How to Make a Mosaic Coffee Table

12 Materials
3 Days

This is a project I absolutely didn't need to make. Weird way to start a post I know, but stay with me here. I had just built a coffee table a month before starting this one, and it was a coffee table that I really liked. Never the less I had this concept in my head and I really wanted to bring it to life. Practicality be damned, I set out to make my second coffee table in as many months!

Before we continue with the rest of the post can I do a quick ad for my social media? I can? Sweet, thanks!

Do you like DIY and woodworking content like this? If you do, I'd love it if you checked out my Instagram page. You can find me @zacbuilds on Instagram (direct link: I post all of my projects on Instagram along with any tips and trick I've learned along the way.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled DIY post. Want to see how I made this thing? Well, scroll on down and I'll show you!

All of the raw materials (excluding the metal for the legs) for this project actually came from breaking down and recycling some of my old projects.

Recycling these old projects was nice because it really kept the cost down. The whole project cost me less than $100, and most of that was just for the steel I used to build the legs.

Using a rubber mallet, I got to smashing up my previous work.

I had mixed emotions about this part of the project. I mean, smashing stuff is always a great time. There are very few things I love to do more than breaking things with a big hammer. On the other hand, I was breaking projects I had spent countless hours building. You see why I was so conflicted.

I pushed through my emotional turmoil though. Eventually, I had everything broken down into smaller more manageable pieces. It took more force than I expected to break down these old projects (I guess wood glue really does work), still, they were no match for Thor's hammer (that's what I call my rubbed mallet).

Once everything was broken down into smaller pieces I flipped over to the table saw and started ripping everything down into 1" x 1 1/2" strips.

As soon as that first piece of walnut hit the table saw blade I know I was committed to this idea and there was no turning back.

Now for the fun part: figuring out the pattern. I had a rough concept in my head of how I wanted it to look. One corner walnut, one corner maple and then a transition between the two. That was about all the pre-planning I did though. I laid pieces down on the table, re-arranged them, scratched my head, stared at the pattern, re-arranged them some more, until finally, I had something I liked the look of.

I wish I could tell you it was a more technical process, but it's just not haha.

I am however trying to balance a few different factors when I'm deciding on a layout. Obviously, I want the pattern to look interesting, but I'm also trying to maintain an even balance of the two species of wood. The other thing I'm doing is trying to make sure that there are no butt joints next to each other in adjacent rows to maximize the strength of the table.

Once the ugly business of figuring out the pattern was behind me it was time to glue. I applied some generous beads of carpenters glue to each piece of wood.

The key ingredient in a glue up like this clamping force. Once the glue was applied I grabbed these big bar clamps and used them to squish all the strips of wood together.

If you're ever doing a similar project one of my favorite tips to give people is to pre-set all of your clamps to the right size before you start applying glue. Once the glue starts flowing, the clock starts ticking. You have to get everything assembled and clamped together before the glue starts to dry. Most wood glue dries in about 20 minutes, so from the first drop of glue to the last twist of the clamp that's all the time you have.

Pre-setting the clamps to the right sizes allows you to save time and avoid fumbling with the adjustments while that imaginary stopwatch floats above your head. If you're anything like me, your motor control goes to shit whenever the pressure is on. I was totally the guy who would choke playing sports in the last few seconds of the game. Which is probably a contributing factor as to why I do woodworking now instead of playing sports for a living haha

I used a big belt sander to remove any imperfections that was leftover from the glue-up. Try as I might I can never arrange the pieces of wood perfectly. Some end up being too high and some end up being too low. A couple of hours sanding away with the belt sander made everything feel nice and flat though.

Once the surface was smoothed over I was ready to cut the table top down to size. You'll remember I said I cut each strip of wood so that it was 1" wide. I had 24 rows of wood strips, so my table top ended up being 24" wide.

I like to use the golden ratio (1.618:1) to figure out the ratio between the length and width of my tables. Supposedly the golden ratio creates the most visually pleasing rectangles, but I really just do it because it's a fun talking point for these posts.

So to calculate the desired length of my table top I multiplied 24 by 1.618, which I then rounded off to 38 3/4". I set up my track saw, which is a track guided circular saw, and used it cut the table top down to 24" x 38 3/4".

Ahhh yesss, rolling on the clear coat, this is probably my favorite part of any project. I just love to watch all of the wood tones and grain patterns really come to life. The walnut goes that deep chocolatey brown too, mmm delicious!

I used a water and oil hybrid floor varnish to clear coat the table. It's a satin finish, and because it's a floor varnish it dries incredibly hard and is really good at resisting moisture. It's my go-to finish for most of my projects.

I applied 3 coats to all faces of the table top, sanding with 320 grit sandpaper between each coat.

Ok, the table top is basically done at this point, it's time to switch gears and do some metal work.

I bought 20' feet of this 1x3 tubular steel to fabricate the legs for this table.

Have you ever noticed that whenever you're doing metal work you get to say "fabricate"? If I was making the legs out of wood, I'd just say I was going to build the legs. But because its metal, I get to say fabricate. Feels kind of nice, more sophisticated and mature.

Anyways, the first step was to cut all of the individual pieces I was going to need using my abrasive chop saw.

I'm pretty new to welding. Well, to be honest, I'm VERY new to welding. This is the second thing I've ever welded. I'm definitely still learning, but it's a lot of fun. I feel like learning to weld has opened up so many new possibilities for my DIY projects. I used to work almost exclusively with wood, but now I have a whole new type of material available to me. It's really quite exciting for a building geek like me.

Enough blabbing about how I love to weld. I started by tacking everything together with little point welds. I checked frequently to make sure everything was square and liberally used clamps to hold things in place while I was tacking.

Making sure everything was square and true as I went was really important. Once you weld a seem together there's no going back, so I made sure to double and triple check everything before I tacked it in place.

Using some cheap big box store, house brand, spray paint I coated my whole leg assembly with a nice layer of satin black paint. Good thing I was wearing that respirator because this was a really stinky spray paint. I've generally found the cheaper the spray paint, the worse it smells. I can't think of any practical reason that would be the case, but it seems to hold up. Trust me, I'm an expert when it comes to inhaling spray paint fumes. All the typos in this post may, or may not be, directly related to my research haha.

I laid on 3 coats of spray paint. With each coat, I tried to get in and out as quickly as possible. I did my best to avoid overspraying any single spot and creating drip marks. My philosophy with spray paint is it's better to do many thin coats than it is to try and do 1 thick coat with perfect coverage. The latter almost always create drip marks.

The last step was pretty straight forward, I just had to attach the legs to the table top.

Using 3/16" drill bit I drilled 5 holes in the leg assembly and then used 1 1/2" long #10 screws to secure it in place. I pre-drilled each screw hole in the table top with a 1/16th drill bit to help avoid snapping any screws. I also gave the head of each screw a quick coat of the spray paint so that they would blend into the legs.

With everything fully assembled the only thing left to do was throw the table in the back of my truck, take it home and get it set up in my living room.

Here it is back in my living room. My TV stand in the background there is also made of maple and walnut so I feel like the coffee table fits in quite nicely.

Oh and this is totally not a staged photo. This is how my living room always looks...

Here it is completely uncluttered and exposed.

I think this aerial view best shows off what I was trying to do with the pattern. One corner is walnut, the other corner is maple and then it's a gradient transition from one to the other across the surface of the table.

I'd love to claim this is a style I invented, but it isn't. At least I don't think it is. Let me explain.

Close to a decade ago, before I was even into making my own furniture, I think I saw a photo online of a conference table done in a similar style. That conference table inspired this project and a couple of my other past projects. I've tried to find pictures of, or references to, that table since and have always come up empty-handed. If this project reminds you of anything you've seen before please let me know because I'd love to find out who made that table, assuming it's not just some weird false memory!

I hadn't really considered that the legs of this table would end up looking like a weird 3D cross until after I had finished building the table. I'm not really a religious person, I just thought the legs would look cool if they were laid out asymmetrically.

That being said, my grandfather is actually a pretty well known Canadian sculptor/artist who utilizes a lot of religious imagery in his work. Maybe there was some subconscious stuff at work there. Hell if I know. If anyone asks I'll say it was an homage to my grandfather.

And on that note. This post is done! I hope you enjoyed it. For more detailed instructions on this project I have a longer form blog post linked below.

Hit me with any questions or comments and do my best to get back to everyone!

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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  3 questions
  • Nancy Weldon McEntire Nancy Weldon McEntire on Mar 13, 2019

    I love the angular base and it’s asymmetric design. For those of us ‘non-welders’, could the base be done in wood. If so, what would you recommend for species of wood and dimensions that should be used. Gorgeous project, you’re very talented

  • Janice Janice on Mar 13, 2019

    Awe-inspiring! Great table design, so keep up the good work, Zach!

    Doesn't it drive you nuts when you've seen something somewhere and then can't EVER find it again? Oh, the frustration!

  • Pamela chitwood I Pamela chitwood I on Mar 14, 2019

    are you thinking about selling any of these tables?


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