I needed a table in my oddly shaped kitchen that could act as additional counter space, a place to eat, store kitchen stools and general spot to put stuff on, all while being 16"x52". Given the odd dimensions and my limited budget, my only option was to make one. Also, since my little apartment lacks a garage or outdoor space, I needed a easy option that didn't require a wood shop.
I've been seeing reclaimed wood furniture everywhere, but a $2000 table is pretty far out of reach, so my solution uses copper pipe, epoxy, and reclaimed wood for around $120. After I made it, I was super stoked and made a side cart that could fit under the table that was another $100 or so. I decided not to solder the pipe to keep a consistent color. Also so I wouldn't have to learn how to solder copper pipe.
What you'll need (in short)
- Copper pipe and fittings
- Power drill
Full Supply List for the 16"x53" table:
- 3/4" Copper pipe (three 10' and one 5')
They come in 10' lengths and 5' lengths. The 10' is cheaper per foot and I got the pipe cutter at the same time then cut the long ones in the parking lot to fit them into the car.
- 3/4" Copper Tee fittings (10)
- 3/4" Copper pipe ends (4)
- 5 minute epoxy (2)
- Paper plates for mixing epoxy (at least 5)
- Stir sticks to mix epoxy
- 7/8" Butterfly drill bit
- Pipe cutter
It's smaller than you think and you can get one in the plumbing aisle for $7
- Wood (any type you like cut to 16"x53")
I went to Building REsources in SF and got some old floor boards that I scrubbed the heck out of. They kindly cut the boards to 53" for me. The floor boards worked great because they have fantastic character, but also the tongue and groove helped keep them together. If you're using slats of any kind, you'll also need three pieces of wood at 15" and screws to keep the pieces together. I also looked around for used copper pipe but most of that is sold for scrap metal before it gets a chance at upcycling.
- Copper tacks
- Wood stain, paint, clear coat, or whatever you'd like to use to finish the wood
- Mask or respirator if you're using super stinky stuff to finish the wood
Step 1: Drawing Out the Design
Draw up the dimensions of the table. If you want a tall skinny bar like I made, my specs are below. If I were to do it again, I wouldn't do the X bars under the table top, but just straight across the front and back. If you're going for something completely different there are a couple things to keep in mind.
1. Each Tee joint will add 3/4". For example, you start with a 20" piece of pipe, cut it into two 10" pieces and attach them back together with a tee joint. The full length is now 20.75"
2. When you attach the base to the table top, you'll drill into the wood to fit the pipes into place. Be sure to consider that into your final dimensions.
3. Don't forget that the base of your table needs to be smaller than the top. I know that's really basic. But someone, I won't say who, may have had to recut some pipe after forgetting that. I did however end up with a lovely pile of soon to be copper rings from the resizing effort.
Step 2: Cutting Pipe
Next, you'll need to start cutting the pipe to the proper lengths. I'd recommend gloves and glasses for this since copper burs may come off when cutting. I also had never cut copper pipe before so I watched this video which gave me confidence.
Be sure to cut the longest sections first and plan out how to use each length of pipe so you end up with as few scraps as possible. The last thing you want is to have four 6 inch sections when all you really want is a 24 inch piece. A mechanical pencil worked well to mark the pipe.
After everything is cut, lay out the pieces on the floor with the proper fittings.
For my table the lengths are:
2 - 3"
2 - 4"
2 - 5"
6 - 12"
1 - 20.25"
1 - 21.25"
1 - 24"
1 - 25"
1 - 50"
2 - 52"
Step 3: Assemble
Now put all the pieces together. If everything is cut properly, it should go up like Legos.
The 5 min epoxy works well in this situation so you don't have too many malleable joints at one time. Mix enough for no more than 5 or 6 joints at a time.
Notes on epoxy:
1. Always use clean paper plates and stir sticks for every batch you make. Mixing older and newer leads to clumps and a weaker bond. Even just a little old stuff can mess up a batch.
2. There are a few kinds of 5 minute epoxy. One is black and white and is labeled as 4 minute epoxy. I liked it because I could see when it was fully mixed (it turns grey) and it was super tacky and would hold the pipes in place even before it set. Unfortunetly, since it is so thick it's a royal pain to push the plunger and get even amounts from both tubes. So much so that I switched mid project to another variety that is clear and yellow tinted. It blended in with the copper and was easier to get out of the tubes. It did take a few more minutes to set and some pieces needed to be held in place for a minute or two since it wasn't as gummy as the black/white mix. But it reduced the amount of swearing significantly.
Step 4: Attaching the Wood and Finishing
1. Prep your surface by scrubbing, sanding, attaching slats, or whatever is appropriate for your wood choice. I painted the underside but left doing a clear coat until the end.
2. Turn the table upside down and trace around the legs.
4. Using a 7/8" butterfly drill bit, drill into the wood about 1/2".
5. Turn everything right side up and fit the legs into the newly bored holes.
6. Optional: Epoxy the legs in place*
7. Paint, varnish or lacquer the surface. Clearly, wear appropriate gear for the material - mask, gloves and lots of ventilation.
* I didn't use epoxy so I could switch out the surfaces if necessary. Since my SO doesn't quite have the maker's eye, he wasn't into the floor boards from the reuse yard, so we picked up wood from Lowe's. I stained it and lacquered it and it still looked like a Mr. Hardware Store project, so I went back to the builders yard and got the other boards. In the images, you'll see a mix of both the first piece and the second go round. In the end he liked the old wood, but now we have options.
Step 5: Cart
I mentioned earlier that I got so jazzed about the project that I made a companion cart to go with it. That was a bit more trial and error, but if you look at the pics you can get a pretty good idea of how it's put together. The main difference was that I used mostly 1/2" pipe which is cheaper, but still pretty sturdy for a project this size.
The one tricky part was the wheels. I couldn't find any that fit the 1/2" tube perfectly, so I had to first epoxy in some thick fabric. I used a heavy webbing that I had lying around and that seemed to do the trick. But I'm sure you could MacGyver other ideas on this.
Also, you'll need a 5/8" butterfly drill bit for the 1/2" pipe.
One more thing, the grate on the bottom is a lot of pipe cutting. Save yourself. Wear gloves. Do it for the both of us.