Make a Modern DIY Coffee Table (Easy Upcycle How To)

By Brittni • Updated on 02/15/2024

Made a new DIY coffee table by up cycling what I already had.

round wooden coffee table on a striped rug in organic modern living room

When I did the living room makeover for my mom, I got a round coffee table for the room. But then for Christmas, my brother and I bought her a nicer one, that better fit the space.

So, I took the old coffee table to use at my house for a while. I didn’t love the style of the legs, but it worked well for us in the interim and I liked having a round table to use.

We previously had a skinny rectangular coffee table that didn’t really work very well in the space.

The table has mostly held up, but the wood top was pretty destroyed from constant use. There were water stains, coffee mug rings, pen and crayon marks – all the things. It just didn’t look very good in person anymore.

So, I started looking for a new coffee table and I found one that I loved, but of course, it was also over $4,000! Which definitely did not work for our budget.

Beautiful modern coffee table though – it’s this one.

minimal wood coffee table that is round with short wood legs

So, I thought, why not try to make something similar using the wooden table top we already have and see if I can remake the expensive one I saw for a few hundred bucks (as opposed to 4,000).

Well, it ended up being WAY easier than I thought. After a trip to a specialty hardwood shop, I found really thick dowels that would work perfectly for the coffee table legs and that was really all I needed to get started.

Aside from the wood veneer, which I also found at that hardwood store. SO! I was ready to go.

But that’s not exactly how it turned out…

With the sheet of veneer and the heavy duty dowels, I had only spent about $150 (the bulk of that being the sheet of veneer).

After I got started though, sanding everything down, I realized most of the issues were just on the surface. And the solid wood table top was in better shape than I thought.

In which case, I may not need the veneer at all.

I decided to try staining the wood first. And if I didn’t like it, I would just sand it back down and move forward with the veneer as planned.

Spoiler alert: I never did the veneer bc the stained wood looks pretty decent and has held up MUCH better to stains so far.

Here’s how I made my own DIY coffee table, but reconfiguring our old one…

  side view of round DIY coffee table in minimal earthy modern living room

Wood DIY Coffee Table

I would say the necessary skill level for making your own furniture piece like this one is intermediate. And probably would even work for some beginners, since there are really only a handful of cuts to make. That said, here are the basic tools and supplies you’ll need to make your own coffee table…

Materials

  • table top – Mine is from an old coffee table, I already had (Toba vintage brown coffee table from Article – this one). But you could also buy a round tabletop from home improvement stores. I found round 36 inch table tops here: Lowes  /Ace Hardware. They also have larger round wood table tops in store at DIY Home Center, if you have one of those near you. And I also found a similar option on Wayfair.
  • gel stain – You can use any type of stain. It doesn’t have to be gel. I picked gel stain bc I had it already and you can skip a step when you use gel, which you’ll see in the instructions toward the end.
  • 3 hardwood dowels (2.5 inch diameter) – I found these at a specialty hardwood store.
  • wood screws
  • old rags
  • small wood scraps 
  • *pre-stain wood conditioner – You will only need a wood conditioner if you’re using a liquid stain, instead of a gel stain. I’ll explain more about that later.
  • wood glue (optional)

Tools / Equipment

There aren’t many power tools involved in this DIY project. You’ll just need…

  • drill
  • power sander
  • miter saw or circular saw (could use a hand saw instead, but would take a while)

removing old metal legs from round, wood coffee table

Instructions

1. Removing the old metal base.

The first step was simply removing the old metal base. This was the easiest part. 

I just turned the coffee table over and used a drill to remove all the screws to take the base off.

I gave the old base to a neighbor to reuse for their own table.

2. Cutting and sanding the legs.

I don’t have a cut list, since the only thing I had to cut were the coffee table legs. But here’s what I did…

I marked off 12 inches with a tape measure on each dowel before I cut it down with my miter saw. I picked this height because I wanted something that would sit low to the ground, like the inspiration coffee table.

But then, I cut another inch off after using it for a few days, to make it even lower. 

So the final height of each leg was around 11 inches. You can adjust the measurement to whatever height you would like.

After cutting the legs down to size, sand each leg so it’s prepped for staining. I would recommend sanding the legs before you attach them to the coffee table top. It’s much easier this way.

cutting the rounded wooden legs for coffee table project

3. Cutting and attaching wood to each leg.

The easiest option I came up with for attaching the thick dowels to use as legs was to attach a small piece of scrap wood (but larger than the diameter of each table leg) to the top of each leg.

So I could then attach each leg to the table base.

To attach the piece of wood to the wood legs, I used countersunk wood screws (through the middle of the wood piece and the middle of the dowel) and made sure each screw sat below the surface of the wood when finished.

4. Measuring placement and attaching legs.

Determining placement for the legs when the design is just three legs, instead of four, is a little bit more work. But still easy enough.

I turned the table top over (under side facing up) and found the center of the table.

Then used a protractor to mark off 120 degree spacing between each leg, similar to this.

Once the placement was all figured out, I attached the wood piece for each leg to the table base (one screw on each side of the wood) in those positions. See photo.

This would be a good time to add wood glue as well, before screwing, if you want that extra security. I skipped it for mine because it didn’t seem necessary.

5. Sanding the table base.

To remove all of those stubborn stains, scratches, etc on the coffee table top, I sanded the entire surface.

I used an orbital sander for most of the sanding, which is one of those tools that’s just great to have around.

If you could only get one sander, I would go with a random orbital sander (instead of a regular orbital) because with a random orbital you don’t get any scratch marks that can sometimes occur with a regular one.

This is because random orbital sanders oscillates in a non predictable /random pattern. Whereas a regular one will sometimes leave circular marks.

Staining round wood coffee table top on a workbench

6. Conditioning the wood and another light sanding. (optional…sort of)

Generally, gel stains are more forgiving and minimize blotchiness because they don’t penetrate into the wood, they sit on top of it.

Which means, using a conditioner is not really necessary, with a gel stain. I used a gel stain, so I skipped this step. 

BUT if you’re using a liquid wood stain (which can be water based or oil based), it’s a good idea to condition the wood first, to reduce unevenness / blotchiness in the finished piece.

You can use any pre-stain wood conditioner.

There are a couple of things to know ahead of time, when selecting the type of wood conditioner / pre-stain to use. 

  1. Whether you select a water based or oil based wood conditioner, just make the stain you select is the same. Meaning if you use a water based wood conditioner, use a water based stain. And if you use an oil based wood conditioner, use an oil based wood stain. There are instances where you can mix the two types, but it requires the conditioner to be COMPLETELY dry first (like 72 hours or more). So, to me, it doesn’t make sense to mix the types.
  2. Water based wood conditioners raise the wood grain, so they have to be sanded after the conditioner is dry (before final staining). Oil based wood conditioners do not require sanding afterward.

7. Staining the table base and the legs of the coffee table.

As I mentioned before, I used a gel stain for this project. But the only reason I used a gel stain was because I already had it in the garage (leftover from another project).

I think if I were to do it again, I would have used my fave oil stain (Rubio Monocoat) instead. I just like the way it applies and adheres a little more than the gel stain. It penetrates the wood and as a result, the color turns out nicer imo. Gonna use it on my wood entry table I have in the bedroom.

With a gel stain, you just dip a rag into the gel (a very small amount goes a long way) and then wipe it onto the wood surface.

You can use another rag to wipe off any excess. 

*IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s really important to properly dispose of stain rags. Oil stain rags, specifically, can spontaneously combust. SO! It’s very important that they are dried out first completely, before being thrown away. They cannot be reused. I found this video from This Old House really helpful for how to properly dispose of oily rags.

8. Add a top coat.

Lastly, once the stain has dried (typically 6 to 8 hours), you can apply a top coat to the wood surface. Thin coats work the best. From there, it’s ready to use. Pretty easy coffee table idea, right?

round wooden coffee table in organic modern living room with natural light

What was the final cost of this DIY coffee table?

Because I skipped the veneer, I saved even more money than I planned on this project. The final costs ended up being under $75! Not bad. 

Here’s the price tag breakdown:

  • table top (already had) $0
  • gel stain (already had this too, but still included in cost) $22
  • 3 hardwood dowels (2.5 inch diameter) $45
  • old rags $0
  • wood scraps $0

TOTAL: $67

Can this be used as an outdoor coffee table?

You COULD make this an outdoor coffee table with a few tweaks. Mainly, you would need to use a type of wood that can handle the harsh elements of being out in year round weather. And you would also need to seal the wood with an exterior sealer.

Examples of wood that would be suitable for building outdoor furniture:

  • Teak
  • Mahogany
  • Cypress
  • Redwood
  • Cedar

 

Would you change anything about the finished table?

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. Is this the most perfect coffee table? Maybe, maybe not. But it definitely fits into the pretty cute and functional coffee table category.

Admittedly, there is something that bothers me slightly about the legs. I think it’s the way the gel stain looks on that particular wood. But I’m not sure.

Other than that, I like it – MUCH better than the old coffee table base. 

I do think veneering the entire table would make it look even closer to the inspiration table. And wrapping the legs in that same veneer would squash what I’m bothered by currently with the legs.

BUT I’m at a good place with it for now. Still may veneer it in the future, who knows.

I don’t have a round tabletop to use. Can I still make this?

Definitely! I’m all about using what you have. So if you have an old tabletop that is a different shape, you could cut it down to a circle shape with a jigsaw and/or router.

Another option would be to pick up a round tabletop that’s already been cut, from he hardware store. They typically have smaller sizes at Lowes and Home Depot. But I recently saw much larger wood circles (up to 50 inches) at DIY Home Center. They had a bunch of sizes, actually. You may need to sandwich two wood pieces together, with wood glue, to get a thicker look (and possibly add edge banding too). But after that, you would tackle the rest of the project the same way I did, with making the coffee table legs.

Lastly, another great option would be to check out a local thrift store, estate sale, or flea market for a piece of furniture (specifically a wood tabletop) that you’d be able to use.

How well has the coffee table held up so far?

At the time of posting this, we’ve already lived with this simple coffee table, in its newest form, for more than 6 months.

And my 4 year eats snacks here, spills drinks here, plays rough here – all the things toddlers do. It pretty much looks the same as day one.

Wipes clean when anything spills and doesn’t leave marks behind when dry.

I’ll update this post again as time goes on to see how well it holds up. But wow, what a huge difference just adding some stain will do, in terms of protecting the wood.

What if I want to make a wood coffee table in a different shape?

I would say a rectangular or square coffee table would be just as easy as this round one. And probably a little easier to find the tabletop pieces you would need. So yes, this DIY project would work just as well with a different shape tabletop.

Aside from that though, if you’re looking for a completely different style of coffee table, I would check out this DIY pallet coffee table project. It’s made from wood pallets, as the name suggests. Also, has some nice storage, which is always welcome imo, when it comes to furniture.

Any tips for styling these DIY coffee table ideas?

Of course! I shared how to style a coffee table in a previous post, that goes through 3 different ways / looks for coffee table styling with various objects.

P.S. I made a DIY coffee table sculpture that would make for a good styling piece as well, if you want to check that out.

Organic modern living room with wood coffee table and slingback leather chairs

closeup of wood coffee table with white ceramic vases and books

minimal wood coffee table with pottery and books

DIY Coffee Table (round coffee table idea)

Brittni
When I did the living room makeover for my mom, I got a round coffee table for the room. But then for Christmas, my brother and I bought her a nicer one, that better fit the space. So, I took the old coffee table to use at my house for a while. I didn't love the style of the legs, but it worked well for us in the interim and I liked having a round table to use. We previously had a skinny rectangular coffee table that didn't really work very well in the space. The table has mostly held up, but the wood top was pretty destroyed from constant use. There were water stains, coffee mug rings, pen and crayon marks - all the things. It just didn't look very good in person anymore. So, I started looking for a new coffee table and I found one that I loved, but of course, it was also over $4,000! Which definitely did not work for our budget. Beautiful coffee table though. It's this one. So, I thought, why not try to make something similar using the wooden table top we already have and see if I can remake the expensive one I saw for a few hundred bucks (as opposed to 4,000). Well, it ended up being WAY easier than I thought. After a trip to a specialty hardwood shop, I found really thick dowels that would work perfectly for the legs and that was really all I needed to get started. Aside from the wood veneer, which I also found at that hardwood store. SO! I was ready to go. But that's not exactly how it turned out...
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Equipment

  • drill
  • sander

Ingredients
  

  • table top Mine is from an old coffee table I already had (Toba vintage brown coffee table from Article - this one). But you could also buy a round tabletop from home improvement stores. I found round 36 inch table tops here: Lowes /Ace Hardware. They also have larger round wood table tops in store at DIY Home Center, if you have one of those near you. And I also found a similar option on Wayfair.
  • gel stain You can use any type of stain. It doesn't have to be gel. I picked gel stain bc I had it already and you can skip a step when you use gel, which you'll see in the instructions toward the end.
  • 3 hardwood dowels 2.5 inch diameter - I found these at a specialty hardwood store.
  • screws
  • old rags
  • small wood scraps
  • *pre-stain wood conditioner You will only need a wood conditioner if you're using a liquid stain instead of a gel stain. I'll explain more about that later.

Instructions
 

Removing the old metal base.

  • This was the easiest part. I just turned the coffee table over and used a drill to remove all the screws to take the base off. I gave the old base to a neighbor to reuse for their own table.

Cutting and sanding the legs.

  • I cut each wooden dowel down to 12 inches, with my miter saw, for my coffee table because I wanted something that would sit low to the ground, like the inspiration coffee table. But then, I cut another inch off after using it for a few days. So the final height of each leg was around 11 inches. You can adjust the measurement to whatever height you would like.
  • After cutting the legs down to size, sand each leg so it's prepped for staining. I would recommend sanding the legs before you attach them to the coffee table top. It's much easier this way.

Cutting and attaching wood to each leg.

  • The easiest option I came up with for attaching the thick dowels to use as legs was to attach a small piece of scrap wood (but larger than the diameter of each table leg) to the top of each leg, so I could then attach each leg to the table base.
  • To attach the piece of wood to the wood legs, I used a countersunk screw (through the middle of the wood piece and the middle of the dowel) and made sure each screw sat below the surface of the wood when finished.

Measuring placement and attaching legs.

  • Determining placement for the legs when the design is just three legs, instead of four, is a little more work. But still easy enough. I turned the table top over (under side facing up) and found the center of the table. Then used a protractor to mark off 120 degree spacing between each leg, similar to this.
  • Once the placement was all figured out, I attached the wood piece for each leg to the table base (one screw on each side of the wood) in those positions. See photo.

Sanding the table base.

  • To remove all of those stubborn stains, scratches, etc on the coffee table top, I sanded the entire surface.
  • I used an orbital sander for most of the sanding, which is one of those tools that's just great to have around. If you could only get one sander, I would go with a random orbital sander (instead of a regular orbital) because with a random orbital you don't get any scratch marks that can sometimes occur with a regular one. This is because random orbital sanders oscillates in a non predictable /random pattern. Whereas a regular one will sometimes leave circular marks.

Conditioning the wood and another light sanding. (optional...sort of)

  • Generally, gel stains are more forgiving and minimize blotchiness because they don't penetrate into the wood, they sit on top of it. Which means, using a conditioner is not really necessary, with a gel stain. I used a gel stain, so I skipped this step.
  • BUT if you're using a liquid wood stain (which can be water based or oil based), you will likely want to condition the wood first, to reduce unevenness / blotchiness in the finished piece. You can use any pre-stain wood conditioner.
  • There are a couple of things to know ahead of time, when selecting the type of wood conditioner / pre-stain to use.
  • Whether you select a water based or oil based wood conditioner, just make the stain you select is the same. Meaning if you use a water based wood conditioner, use a water based stain. And if you use an oil based wood conditioner, use an oil based wood stain. There are instances where you can mix the two types, but it requires the conditioner to be COMPLETELY dry first (like 72 hours or more). So, to me, it doesn't make sense to mix the types.
  • Water based wood conditioners raise the wood grain, so they have to be sanded after the conditioner is dry (before final staining). Oil based wood conditioners do not require sanding afterward.

Staining the table base and the legs of the coffee table.

  • As I mentioned before, I used a gel stain for this project. But the only reason I used a gel stain was because I already had it in the garage (leftover from another project).
  • I think if I were to do it again, I would have used my fave oil stain (Rubio Monocoat) instead. I just like the way it applies and adheres a little more than the gel stain.It penetrates the wood and as a result, the color turns out nicer imo.
  • With a gel stain, you just dip a rag into the gel (a very small amount goes a long way) and then wipe it onto the wood surface. You can use another rag to wipe off any excess.
  • *IMPORTANT NOTE: It's really important to properly dispose of stain rags. Oil stain rags, specifically, can spontaneously combust. SO! It's very important that they are dried out first completely, before being thrown away. They cannot be reused. I found this video from This Old House really helpful for how to properly dispose of oily rags.

Add a top coat.

  • Lastly, once the stain has dried (typically 6 to 8 hours), you can apply a top coat to the wood surface. From there, it's ready to use.

Notes

What was the final cost of this DIY coffee table?
Because I skipped the veneer, I saved even more money than I planned on this project. The final costs ended up being under $75! Not bad. 
Here's the cost breakdown:
  • table top (already had) $0
  • gel stain (already had this too, but still included in cost) $22
  • 3 hardwood dowels (2.5 inch diameter) $45
  • old rags $0
  • wood scraps $0
    TOTAL: $67
Did you make this?Mention @paperandstitch or tag #paperandstitch!

1 comment | Click here to reply

Thanks for the info

Krifor
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