Mid Century Coffee Table - Built From a Church Pew

Eric Greaves
by Eric Greaves
12 Materials
25 Hours
A few months ago a church in our area was donating some pews to make room for chairs. I grabbed a few and turned one of them into a mid century modern coffee table for our family room. Check it out!
The entire build can be seen on my Youtube channel!
After separating the seat from the back the first thing to do was to take rough measurements for the different pieces of the table. I never try to cut things exactly to my finished dimensions at this phase.
Cutting off the ends with a circular saw and speed square. I wanted this coffee table to measure approximately 4 feet long, 16 inches wide, and 16 inches tall. I was able to get the table and legs from one full pew seat TIP: A speed square makes a great assistant to a circular saw making straight cuts!
Cutting the pieces outside with the circular saw was all in preparation to bring them into my shop and to use my table saw to cut the seats down into 2 inch strips. TIP: If you don't have a table saw a jig saw or a circular saw with a straight edge could also be used.
After cutting everything down I went on to use the Plainer to bring everything to a consistent thickness. The seats of a church pew have a curved section in them to make it a bit more comfortable to sit. I needed to take that out, plus remove the finish. Brought everything down to approximately a 3/4 inch thickness
This wood is beautiful!
With my miter saw I cut everything down to their approximately lengths. For this project i needed 4 lengths. Full slates, left side, right side, and legs. (will make sense below). TIP: You can use a pencil and make a mark on the miter saw fence for repeatable cuts. Also make sure you have supports on either side of saw if your piece is long and could fall over once cut.
Check out my video on Youtube and subscribe to my channel...if you so desire!
Time for glue! Lots of glue!
Using lots of clamps I got everything glued up and let it sit overnight. I talk about the struggle of this glue up on my Youtube channel. It was quite the ordeal!
The next day I cut the table down to its final length. See why i waited until now? I can use a circular saw and straight edge and get things perfect.
Making the legs! This might be a bit complicated to explain. My video goes into more depth. I cut the side pieces to length and cut a 15 degree angle into the top and bottom making a parallelogram. Then transferring that angle to the top and bottom pieces creating another parallelogram. When assembling those together it "kicks out" the legs at a slight angle.
Sanding time! I used a random orbit sander and sanded from 80-320 grit. Took about 3-4 hours to get everything ready for finish
Best part of any woodworking project is adding the finish!
Used 3 coats of Semi Gloss Polyurethane; hand sanding lightly between each coat with 320 grit sand paper. Then let it sit for a solid day to fully cure. NOTE: The "notches" on the long side is from a piece under the church pew that helped support the book rest. I really liked the negative space it created by removing that piece of wood.
Finished product! I couldn't be happier with the results. I love the fact that this project began with wood from a church pew that has been in a church building since the 50's. Now it can live on in our home and hopefully be around for at least another 50. Thanks for checking out my project!
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Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 4 questions
  • Matilda Whittington Matilda Whittington on Sep 25, 2019

    Possible to have a YouTube link, please?

  • Laurichase Laurichase on Nov 13, 2020

    What's the best way to disassemble old church pews so not to damage the wood?

  • Cgl29564032 Cgl29564032 on Apr 28, 2022


    Beautiful job !

    I beleive the wood is Maple rather than Oak.

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3 of 27 comments
  • 34354174 34354174 on Sep 22, 2019

    I just went to your site and your work is beautiful.

    The coffee table is to die for.

    In your video you stated you to had to break up the pews to put in your shed.

    I'm dying here (lol), were they in good shape? Those pews, even in not so great shape, will sell upwards of $200-$300 or more..... in the south, not sure if in other areas. These are beautiful in foyers and such places. Depends on the length, of course, where you can put them.

    But your table is absolutely beautiful...even if viewed through tears!! haha

    • Eric Greaves Eric Greaves on Sep 23, 2019

      Thank you! I need to break them up to get them into storage so they weren't sitting out in the elements. The church was sending them to the dump if i hadn't grabbed them so i figured in pieces was better than the trash! :-) Thanks again.

  • Robyn Garner Robyn Garner on Sep 25, 2019

    Terrific project! I adore mid century furniture and to add the "good vibes" of everyone's prayers is perfect!