DIY Coffee Table With Recessed Tray

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  • Why not treat your guests to a tray laid with delicacies – and then remove it from sight in your new coffee table. There's no easier way to show that you are a thoughtful and original host!

    All joints, both in the tray and in the table, are simple screw joints and are therefore visible. The elaborate feature of our design is the fact that the tray is set into the table. By the way: You can also make the coffee table without the tray insert; in this case, there is no need for a router.

    The following assembly instructions are for 20-mm-thick beech glued laminated timber board. You must adapt the list of materials accordingly if you opt for other materials or thicknesses.

    Ask your DIY store or carpenter to cut the required boards to size.

    Instructions

    1. Join the table sides to make a frame

    Bed joints are screw brackets with short arm lengths (in this case, 22 and 28 mm) and a large overall height (in this case, 127 mm). The bed joints are used to combine the short sides and the long sides of the table together so that they form a single frame. The short sides are enclosed by the long sides in this frame.

    The metal fittings are positioned so that the long arm is screwed together to the short side and the short arm is screwed together to the long side. Bed joints guarantee that the joints are particularly robust; however, you can also use other screw brackets for assembly. Fit the parts using the cordless screwdriver and flat head screws (4 x 15 mm).

    2. Make the tray cutout in the table top

    Using a pencil, mark a rectangular cutout measuring 280 x 430 mm for the tray on the table top, according to the specifications in our illustration. Make a hole in each of the corners using the drill and 10-mm wood drill bit. The outline of the holes must only barely touch the pencil lines, not intersect them.

    Insert the saw blade of your jigsaw in one of the holes while it is switched off. Now saw the cutout from one hole to the next. Since a jigsaw will never cut in a straight line without a stop, you should always remain within the pencil line when sawing. This way, you can smooth any bumps afterwards with a wood file and sanding paper.

    Experienced assemblers can cut 3 mm inside the line and then go back and refine the cut with the router at the parallel guide. This process will give the cutout perfectly straight edges.

    Finally, use the jigsaw to straighten the corners rounded by the boreholes.

    3. Join the table top and frame together

    Place the table top on your work surface with the upper surface facing downwards. Arrange the preassembled frame on top of it so that it lies flush with the table top. Now screw the remaining four bed joints axially with all four sides of the frame and the table top. For this purpose, use a cordless screwdriver and flat head screws (4 x 15 mm).

    4. Prepare the inner side panels of the tray insert

    Since we have assembled the table top and side panels using bed joints and the insert for the tray is close to one of the narrow table side panels, we must mount the bed joints flush in the upper edge of the short side of the insert (see the detail in our illustration). This means that you must rout a U-shaped notch that is 2 mm deep and 15 mm wide in the upper edge of the short side of the insert.

    Before starting to rout, determine which of the surfaces of the insert side panels will face inwards (and thus be visible later) when screwed to the frame. Then place the right short side panel of the insert with the outer surface facing downwards on the backing board which you have previously secured on your work surface with clamp clips. (If you are lucky enough to have a work bench, clamp the backing board in place using the bench stop.)

    Now screw the short side panel of the insert tightly on the backing board; position each of the screws 10 mm inside the edges of the narrow panels and 2.6 mm inside the edges of the long side panels. This will ensure that the holes are concealed after assembly.

    Adjust the router with the 12-mm straight bit to a routing depth of 15 mm (= width of notch required). Rout a notch that is 5 mm deep with the aid of the parallel guide.

    5. Join the tray insert sections together

    Position the insert side panels on your work surface again in the way they will be fastened together. Using a pencil, trace the outlines of the short side panels of the insert on the inside of the long side panels, mark two holes in the centre in each case, drill the holes and countersink these from outside. You can now assemble the tray insert side panels using the cordless screwdriver and screws (3.5 x 40 mm).

    Tip for screwing together two pieces of wood

    In the piece where you want to insert the screws first, always predrill a hole that is 0.5 to 1 mm larger than the screw diameter; the hole should be countersunk for the screw head. In the piece that you are going to drill second, predrill a hole that is always 1 mm smaller than the screw diameter.
    To fasten the base, lay the assembled frame on its upper edge and align the base around all edges so that it is flush with the frame. Using the cordless screwdriver and screws (3.5 x 40 mm), fit the frame and base. Before doing so, refer to our tips in the previous section on screwing together two pieces of wood.

    6. Mount the tray insert below the table top

    Place the table top on trestles with the visible surface facing downwards. Arrange the tray insert on top of the opening. The 8-mm-thick spacer bars must fit exactly in the spaces between the insert and table panels. Screw together the tray insert with the three abutting table side panels through the spacer bars, using screws (4 x 45 mm). For this purpose, you can use the screwholes that were required earlier to rout the notch. Refer again to our tips on screwing together two pieces of wood.

    7. Assemble the tray

    First use the drill and 28-mm Forstner bit (wood drill bit with diameter greater than 12 mm) to insert the handle openings in the short tray sides. To do this, use a pencil to mark the drilling points on which you will focus the centring tip of the drill bit, following the specifications in our illustration. Drill the holes, ideally on the backing board that you have already used for routing the side of the tray insert.

    Place the tray sides together in the way you want to assemble them. Using a pencil, trace the outlines of the short sides of the tray on the inside of the long sides, mark two holes in the centre in each case, drill the holes and countersink these from outside. You can now assemble the tray sides using the cordless screwdriver and screws (3.5 x 40 mm). Refer to our tips on screwing together two pieces of wood in step 5.

    To fasten the tray base, lay the assembled frame on its upper edge and align the base around all edges so that it is flush with the frame. Using the cordless screwdriver and screws (3.5 x 40 mm), fit the frame and base. Before doing so, refer again to our tips on screwing together two pieces of wood.

    8. Assemble the pedestal base and fasten with screws under the table top

    First reduce one of the pedestal boards in length from 260 to 190 mm. (If you have chosen another depth for the tray insert, adjust this measurement as required.)

    Then use the jigsaw to create a recess in the upper edge of the cross connector until the tray insert slips in. Using a pencil, draw the outline of the recessed area measuring 500 x 70 mm in the upper right-hand corner of the cross connector and cut out the rectangular section with the jigsaw.

    To fit the pedestal boards and cross connector, start by positioning these together in the way you want to screw them together. Using a pencil, trace the outlines of the cross connector on the inner-facing surfaces of the pedestal boards and in each case, mark two drilling positions centrally. Drill the holes and countersink these from outside. Using the cordless screwdriver and screws (4 x 60 mm), fit the pedestal board to the cross connector.

    First screw the eight L-shaped brackets to the pedestal base so they are flush with the upper edge. Finally, fit the pedestal base below the table top using the cordless drill and screws (3 x 16 mm).

    Little tip

    To improve stability, you can insert and tighten two flat head screws (6 x 80 mm) through the cross connector into the table cavity.

    9. Sand wood surfaces

    Take time to prepare the surfaces so they are in the best working condition possible before starting assembly.

    First chamfer all edges with sanding paper with a grit of 120 or 180 at a 45° angle to create a small bevel. Use your sander to sand all visible surfaces in the direction of the wood grain, first with coarse sanding paper (grit of 120, 180) and then with fine sanding paper (grit of up to 240).

    Damp sponge the surfaces afterwards to wipe off the dust. Some loose wood fibres may protrude while the wood is drying. You can remove these with sanding paper with a grit of 180. The wood is now ready for surface treatment.

    Little tip:

    Make sure that the sanding paper is sharp enough to remove the wood fibres properly, not just flatten them.

    10. Treat the surfaces with oil or wax

    First read the manufacturer's safety and handling instructions thoroughly. Make sure the room you are working in is well ventilated and not used for smoking, eating or drinking.
    Generously apply the oil or wax with a fine spray system and remove any excess with a cloth. Observe the drying times specified by the manufacturer.

    If you want to apply a second coat of wax, you need to sand the surface between coats using sanding paper with a grit of 240. (A second layer of oil is often applied without re-sanding the surface.) Once again, you must always sand in the direction of the wood grain. Repeat the application as described in the section above. Once the wax has dried, polish the surface with a soft brush until it gleams.

    Safety note

    Following the wax application, spread out the wax cloth and leave it to dry properly in a well-ventilated area. If left scrunched up in a ball, the cloth may become warm and self-ignite.


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