Copper Pipe DIY Coffee Table
I took some time off over Christmas and ended up following through on a few DIY projects I had been planning for a while. On of them was to make a coffee table to replace the makeshift cardboard box & leftover piece of wood we’d been using as a temporary solution (for 6 months).
This project was pretty inexpensive, but saving money was the secondary goal - the fact is that I simply could not find a coffee table I liked online that fulfilled my criteria:
not too expensive
simple, modern design
not too heavy, large, bulky or overly decorative (1. because when we eventually move it’s one more thing that has to be carried down the stairs, 2. to prevent the living room of our small apartment from feeling cramped and busy)
Plus I had so gotten used to the cardboard box / slab of wood combo, that the dimensions of the makeshift coffee table really grew on me - I only wanted to raise the table top slightly, and of course to not have a bulky cardboard box in the middle of the living room.
So I decided to finally make something with copper pipes. It was surprisingly easy! I was done with the copper base in about 3 hours at a very relaxed pace. The tabletop took longer, as I sanded everything by hand and ironed an edge band to the edges of the plywood to make the finish nicer, and then covered the thing in 100 layers of glossy white paint (tip: don’t use glossy paint if you’re a beginner, my mistake).
Here’s what I did:
Materials & Tools
3x 5 ft copper pipe, 3/4 inch thick (around $8 per pipe)
pipe cutter tool
4x 90° elbow 3/4” (about $2)
6x tee 3/4” (about $3)
4 copper end caps 3/4”
gorilla glue + a rag
1 piece of wood 38 1/4” x 17 3/4” inches (97x45cm) (I had this piece leftover from another project, I had bought a large slab of wood and Home Depot cut it to size for me)
1 piece of wood 22”x13” inches (56x33cm)
Wood edge banding (optional, to add to the edge of the plywood for a cleaner, smoother look)
Wood stain for the lower shelf (or more paint)
X inches of 2” elastic or leather strap
2 hole copper tube strap (to attach the wood to the understructure) and 4 screws
Using the pipe cutting tool, cut the 3 lengths of copper pipe into pieces according to the diagram above. Start cutting the longest pieces and work down to the smaller, to ensure you get the most out of those 3 pipes, with the least amount of waste!
Assemble the support structure for the table by connecting the pipes with the elbows and tees, following the above diagram. Make sure the pieces are correctly aligned.
Take the structure apart to start glueing the pieces together. Start with the “C” pieces (these are the easiest, as you don’t need to worry about the angles), and don’t forget to glue on the end caps at the bottom!
Apply glue to the inside of a connector piece, then wet the end of the pipe with the dampened rag (to activate the glue) and insert it into the connector piece (work one by one). As you work your way to the more complicated pieces, make sure the connectors are angled in the right direction, so you don’t end up with a warped structure!
Let the glue dry overnight. After the glue has dried, you can scratch off any excess glue that has expanded.
Following the instructions on the package, glue the edge tape to the piece of wood, then sand everything thoroughly to get a smooth finish.
Paint the wood, waiting between coats to make sure each coat dries (follow paint instructions on curing times).
I actually haven’t done this step yet, as I’m not fully committed to the table top yet (lol), but use 2 two hole pipe straps to secure the table top to the understructure with 4 screws.
To add the lower shelf, wrap the elastic or leather straps around the two lengthwise pipes, pin in place and test if they’re tight or loose enough by putting the wood on top of them. I wanted the wood hit slightly below the height of the pipes. Adjust the straps until you’re happy with the look and then sew in place by hand. Note: I actually just used dollar store elastic, pinned in place and left it at that - I might replace them with leather in the future! You can also add more than 2 straps for a different look and more stability!
Stain the lower piece of wood and let cure, then lay on top of the 2 straps (see detailed photos below if this part sounds confusing).
What I learned:
Do not use glossy paint, and if you do, do not use a foam roller
Follow drying and curing times for paint - BE PATIENT
It’s ok to live with temporary solutions. This one’s the biggest take-away. That cardboard box and slab of wood (that is now still the tabletop of the coffee table) were ugly, but helped me figure out what we needed and what would work in the space.
PS: When I first started sketching ideas for a coffee table I wanted to try to do something with colored concrete - round, pastel colored concrete legs and a glass tabletop - but then my designs got way to crazy and I remembered I’ve never done shit with concrete, let alone colored concrete (also couldn’t find straight-forward, easy directions for coloring concrete online), so I brought myself back to reality. But here are those sketches just for fun, along with the inspiration:
Pettersen & Hein concrete chair