Chunky, Rustic Coffee Table from Reclaimed Lumber

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Project by toddbeaulieu posted 12-10-2015 07:24 PM 4165 views 14 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My Mother in Law asked for a rustic coffee table for XMAS and I decided to try my hand at reclaimed lumber. Found a bunch on CL from a renovation of an old home in a city neighboring Boston. The site of all that hardware was a bit depressing, leading to some second thoughts.

I hunkered down with the metal detector and an assortment of tools.

While I’ve never heard the term “skip jointing”, that’s what I did so get the wood minimally true without losing too much of the character. Planed, as well, of course.

Because it’s 8/4 lumber I wanted the scale to match. It’s probably a big larger than she had in mind, but hey … I’m an arteest! The scale and design are entirely organic. At one point I did check it against the Golden Ratio and it failed. According to said recommendation the length would have stopped at the breadboard ends. Some on you may have been involved in my thread about how to add the ends without losing any of the existing top to the tenons. The answer was floating tenons, which I messed up, but got away with it.

Oh lookie what we have here! A hidden treasure!

My mortising chisel, polished to an 8,000 ceramic stone is a much better metal detector than any fancy electronic gizmo!

Ok, so off to the base. I had this OLD hand hewn post lying around, which seemed like it would make nice legs. I wanted to work the peg hole into the plan somehow but couldn’t think of anything. I saved it just in case.

There was some punkiness, especially on one leg. I used multiple applications of a “petrifier” solution, trying to get it to really soak in well. I was able to mortise all but one connection on one of the legs. For that I carefuly cut away the fibers with a knife to accept the entire stretcher, hoping to get a good looking joint through the funky profile.

Unfortunately I had already scribed a shoulder line, which is now visible. NBD. I used a lot of CA and wood glue in the mortise before assembling to try to strengthen the punky material. I’m very happy with the results. I think it looks pretty good. I decided to try cutting all the tenons by hand. I need a lot more practice, but my sexy shoulder plane and some more practice saved the day with reasonably tight joints.

To attach the tops I cut out mortises around the aprons and fabricated floating tenon blocks (no idea what to call them) to let me clamp down the top, while still accommodating floating, width-wise. I simply used solid cleats at the center of each long end, where it won’t move that much.

After pulling all the hardware, milling and assembling the table I decided to add some of back in! What the heck, right? So I put quie a few variously sized nails (mostly cut) and even a couple of staples back in. I filled a lot of the cracks with CA, including some black CA. For finish, I used my go-to Arm-R-Seal, followed by multiple applications of various gel glazing/stains. I found the bare pine with varnish to be a bit too clear for my liking and was able to add enough color and depth this way, while also accentuating some of the pits, cracks and dents. I tried not to make them consistent.

I stumbled across a trick that I like with the large planer. By setting the depth of cut minimally the teeth marks contribute to the rough sawn and rustic appearance.

For the lower shelf I used wide boards from my attic (1730 home) that I planed down on the lower sides until I liked the weight against the rest of the table. I installed them with cut nails that I had removed from my home. The lower shelf, which I had debated, actually looks great.

I’m quite happy with the overall results. It’s a solid, honest table and I feel that while there are a few minor imperfections most people would never notice. Additionally, I believe it will hold up over time. I like the richness of the finish and I absolutely LOVE the lumber’s story. Harvested over 100 years ago it was used and abused for a century and instead of going to the dump was respected and put into a lovely new form that will be loved for years to come. I got a lot of great practice with the hand planes, saws and chisels. I know she’ll love it.

17 comments so far

View TDan's profile


10 posts in 2339 days

#1 posted 12-10-2015 07:41 PM

Gorgeous Piece!! Exactly my style.

View shampeon's profile


2167 posts in 3392 days

#2 posted 12-10-2015 09:00 PM

Very nice. Turned out great! I like your stretcher cleats a lot as well.

I will admit I cringed when I saw that mortise chisel. Poor guy didn’t deserve that. But if you were a machine-tool only guy, you would have maybe taken a router bit to a hidden nail….

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Hammerthumb's profile


3100 posts in 3184 days

#3 posted 12-10-2015 10:14 PM

Very nice table Todd. Well executed. I don’t usually like reclaimed wood furniture, but I believe this table captured your intent and is very appealing.

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View hookfoot's profile


404 posts in 3158 days

#4 posted 12-11-2015 01:12 AM

Beautiful work.

View gbear's profile


544 posts in 5308 days

#5 posted 12-11-2015 03:39 AM

Very nice…but I’m glad I don’t have to move it!!!

-- gbear, Carmichael, CA

View Ivan's profile (online now)


16953 posts in 4076 days

#6 posted 12-11-2015 05:09 AM

Nothing I like more than reclaimed wood procejts. Awesome table, finish is excellent. I also collected some boards form old pallets. Of course two or three nails left for my planer and table saw.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2949 posts in 2272 days

#7 posted 12-11-2015 07:19 AM

It’s wonderful, Todd. I gotta say, in the interest of honesty, that, at first glance, I thought, oh, a rustic table – never seen one those before. But, after reading the story, and knowing of it beforehand (the aforementioned blog), I feel a true affection for the piece now. And for you. Do you really live in a 1730s house? And, one other question: ”... “petrifier” solution…” Please ‘splain. (Lots of punky wood in my collection.)

-- Mark

View Tennessee's profile


2936 posts in 3723 days

#8 posted 12-11-2015 11:36 AM

I’m like Mark – another rustic table…
But this one is super nice. I do like the way the breadboard ends finished out. Looks like they definitely belong there. Gallery quality.

That is a piece that will prevail for decades in your family. And you built it! Congratulations!
P.S. Bet it is heavy…

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Jeff Mazur's profile

Jeff Mazur

119 posts in 2512 days

#9 posted 12-11-2015 01:28 PM

Good looking piece. All it needs is some dog holes and a vise ;)

-- Woodworking is a beautiful, physical, cerebral, and noble art.

View toddbeaulieu's profile


854 posts in 4213 days

#10 posted 12-11-2015 03:48 PM

Thanks everyone. I appreciate the support.

To answer a few questions:

My home was built in 1733, the year George Washington was born. Fifty years before the Country became a Country.

PC -Petrifier: I randomly stumbled across this product. There are probably plenty of competing products that I can’t compare. It’s super thin and absorbs into the wood quite well. I did notice, however, that it only went in about 3/16 – 1/4” deep. They recommend two applications. I recommend AT LEAST two.

Jeff – you really made me laugh about the dogs. Pretty funny … it’s low, but I’ll bet is more sturdy than some benches in daily use!

View ohwoodeye's profile


2677 posts in 4362 days

#11 posted 12-11-2015 04:14 PM

Wow what a project. Well done.
Condolences to your chisel.

-- "Fine Woodworking" is the name given to a project that takes 3 times longer than normal to finish because you used hand tools instead of power tools. ----Mike, Waukesha, WI

View pintodeluxe's profile


6473 posts in 4022 days

#12 posted 12-11-2015 04:53 PM

You’ve been busy. The table came out great. I like the breadboards and the finish too.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View a1Jim's profile


118201 posts in 4786 days

#13 posted 12-11-2015 08:54 PM

Great job top to bpttom,


View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3899 days

#14 posted 12-12-2015 01:04 AM

That looks like a MONUMENTAL undertaking but it turned out perfectly from joinery to finish. You are truly a craftsman! I would anticipate that table will be around for at least another 100 years.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View oldrivers's profile


2704 posts in 2775 days

#15 posted 12-13-2015 12:44 AM

Great piece with a wonderful history

-- Soli Deo gloria!

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