Retro-Industrial Coffee Table

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Project by riverguy posted 11-30-2015 02:25 AM 1858 views 11 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The Lyons-Magnus Coffee Table

This “retro-industrial” style coffee table came to be when I happened to score about a dozen vintage crates from the long-gone Lyons-Magnus Moving Company in San Francisco. What with living close to SF, I figured these would sell quickly if made into some useful furniture. There’s lots of so-called “Retro-Industrial” stuff out there, most of it very crudely built. There is a good market for that style; no critique here on that. But I wanted to take the genre into a new level. I wanted that rough look of repurposed materials, some vintage, some salvage, but I wanted to build it to the functional standards of fine furniture.

On this table, the drawers are the original crates, with new 1/4” plywood bottoms installed. The original bottoms were a bit too funky to expect most folks to use for anything nice. But instead of the usual crates just tossed into a frame, these drawers have been fitted with invisible hardwood glides and the drawers open and close like they should, and when closed they fit perfectly into their openings.

The drawers open two ways: From one side only; or by flipping a little lever, they can be opened from either side and stop on detents when centered in the frame. The photos show them both ways.

The top is made of splined-together 2×6 clear, KD cedar planks, sanded to 220-grit smooth with a random orbit sander to intentionally go deeper into the soft grain to simulate a vintage, gently-worn surface. It was then finished with four coats of satin spar varnish and is very smooth to the touch. The frame is built from rough cedar, sanded just enough to make sure there are no splinters or rough spots, and then again, the spar varnish. The casters are new, but they were disassembled and soaked overnight in a mild solution of muriatic acid and water to “age” them properly and then treated to stop the corrosion at just the right point.

The iron end caps were welded up from 1-1/2” angle iron and the same “controlled corrosion” process used as on the casters. Starting in on this “retro-industrial” thing was a great rationale for buying the wire-feed welder that I’ve wanted for years! Oh, yeah, and the metal-cutting bandsaw!

This table sold almost instantly at the local gallery where I have been placing some work, so I guess that makes it a success! No matter how well things ever come to sell, I will still never depart from my one-of-a-kind policy. Each piece is original.

-- Skip, Forestville, CA,

9 comments so far

View BurlyBob's profile


6516 posts in 2779 days

#1 posted 11-30-2015 02:40 AM

That’s really neat.

View builtinbkyn's profile


2942 posts in 1454 days

#2 posted 11-30-2015 02:41 AM

I like it! Beautifully finished with really nice details.

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View Mork's profile


298 posts in 3288 days

#3 posted 11-30-2015 02:49 AM

Matched set… very nice!

View riverguy's profile


110 posts in 2577 days

#4 posted 11-30-2015 06:55 AM

Thanks for the kind words! I got into this retro-industrial thing, very trendy here in California right now, and I love it. Working with the wood and the iron and making both into one piece is somehow very satisfying. I’ll post some more in a few days.

-- Skip, Forestville, CA,

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 2857 days

#5 posted 11-30-2015 02:04 PM

looks great

View ronstar's profile


519 posts in 4224 days

#6 posted 11-30-2015 05:32 PM

Very cool!

-- Ron, Northern Illinois

View a1Jim's profile


117722 posts in 4090 days

#7 posted 11-30-2015 05:44 PM

Cool design

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1907 posts in 2483 days

#8 posted 11-30-2015 05:54 PM

Great work! That should sell rather quickly. You definitely gave the repurposed a good look as opposed to the normal just beat up

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View RibsBrisket4me's profile


1554 posts in 3019 days

#9 posted 12-01-2015 02:00 AM

I really, really like it!

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