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Project Guide

How to Build a Coffee Table

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Cut List
A man using a circular saw to cut a piece of lumber.

Mark and cut all the lumber needed for this project using this cut list. 

Cut the two 2- x 4-inch x 8-foot common studs:

  • Four legs - 16 1/2 inches
  • Four trim pieces - 21 3/4 inches

Cut the three 2- x 2-inch x 8-foot boards:

  • Four side trim pieces - 41 inches
  • Four side braces - 11 1/4-inches

Cut the three 2- x 6-inch x 8-foot boards:

  • Two pieces for table top front and back - 52 inches
  • Two table top ends - 16 1/2 inches
  • Three pieces for table top center - 41 inches

Cut the 1- x 8-inch x 12-foot board:

  • Three bottom shelves - 41 inches

Cut the 3/4-inch x 2- x 4-foot sanded plywood panel (optional remote shelf):

  • Three pieces for remote shelf sides and back - 4 1/4 inches
  • One remote shelf bottom - 22 1/2 inches

Cut Pocket Holes in Rails
Someone fitting together the rails for a DIY coffee table.

Place two of the legs side-by-side with the bottoms flush. Measure up 2 1/4 inches and mark guidelines across the broad faces on each leg. 

Create pocket holes along the top edge on both ends of the two front trim pieces using a pocket hole jig. The jig, when clamped into place, serves as a guide so you can drill holes at a precise angle. 

Tip: When drilling pocket holes, set the pocket hole depth on the jig to match the thickness of the material you will be drilling through. Then adjust the depth on the bit collar to match. Use an Allen wrench to loosen and tighten the collar as needed. The setting should be measured from the shoulder of the drill bit, not the tip. 

Assemble Front and Back Frames
A man using a drill to assemble a DIY coffee table.

With the pocket holes drilled, apply glue to each end of the top 2- x 2-inch trim pieces. Position the upper trim piece with the pockets facing what will be the interior of the table. Adjust the trim piece until it is flush with the top and sides of the legs and clamp it in place. Attach to each leg, using 2 1/2-inch pocket screws. Line the lower side trim up with the guideline. Clamp it in place and use pocket screws to attach it. 

Repeat the process for building the back trim assembly. 

The upper piece should be flush with the top of the legs. Use the guidelines to position the lower piece. Remember, the pockets should be facing the bottom of the table. Repeat on the other side.

Construct & Attach Bottom Shelf
A man using a drill to make pocket holes in a DIY coffee table.

The three boards that will make up the bottom shelf need to be attached to each other side-by-side, using glue and 1 1/4-inch pocket screws. 

Measure and mark the center of the edge, then mark four inches in from each end and again at twelve inches in from each end. 

Drill five 3/4-inch pocket holes into each board. The center board of the shelf will have pockets drilled on both edges of the board. The outer two boards will have pockets created on only one edge. Each board will also have pocket holes centered on both ends. 

Run a bead of wood glue along the joining edge, making sure all edges of the first two boards are flush, and then drive in the pocket screws. 

The five pocket holes along the edge and the three on the ends will be used to attach the shelf to the front, back and end rails. With the pocket holes facing down, position the bottom shelf of the coffee table along the lower end and side trims. 

Clamp and secure the shelf with more 1 1/4-inch pocket screws. 

Attach Side Braces
A  man using a drill to make pocket holes in the legs of a DIY coffee table.

Mark the upper and lower end side rails for positioning the side braces. These braces are decorative only, so these measurements can be adjusted as you like. 

Drill 1 1/2-inch pocket holes at each end of the braces. Position them with the pocket holes facing the outside of the table and attach the braces using 2 1/2-inch screws. This will allow  you to easily access the pocket holes with the drill when attaching the top shelf. Since these screws will be visible, it’s best to conceal them with pocket plugs

Apply glue and insert the plugs into the pocket holes. Any excess can be removed at the end of the project when you sand.

Construct & Attach the Table Top
A man using a drill to make the top of a DIY coffee table.

The table’s top will be constructed using seven 2- x 6-inch boards. 

Line up the three 41-inch boards next to each other to form the center of the table top. Line up the two shorter boards at each end of the center boards and place the two longest boards on either side.  

Drill five 1 1/2-inch pocket holes into the edges of the three center boards, another five into the two outer long boards and two into each edge of the two shorter outer boards. 

Apply glue to the joining edge on each board and attach all the boards using 2 1/2-inch pocket screws. 

The video in this guide will show you how to add a remote shelf on the underside of the table top. This will make your coffee table unique and provide additional storage. 

If you prefer to skip this step, and attach the table top as-is, position the frame on the table top assembly. The top should overhang the frame by 1 3/8 inches on the front and back trims and two inches over the end trims. Attach the table top using 2 1/2-inch screws.

Build the Remote Shelf (Optional)
A man using a drill to screw together a shelf for a DIY coffee table.

The three project panel pieces will serve as the back and sides of the shelf. Each side panel will require three pocket holes along one edge. The back panel won’t require pocket holes.

Drill two 3/4-inch pocket holes into three of the edges on the shelf leaving one of the longer edges with no holes.  

Position this bottom shelf between the sides and back and attach using 1 1/4-inch pocket screws. 

Attach the Remote Shelf (Optional)
Someone using a drill to screw  a shelf to the back of a DIY coffee table.

To create room for the remote shelf, use a circular saw to cut the front trim piece. It should be cut to a distance of 7 3/4 inches from each leg.

Place the shelf in the resulting gap with the back of the shelf against the opposite side trim. Use the 1 1/4-inch pocket screws to attach the shelf to the back trim and the shortened front trim pieces.

Position the table frame on the table top and check for the proper overhang. Attach with the  2 1/2-inch screws. Drive the 1 1/2-inch pocket screws into the pockets along the top edges of the remote shelf.

Sand, Clean and Apply Finish
A man using a power sander to sand the top of a DIY coffee table.

Use a sander to sand the entire piece with 220-grit sandpaper and remove the dust with a tack cloth. Paint or stain as desired. With or without the remote shelf, this coffee table will be a long-lasting and sturdy addition to your home. 

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