You might remember that I mentioned this table in the reveal of our Den Redesign project back in June, and I’m excited to finally share the coffee table I* made from an old window.
I say that I* made it because I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help from my father-in-law, who is quite a skilled woodworker. While I came up with the design of the piece, he was the brains behind the construction and assembly. Therefore, I will refer to him on occasion as the Chief Engineer of the project.
The window we used is one I found at an estate sale in my neighborhood several years ago; it sat in our garage for some time before I finally sat down back in January and drew up a sketch of what I wanted the table to look like. My original plan was to use reclaimed wood instead of new wood from Lowe’s, but my lack of experience in finding and using reclaimed wood led me to play it safe with new wood for my first foray into table-making.
My drawing is a little skewed; I didn’t count the boxes quite right.
After some discussion by email with my father-in-law about the design of the table, we had settled on a plan. We combined elements from several coffee tables and end tables I’d found online to come up with our design, which evolved over the course of the month or so that we constructed the table.
I started by sending him a few photos of the window…
…and a link to the legs I wanted to use (I went back and forth between square legs and more traditional/curvy legs, but in the end decided on square). Most of the tables I saw online used 2x4s cut down to size, but I preferred the look of more substantial square legs over rectangular ones.
I figured his brain probably worked a lot like his son’s so sent a few inspiration images, too, so he could get a visual of what we wanted the final product to look like and offer his input.
The original source of inspiration was this window table, which was one of the first things I came across when I got on Pinterest in 2012. And I wanted one SO bad. When it came time to seriously consider our table, though, I knew I didn’t want it to actually open. While it’s beautiful, I figured it’d be a pain to move stuff off of it to open it up to grab a magazine. Also, I preferred to have a level surface instead of 6 glass panes separated by wood sticking up an inch or so. I loved the look of a shelf close to the window, though, so decided to include one in the design.
I also liked this window table, but it’s more rustic than the look I was going for and it also used 2×4 scraps for the legs. I knew I didn’t like the unfinished look of the bare sides of the window, so I determined that we’d need to build a frame for the window to sit in and hide the edges. The frame would be high enough to allow a sheet of glass to go on top of the window and sit flush with the top of the frame, or as close to it as possible, to create the smooth top I was going for.
The Mister and I both liked the look of the individual planks making up the tabletop and wanted that look for our lower shelves, as opposed to one large piece of plywood, like this table has. We also liked the low shelf on this one and knew that if we added a second shelf it would need to be almost ON the floor like this one so that little dogs wouldn’t go under it for naps (the grumpy one, in particular, who doesn’t like humans coaxing him out of his comfortable nooks and gets a bit aggressive about it on occasion). The bottom shelf would be a great place to store some of those small games we like to play like Uno, dominoes, Boggle, etc. in a pretty box of some kind.
We got started with our table the last weekend in August. We worked through the final tweaks of our design plan, took a trip to Lowe’s to buy the wood, plus a few additional materials, and began the process of assembling the table.
The first step was to remove all the hardware from the window. Next up was trimming down the bottom edge of the window to create an even surface so it could fit snugly in the frame we would make.
After it was trimmed down and we had the final measurement of the window, we knew what size to make the two shelves.
We began by trimming down the slats to the length of the window, then trimming down the width of one of them so the combined width of all the slats would equal that of the window.
To make sure the shelves were strong enough to hold whatever books or games we put on them, we added two small brackets to the bottom of both of them. We started with a piece of wood about 1″ x 2″, and cut each end diagonally to make sure they would be entirely hidden from anyone looking at the table from the side. Next, we drilled four pilot holes in each bracket – allowing one hole (and therefore, one screw) per slat.
You can see the diagonal cuts we made at the ends of our brackets
on the top left side of this photo (and below).
Next, we assembled the shelves. A few dabs of wood glue went on the side of each slat before we placed them together, then we attached two brackets to the underside of both shelves, first with wood glue, then with screws to secure the brackets to each slat. After the brackets were attached, we decided to add a few more screws for additional stability, then we laid the shelves to the side.
I got some practice using a drill instead of a screwdriver.
I headed back to our hometown on Labor Day for work day #2. To prep for that day, I took the window home and gave it a fresh coat of paint. Even though I used tape to prevent it, a bit of paint got onto the glass panes, and there was some of the original paint on the glass, too, so I sat down with a metal paint scraper, a towel, and a vinegar/water mixture, and got to work cleaning it up. I removed all I could and scrubbed the glass until it was nice and shiny (which turned out to be not worth my time since it would get dirty again during work day #2!).
All prepped and ready for paint!
The first item on the agenda for Day Two was the last step to prep the window. We cut out a few inches of the trim on each side (of what would be the underside of the window once the table was finished) so that it would be able to sit flat on top of the table legs. We used a small hand saw and a giant file to smooth out these sections.
Creating a level surface.
Smoothing it out.
Day Two was concluded not much later, soon after we moved on to trimming the pieces for the legs down to size. Instead of using the parsons leg mentioned above, we picked up two 3”x3”x36” Red Oak pieces (all the other wood was pine), which we cut down into four 18” pieces. The day’s work ended when these thick pieces wound up being too much for the trusty saw my father-in-law has used for years. Even with a new blade, pieces went flying at one point, so we packed up, wrote down ‘new saw’ on his Christmas list, and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by the pool with the extended family.
With his saw out of commission, my father-in-law headed over to a friend’s workshop to cut the legs down to size and make the remaining necessary cuts while he had access to a few additional tools. I received this picture at the end of his time in the shop and was so excited to head back to the ole hometown again to finish the project a couple weeks later.
It may look finished, but there was so much more work to do!
When Day Three began, the table was assembled and appeared to be finished except for a coat of stain, but it still needed to be secured.
Before I go in to the final steps we took on Day Three to secure it, here’s my best attempt at describing how everything is held together: The shelves are held in place by the legs themselves; my original design called for corner braces/L brackets to hold them up, but creating a notch in to the legs into which the shelves could be inserted was a far better solution that the Chief Engineer came up with.
Another idea of his was to use small dowels to help hold the different pieces in place instead of using nails, so the entire thing is held together with only wood and wood glue, with the exception of the screws attaching the brackets under the shelves. The window rests on top of the legs in each corner, and the frame is attached to the outsides of the legs with only glue and dowels. I love the look we got in the end; the endss of the dowels really blend in with the rest of the wood, as opposed to the look nails would have created.
Now, getting back to Day Three: we began by pulling out each dowel one at a time and adding a dab of glue into the opening before hammering the dowel back in with a rubber mallet. It took some time to work our way around the entire table (if I’m counting correctly, there were 22 dowels to secure). Since they were so skinny (I think 1/4”), they were quite fragile and a few broke off, so we had to trim down a few extras to replace the broken ones. The last step was to trim off the additional length of each dowel.
I took the table home that afternoon, and the next day I gave the window its final cleaning and an additional coat of paint to cover the scratches that had happened to it during the construction process. I used my favorite stain, Red Mahogany, on the table frame.
Then it sat in the garage for a couple of weeks before the Mister had a chance to help me with the final construction step. We very carefully placed the window into the frame, then the Mister used a rubber mallet to smack it down until it rested directly on the tops of the legs. The window fit into the frame quite snugly in the corners, but length of the frame had bowed out a tad, so we attempted to flatten it back out by gluing it to the window and ‘bandaging’ it up while the glue dried.
I used a popsicle stick to spread wood glue on the side of the window, then we used pieces of cut up cloth to ‘bandage’ it up tightly (we didn’t have any clamps that were large enough to reach all the way across), in the hopes that the frame would attach to the window, eliminating the gaps.
I used a scrap of wood to prevent the glue from dripping onto the shelf.
Then, we wrapped it up and left it for a day to make sure the glue was completely dry.
It may have worked a bit, but as you can see in the photo below, there is still a gap between the glass and the frame. I’m still debating on whether to put some clear caulk in there to seal it up so that crumbs and dust don’t find their way into the gap over time, but I’m concerned that I’ll do a terrible job (I’ve never caulked anything before!), so it’s going to stay gappy for now.
After another few weeks, temperature had dropped enough to finish it. I used two coats of gloss Polycrylic. I found out the hard way that would have been much easier to paint poly on the table BEFORE securing the window to the frame – I kept debating the order, and decided to wait to do the poly in case the ‘bandaging’ process damaged the poly finish. As it turns out, it’s hard to apply a smooth finish to a shelf when the top of the paintbrush keeps bumping the darn window above it!
The very last step of the table construction was to get a piece of glass cut to fit as snugly as possible inside the frame and on top of the window. We settled on 1/2” thick glass, which is pretty thick. The idea was to get as strong a piece of glass as we could to protect against feet being put on the table by accident or someone dropping something too heavy on the surface. I called around to all the glass stores in Columbia and could find no one who held it in stock, meaning it would take several weeks to receive it and, therefore, drag this project out even longer! Out of curiosity, I called the glass store in our hometown and found out that they not only had 1/2” glass in stock, but it would cost $35 less than the Columbia stores and could be ready in a day. Yes, please!
So the table made one more trip to our hometown (so the folks at the store could double-check my measurements), and my Chief Engineer did his last bit in making our awesome, one-of-a-kind table – picking up the glass and returning it to us the following week when he was in town for business.
It was so exciting to carry our finished table into the house when it arrived with my Chief Engineer and see our finished piece in its place!
We’re trying to keep the tabletop uncluttered so the beautiful window can be seen easily.
I certainly learned a lot during the course of this project. A big one was the reinforcement of the idea that ‘good things come to those who wait’ – this project started in August (or January, if you count when I originally drew the design) and wasn’t complete until late October. Another was that it’s always a good idea to seek help from someone who is more knowledgeable and experienced. I never could have made this table look just like I wanted it to without the help of my Chief Engineer! I owe him a big THANK YOU for his time and patience, and for sacrificing his saw.
Now sit back, relax, and enjoy these After photos!
And with that, the Den Redesign, which began in March, is finally complete. Thanks for stopping by and reading about this masterpiece!
Thank you for your pins, shares, tweets, and likes!