Project Guide

How to Build a Coffee Table

Cut the lumber

Mark and cut all the lumber needed for the project according to this cut list: 

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

  • 4 legs – 16 ½ inches 
  • 4 end trim pieces – 21 ¾ inches 

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

  • 4 side braces – 11 ¼ inches 

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

  • 2 pieces for table top front and back – 52 inches 
  • 2 table top ends – 16 ½ inches
  • 3 pieces for table top center – 41 inches

Cut the 1- x 8-inch x 12-foot board: 

  • 3 bottom shelves – 41 inches 

Cut the ¾-inch x 2- x 4-foot plywood panel: (optional shelf) 

  • 3 pieces for the remote shelf sides and back – 4 ¼-inch 
  • 1 remote shelf bottom – 22 ½-inch
Cut Pocket Holes in the Rails
  • Place two of the legs side-by-side with the bottoms flush.
  • Measure up two-and-a-quarter 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.

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 collar on the bit 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 the Front and Back Frames
  • Apply glue to each end of the top two-by-two trim piece.
  • 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 ½-inch pocket screws.
  • Line the lower side trim up with the guide line and clamp it in place, then 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 and Attach the Bottom Shelf

The three boards that will make up the bottom shelf need to be attached to each other side-by-side using glue and one–and-a-quarter 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 ¾-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 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 ¼-inch pocket screws.
Attach Side Braces
  • Mark the upper and lower end rails for positioning the side braces.
  • Drill 1 ½-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 ½-inch screws.
  • This will allow you to easily access the pocket screws 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

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

  • The three 41-inch boards should be lined up 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 ½-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 ½-inch pocket screws. 

In this guide, we will show you how to add a remote shelf on the underside of the table top. If you prefer to skip this step and attach the table top as is, continue with the rest of this step and then skip on to step 9:

  • 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 ½-inch screws.
Build the Remote Shelf Assembly (optional)

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, and the back panel won’t require pocket holes.

  • Drill two ¾-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 ¼-inch pocket screws.
Attach the Remote Shelf (optional)
  • 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 ¾-inch from each leg.
  • Place the shelf in the resulting gap with the back of the shelf against the opposite side trim.
  • Use the 1 ¼-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 2 ½-inch screws
  • Drive 1 ½-inch pocket screws into the pockets along the top edges of the remote shelf.
Sand, Clean and Apply Finish
  • Sand the entire piece with 22-grit sand paper and remove the dust with a tack cloth.
  • Paint or stain as desired.