Sunday, June 30, 2019

Storage Coffee Table with Puzzle Tray

Spring is a very busy time for educators. We're preparing for standardized testing, Advanced Placement testing, end of the year ceremonies and celebrations, etc., etc., etc. It is the time of year when my sanity starts to slip, and I need to make a focused effort on taking care of myself.

There are many things that I do to keep my sanity, but one thing that keeps me going is a good project. Having a project that I can focus on, especially one that takes both mental focus and sweat, is my way of recharging. A few years ago I had a stained glass project that kept me going through the end of the school year. This year, I had a woodworking project. 
The Renaissance Dad Facebook followers had a preview of the project through its various stages (if you're not a Renaissance Dad Facebook follower, you should like and follow the page. If you're not on Facebook, you should join for the sole purpose of following Renaissance Dad. If you don't know what Facebook is, I can't help you).

Working with a helper is the best!
This weekend I came to the realization that I never shared the final product, which probably has something to do with spring being a crazy time for educators. And for that, world, I am sorry. So here is what I made, with a brief overview of how I made (note: this is not a step by step instruction. Maybe one of these days I can make one of those, but this is not it. I will, however, attempt to give you the general idea, so if you're handy, this shouldn't be a problem to make). 

My efficient side wanted to solve multiple problems, and the problems were this: 

1. Our sectional sofa created a square space that our rectangular coffee table didn't fit.

A lot of gluing and clamping went into this table
2. We love doing puzzles, but don't have a place to do them. Once they're out, they take up a counter top for several days until the puzzle is done. 

3. Our coffee table was salvaged from the garbage years ago, and it was falling apart. 

4. We're always looking for more storage space. 

So I decided to make a square storage coffee table with a removable tray for doing puzzles. It helped that I have hundreds of board feet of black walnut that I got from my grandfather-in-law, so the cost for me was relatively low. This would also be a great project to make with plywood for a painted coffee table.

Did I mention gluing and clamping?
I started with a box. That's really all this is. The box can be any size that works for your space, but if you're planning on using it for puzzles, you'll want to check your puzzle collection and make sure that the inside tray will work for most, if not all, of the puzzles that you'll be doing. My table is roughly 29" square. The side panels are all attached with pocket hole screws, which makes them go together nice and snugly. The pocket holes are on the outside of the box, because the decorative trim covers all of the holes. This keeps the piece looking as if you used your magic wand to put it all together.

The almost finished piece 
Once the box was together, with the bottom attached (also using pocket hole screws, with the holes facing down), it was time to cut and attach the trim. I used glue and clamps, with a few brad nails to keep it in place while the glue dried. Again, there is no set design for this, and I made the sides different from the front and back. The sides just have the border trim, while the front and back have faux drawer looking pieces. 

Testing it out with some puzzle time (the boy may be eating a piece)
Next, I made the inset for the puzzle. I'll be honest, I was planning on using plywood for the tray, but when I squared up the piece that I was going to use for the top, which was made of the nicest black walnut pieces I could find in my pile, I found that I had cut the panel half an inch too small and needed to remake the top. So since I had a nice panel already made up, I decided to use it for the puzzle tray. 

I added 3/4" pieces around the top of the tray, just to keep the puzzle contained. Finally, I attached 3/4" strips inside the box, about three inches down from the top. This serves as a ledge for the puzzle tray to rest on.  

I now had a problem. I was planning on using drawer handles for the sides of the tray, but everything was too wide for the narrow pieces that I used. I solved the problem by cutting up one of my old belts and tacking the leather straps to the sides of the tray. Because it was an old belt, it gave the look of antiqued leather. Or maybe I'm just that old that my clothing now falls into the "antique" category.

The unfinished puzzle gets stored until next time
Finally, with a rope holding my pants up, I had to attach the top. After doing some research, I decided to use torsion hinges, which hold the lid in place regardless of the angle it is opened to. I had to route out the hinge depth on both the table and the table top, but the result was a snug fit lid. 

My finish for the table was Danish oil for the color, with several coats of  tung oil to protect it. If you have never used tung oil, I highly recommend it. It is not as protective as a urethane, but it is so easy to use, and I really love working with it. 

So there it is. The finished black walnut storage coffee table with puzzle tray. If you ever make a table like this, either the same version or a different version, I would love to hear about it and see pictures. Drop me a line and let me know what you made. 

Happy woodworking!

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