taken on, and involved learning a lot of new techniques. Hurray for new challenges and the satisfaction that comes from conquering them!

Build your own metal and wood coffee table, Plaster and Disaster featured on Remodelaholic.com

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Thank you so much for sharing with us, Sage! The end product looks great, even if it took a few revisions to get there (been there, done that!)

Remodelaholics — hustle over to Plaster and Disaster for more of Sage (and Naomi’s) colorful style and DIY tutorials — you’ll love their real-world posts and their beautiful projects (like how to turn a boring dresser into a midcentury beauty)! I love the map mural in the attic guest room and their wall-mount desk and shelving unit (which was, coincidentally, inspired by the same office as our office makeover!)

And, if you’re in LOVE with the rug like I am, Sage shared some info about it here

DIY floating desk and shelves with handmade geometric art Plaster and Disaster

 

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. i love the coffee table! I think I’m going to try my hand at one. But just curious, does she know that those brown tiles are asbestos? It should be reasonably safe if it is sealed properly but that doesn’t look sealed at all and furthermore, the presence of tools that could be dropped heavily and chip the floor is terrifying. Mesothelioma has no cure, please have your floor seen to by professionals!

  2. You did a long, hard and great job, I really love your coffee table. I was not so brave when I did mine… You are a pro!
    Anne.

    1. Thanks Anne! Sometimes I’m up for a big challenge and sometimes not to much, this was one where I embraced the uncertainty! I think DIY is all about building on your skills and comfort zone, so where you are now may look easy compared to where you are next year!

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