DiY Birch Plywood Coasters

I am a light sleeper, a victim of a hyperactive mind that enjoys long conversations with itself at 3 am. My night mind is a skipping stone, arcing and floating into dreams, then smacking the surface of consciousness before lifting off again into slumber. As night wanes, and the golden filigrees of sunrise reach out into the dark, my mind becomes more active still. It starts to wake, but remains firmly planted in the dreamsphere. This is where inspiration lives. On one such morning a few weeks ago, I found myself dreaming of cocktail coasters. I dreamed I was making one of thick hemp rope or jute, winding it in a flat coil until it became a coaster. The conscious part of my mind said, "Hey, that's cool! Let's make some!" But then it realized that coasters like these were nothing new. In fact that particular design had likely been pilfered from the vaults of my long term memory, as I seem to remember my parents having identical coasters back in the 70s or 80s. But that sliver of conscious mind wanted to make coasters now, so it cajoled my dreaming mind to come up with a new design. And my dreaming mind did. The following coasters were made to the exact plan put forth by my subconscious: design, materials and execution. All of it was shown to me, so building them was quite easy, as I already had the plans!
Okay, enough of the lucid-dreaming hippie-babble! Summer is on its way, and we're gonna need some coasters for our cold beers, icy cocktails and wine glasses! Do you need any more reason than that? Didn't think so. Let's make some coasters! These coasters are made from 3/4 birch plywood, available at Home Depot and Lowes. A 4'x8 sheet costs about $45, and would make enough coasters to build a bar. You may be able to get smaller pieces of plywood, but the smaller the piece, the higher the price, generally speaking. Go buy a 4'x8 panel, have the nice folks who work there cut it in half or in thirds, use some for coasters and keep the rest for other projects. Good quality birch plywood is a must-have in my workshop. I use it for everything from crafts to cabinets. Whatever you do, don't buy cheap plywood! Not only will it have too many holes and gaps in the layers, but the layers themselves will not be as beautiful with the greens and reds and whites. I had some scrap plywood in the workshop, so I gathered them up and started measuring.
In general, square coasters measure 4 inches to a side. I would be making these coasters to have an alternating end-grain pattern which meant they would be built from four 2-inch-square pieces. Since this 3/4 plywood was in reality only about 11/16 thick, I would need to sandwich three pieces together to get to 2 (actually it gives me about 2 1/16). Since three stacked pieces are 2 1/16, then I would need the strips I cut to be 2 1/16 wide. I know, this sounds confusing, but have a look at the picture below and you'll see how things are shaping up. I cut 4 groups of 3 strips. Each strip is 2 1/16 wide.
Next I arranged each of those groups of 3 together to give me four long blocks with a height and width of 2 1/16. I then glued these groups together.

I cut excess parts off of the bottom and that was it!
The only thing left is to give these poor little sots the drinks they were born to carry.
Thanks for reading! --Greg
Handan & Greg @ The Navage Patch
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  2 questions
  • Donna Makowski Donna Makowski on Apr 24, 2016
    Silly question - aren't coasters supposed to soak up condensation? I've never understood how these or stone or glass ones 'work'.

  • D. D. on Apr 26, 2016
    Hi Dear Hippie Babble, The coasters are awesome. Very beautiful. I have to say that your post is truly the most hilariously funny postings I've read. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful creations and for the fantastic story leading up to it. LOL. TAKE CARE.

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  • Ophelia Ophelia on Jun 21, 2016
    You know what? I this. Merci!

  • Stephen Scott Johnson Stephen Scott Johnson on Dec 17, 2016
    That's a very cool project and they look awesome! Just curious -- how long did you have to leave the wood soaking in the wipe-on poly?

    • Until I saw that it soaked through. Having now used them for a while, I would go for a second or even third coat. After repeated heavy use with iced drinks and lots of condensation, the coasters eventually split. I tried a version with a thick coat of brush-on poly, and they are holding up well so far. Ideally, I would do probably to baths in wipe-on poly, followed by one or two coats of brush-on. For drinks that don't sweat a lot, or for wine glasses or coffee/tea, just one bath in whip-on would be sufficient.