Turn a Dusty Cable Spool Into a Trendy Coffee Table

Tikva Morrow
by Tikva Morrow
5 Materials
4 Hours

I've had this cable spool on my patio for 2 years. Literally. I spotted it on the roadside and knew that one day it would be something great! So, even though we have a small apartment and a coffee table that I DIYed and loved, I snagged it and huffed-and-puffed my way home with it.

Cut to now, we have a new little lady toddling around the apartment, and a 4-cornered coffee table is like a big, blinking "BUMP YOUR HEAD HERE" sign, so it was time to say goodbye to my first love and bring in the new beu.

Bonus: I already had the stain, so my only cost for this project was the chalk paint, which I now have for another project!

There's just something about your first DIY, you know? It will be tough to give this little lady away, but it would be even harder to watch her get destroyed, get covered in food, or cause any harm! Plus, it wasn't the strongest table--the lower bars were constantly falling out of place and the whole thing was just a little worn out :(

Enter the new kid on the block! This cable spool is just the right size for our tiny living room. It can be moved against a wall when we want more open space, and it's sturdy enough to actually be useful storage.

Step 1: Hammer in or remove all raised nails and staples

This part isn't pictured because I really needed both hands! Because this table has to be baby-safe, I started by hammering all the nails and staples further into the wood so that no points were exposed. If there was a nail or staple I couldn't pound in deeply enough, I removed it. This is a VERY important safety step.

Step 2: Sand (and sand, and sand, and sand...)

If you've never sanded down rough wood before (me!), then you might not be ready for just how much sanding this project will need. It's a lot! I used rougher sanding paper for the whole thing (80 grit), and then moved slowly to a higher and higher grit for the top part, which will get heavy usage and should be nice and smooth!

Make sure to brush the spool clean with a sturdy brush, to get rid of all that dust before you stain or paint.

Step 3: Add pads to the bottom

Lots of people add castors to their cable spool coffee tables, but I didn't want mine to roll around, so I chose to skip this step. Because I also didn't want my spool to scratch up the carpet, I decided to add 3 pads to the bottom of it.

I chose ones that could be hammered or pushed in and stuck them in by hand because the wood was so porous.

Step 4: Stain

OK, so ideally I would have chosen a lighter color, because honestly, I love that like, sepia-toned wood look, but all my living room furniture is dark, dark, dark, so I went with a walnut stain.

Because the wood was so absorbent but also had a lot of crevices and cracks, I used both a brush and a rag. For each plank, I spread a layer of stain on, then worked it in with the rag. I used another rag to wipe off the excess paint.

Step 5: Paint

I wanted to add a little variation and detail, so I left a plank on the bottom and a plank on the top without stain and instead coated them with "white linen" chalk paint.

Once it was dry, I painted a second coat so that it would be really bright. Then I sanded it a bit so it would match the worn look of the rest of the table.

And there you have it! Easy to move, too high for baby to reach the plants, and sturdier than our old one.

I love all the detail! The rusty hardware, the cracks, nicks and holes -- it's perfectly rustic.

I'm really surprised at how well this worked out! The hardest part of this whole DIY was probably carrying the spool out to sand it and then carrying it back in again. Everything else was a piece of cake!

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  • Dana Dana on May 03, 2019

    Hi. What can I do with an old windows that still has the original 6 panals of glass, I have 2. Still has been the original thick calking

    on them

  • Kathy Forehand Kathy Forehand on May 03, 2019

    its Beautiful !! But I would take some battery timed lights drill holes in the part that holds table up the pedal stool? And drop your tiny lights that are on a timer attach battery back underneath and you have some really nice ambiance when main light is off

  • Garrett Garrett on Oct 27, 2020

    The nails in the surface of the drum wheel , are they necessary?

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