It’s interesting how you can start on a project with a general idea of what it’s going to be. And then…as the project moves along, it ends up becoming something quite different than what you originally planned. That’s what happened with this green sofa table that I recently built.
It wasn’t supposed to be a sofa table. It wasn’t even supposed to be an interior table. In fact, this table wasn’t supposed to be a nice table at all. We were planning to keep it in the backyard in the garden. It was going to hold all the little containers that my father-in-law uses to grow seedlings. He currently has them all over the ground…and I just wanted a better way of organizing them. So I figured I’d make a simple table with multiple levels that would hold them all.
Fortunately for me, I had an abundance of materials to work with. I’ve been accumulating wood at work that otherwise would’ve been thrown away. We receive lots of equipment on pallets and in massive crates. Although there are many nice pieces on the crates, it’s the 5×5 pieces that are most appealing to me. Each one is 10 feet long! Those are uncommon dimensions. And even if I found them at a store, they would certainly be very expensive. Lucky for me, they’re throwing them away at work on a regular basis.
Getting the wood to my house has been a challenge. Much of the time, the trash guys come and take away the dumpsters before I have a chance to get the wood out. Those are sad days. Even more sad, the trash collector confirmed that no one gets the wood once he takes it away. It gets buried in a landfill along with all the regular trash. I figured somewhere down the line, someone gets a chance to get that wood. But no…it’s actually a policy of the trash company that no one shall rummage through the trash to extract its hidden treasures.
I complained to my wife when they recently threw away a lot of good wood before I had a chance to get it. She said; “Relax, it’s just wood. You already have plenty of it.” To which I replied, “You don’t understand…this is valuable material. This stuff doesn’t exactly grow on trees, you know.” She said “It’s wood…it literally grows on trees.”
Anyway, she’s right. I do have a lot of this wood already. I could build 3 or 4 of these tables if I wanted to.
A Simple, Easy Table
Keep in mind that I fully intended for this to be a simple table that would take a lot of abuse in the backyard. The summer heat and humidity here in Houston are brutal. Not to mention the rain and all the water that would flow out of the containers onto the shelves. In the spot where we planned to put the table, it wouldn’t get a moment of shade throughout the day. In fact, the plan was for the table to provide shade for all the little plants on its shelves. Also, naturally, this table would constantly be dirty.
Therefore, I started on this project without the high standards that I would usually insist on for an interior piece. The 5 x 5 lumber was straight as an arrow while it laid on my lumber rack. But the pieces I ripped from them were super twisty. Apparently they were just waiting to be set free from the straight lumber so they could freely become the wonky boards they were destined to be. But again…none of this bothered me. This was simply going to be a dirty, imperfect table in the backyard that would hold a few plants. It didn’t need to be perfect.
Ordinarily, if my plan for the tabletop is to join several boards together and make them look like one seamless slab, I would take the time to rip each board and square them up real good on the jointer so there would be no gap between them. Well, I didn’t do any of that…not at all.
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The Fateful Cut
After that, I pre-cut all the apron pieces. This is where I made a little mistake that would essentially change the fate of this table. I had planned to perimeter the apron around the legs instead of butting them into the legs. So it would basically be a big rectangle with all the legs inside of it. But when it came time to cut the short apron pieces, I simply cut them too short…all 9 of them. They were long enough to butt into the legs, but not long enough to span the full distance on the sides. And since I’d decided to butt the short pieces into the legs, I then had no choice but to do the same with the long apron pieces.
Not Around, But Through
Well that presented another problem. On a 4-leg table, it’s no big deal to butt the apron pieces into the legs with mortises and tenons or perhaps pocket holes. But this table has 6 legs. I definitely wanted the long apron pieces to run the full length of the frame. I didn’t want to cut them in half to butt them into the middle legs. You lose a lot of strength and stability when you do that. There was no quick solution to resolve this problem. I had to cut rectangular holes through the middle legs so that the long apron pieces could run through them.
The fancy woodworkers on YouTube with all their expensive machines make it look easy to cut a perfect rectangle through a table leg. For me, it’s not so easy. First of all, nearly all my chisels are rusty. And the ones that aren’t rusty are dull. So they’re not much help either. Of course, I could restore my chisels by removing their rust and sharpening them, but…
So that leaves me with a jigsaw and a file to cut through the legs. I would love to tell you that I patiently cut these holes with the utmost care and accuracy. But alas, I did not. Nonetheless, I got the job done. Remember that I was still under the impression that I was making a dirty, rough table for the backyard.
One Thing Led to Another
With the frame complete, I headed over to Lowes to pick up a $16 can of clear Thompson’s Water Seal to protect this thing. I swear…that was the plan. Next thing I know, I’m walking out of Lowes with a $50 can of green Cabot premium deck stain. I’m still not sure what happened.
So now the rough, colorless, insignificant table in the backyard would now become BRIGHT GREEN! And once I started to apply the stain to the frame, there was no going back. And lemme tell ya…there’s a lot of surface area to stain on this frame. Just when you thinking you’re done, you discover another stainless piece. Flip it upside down and you’ll discover even more. It took awhile, but I got it done.
Abram had no interest in this project before it was green. Suddenly, it was something he wanted to play on. I can now confirm that the table will safely support 23 pounds.
I stained all 42 of the shelf pieces before attaching them to the frame. If, however, you’re the type who likes to do things the hard way, feel free to stain the pieces after they’re attached. But then again…
Rooftops and Tabletops
This is a little weird, but hear me out. Building a tabletop is a lot like jumping from one building to another building. You’re on a rooftop, looking over the edge. The question in the back of your mind is “Do I have what it takes to safely make it to the other rooftop?” If you think you can make it, you make the jump.
If you don’t think you’ll make it, you walk down the stairs, cross the street and go up the stairs in the other building to safely reach the other rooftop. You wanted to impress everybody with your leaping ability, but this safe method also works.
Seamless or Separate?…That Is the Question
How does this relate to tabletops? Well, here’s the thing…most of the time, we would like to connect several boards together with lines that are so flat, so straight and so perfect that you don’t even notice them. And then later, when you’re done planing, sanding and finishing, the tabletop appears to be one solid, seamless slab of wood. No one has any idea it’s really a bunch of 2 x 6 boards from Home Depot that you glued together.
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If you pull this off, everybody’s impressed. Not only that, but your tabletop will be free of those annoying gaps between the boards that attract crumbs and bacteria. Just like the rooftop, if you have what it takes to do this, do it.
But here’s the thing…if you screw up the attempt to make several pieces look like one piece, it looks very bad…embarrassingly bad. Everyone who sits at the table will know what you were trying to do. But they’ll know you failed to do it. And you’ll know they know it. And god forbid, your screw-up just might become the topic of conversation when you sit at the table with your guests.
Of course, your wife will try to make you feel better about the whole thing. She’ll tell you it looks fine, bless her heart. “Don’t worry about it, honey…no one will even notice it!” And when she finally realizes that it really does look pretty bad, she’ll offer to cover your shoddy work with a runner or a place mat. And that’s the moment you realize you’ve forever lost her respect.
We’ve All Been There
Ok, so I may have over-dramatized this rooftop / tabletop analogy a little bit. But many of you are reading this and you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. You’ve tried this before on certain projects and you wish you hadn’t even tried. You wish you had done the safe thing, the easy thing. If you had simply put the boards next to each other with a consistent gap between them – with no attempt to make them appear to be one board – your guests would’ve had nothing but compliments and glowing reviews for your table and your craftsmanship.
But anyhow, I digress. Long story short, I went ahead and attempted a seamless tabletop for this green table. I took the jump! Of course, you must remember that I did none of the preparatory work on the sides of these boards to make them come seamlessly together. I didn’t plane them or joint them. I didn’t even sand them. However, I did clamp the hell out of them.
Goodness gracious…it’s taking me longer to write this post than it took me to build the table. Anyhow, you’ve come this far…stay with me.
Rustic Green Sofa Table from Reclaimed Wood
Ok so after cutting the tabletop down to 100″, I planed it, sanded it and rounded over the edges. I connected the boards with pocket screws every 16 inches. I didn’t use any glue. There were some noticeable gaps between the boards. I guess I could’ve filled the gaps with a filler or something but I just didn’t want to.
It was around this time that my wife mentioned what I was already thinking…it would be a shame to subject this table a miserable existence of cracking and fading in the backyard. On trash day, I can find an old table in the neighborhood that would adequately serve that purpose. This new green table, on the other hand, was destined for bigger and better things…perhaps behind a sofa or under a window. Maybe even a kitchen island.
I went with a clear semi-gloss on the tabletop…just two coats with 220-grit sanding between them…nothing fancy.
And now it’s done. Maybe I’ll sell it. Maybe I’ll keep it. As always, I’m just happy that I created something…especially considering this material that was going to a landfill. And now it can serve a noble purpose. And I’m absolutely thrilled by the possibility that someone may like it enough to bring it into their home. Thanks for reading and sharing my post.