Sunday, February 12, 2012

Third Time’s the Charm

…aka coffee table re-do.  As with most of my furniture, I inherited my coffee table from some friends. At the time, the coffee table was a significant improvement from the Rubbermaid bins that previously served as a footrest/coffee table surface.
After a while, however, the worn state of the coffee table just wasn’t doing it for me.
I really liked the texture of the table top, so when I was brainstorming up-cycle ideas, I wanted to keep this principle in play. My first idea was to use PVC pipe to make a surface, akin to Alicia’s mirror or Mandy’s dresser. I guess I should have been wary when everyone I told about this idea was skeptical. The boyfriend even (lovingly) refused to do this project with me. 
Round One:
I forged ahead anyway, and 40 feet of PVC later combined with 20 minutes with a rotor saw left me with this:
Hello my pretties!
Anyway, I got right to work laying out the PVC inside the newly deconstructed and painted coffee table frame. This blue-gray color is another treasure from the the “oops” paint section.
At this point, the coffee table is upside down with some scrap boards underneath to support an even lay of the pipes. So far, so awesome, right? I was having visions of an epic brag blog at this point. But pride comes before the fall, my friends. The idea was the glue the pipes together with a high strength epoxy and between the tension and the glue there wouldn’t be any need a base support. The guy at the hardware store (reluctantly) recommended an epoxy, so I went to town. In an attempt to make a uniform pattern, I worked from all four sides inward. And, to my utter dismay, I ended up with this:
A mid-table gap. Bad news bears. I am not quite sure how this worked out, since it all fit perfectly when I did the dry run.
So round one, fail. I can speak to the strength of the epoxy, however, since it took a hammer to crack out the pipe slivers when I went to break them out.
Round 2:
Next thought was the painted wood grain plywood table top. The best example is Mandy’s lamp shade (minus the glitter).  My landlord generously showed me how to use his fancy table saw so that we could get straight cuts for plywood piece. However, three seconds of the plywood placed in the table frame told me round two was a no go.
Round Three: Fence Fence Planks
My next idea was to use some old fence planks from my landlords’ fence (lucky for me, they are extremely generous with their tools and old materials). Fortunately, they were the perfect length for the coffee table. With my newly acquired table saw skills, I took a bit off the sides. Then it was a matter of nailing the boards together. I wanted to keep the rustic nature of the planks, so I just did  a quick sand to remove splinters and then used a gray wash (gray paint + water) to antique the color a bit. Two coats of polyurethane, and ta-da! I am in love.
This was by far my most time consuming and expensive failure. Fortunately, the final fix was free and perfect. In retrospect, the table now reflects the style of the house more than the PVC table would have. I do have a box full of PVC slivers and a large piece of plywood at my disposal now. Napkin rings for all?
In conclusion, this table is the poster child of the iterative creative process and how it behooves the artist to be flexible and generous to the inevitable flops that may precede the final beauty.


  1. Wow, that turned out beautifully! Definitely love the look of those planks best out of your three different tries. And BTW, way to stick it out; I might have just chucked the whole project after my first idea didn't pan out.