DIY, Furniture and other stories, Home & garden, House

Make your own coffee table for almost-free, and feel smug forever

The place that C and I used to live in was a two bedroom flat… shared by four people. It was hella crowded. About a year before we moved, though, our fourth flatmate left, and we were able to replace him with a sofa and a TV instead of another person. We finally had a living room!

This was really exciting, but also a bit of a challenge. We were saving up for our house deposit, and we knew we needed to save where we could. We did also need some furniture, though, because you can’t really relax in a living room if you’re sitting on the floor staring at a blank wall. So we splurged a bit on an amazing sofa, and that was great. However, we didn’t really want to spend too much else on the furniture… but we play a lot of board games and drink a lot of tea. So that meant we needed a coffee table.

I love trawling Pinterest for ideas of things to make and build, and something that kept cropping up were coffee tables made out of old haulage pallets. Cue some Gumtree trawling, a bus journey to and from an old warehouse, and hey presto: the project began. If you want to do something similar, read on:

Excuse the blurry photo – and enjoy the glimpse of Gatsby in the background

How to make your own pallet coffee table. Cat not included.

You will need…

  • An old pallet
  • A saw (I did this by hand, but if you have a power saw, more power to your elbow. And you have my jealousy.)
  • A sander (either elbow grease or, thankfully, in my case I was able to borrow a power sander from C’s dad.)
  • Varnish and a brush
  • Hairpin legs
  • Screws


Hand sawing is a treat…
I’ve been more popular with my neighbours…
  1. Choose your pallet. I went for one where the planks were already in pretty good condition and pretty close together so the surface of the table wouldn’t have big gaps between the planks.
  2. Decide what size you want your table to be. I pretty much eyeballed it based on how much space we had in the room, and how big the pallet was to start. Mark out the size it needs to be on the pallet and decide which way you want the planks to go before you start cutting.
  3. Cut the table down to size. Sand the rough edges down too.
  4. Sand the surface of the table so it’s smooth. Clean off any dust.
  5. Varnish it in your chosen shade – I used a dark-ish wood stain first, and applied a couple of coats. Then I varnished it – my chosen varnish took three coats. You’ll need to leave it to dry for several hours between coats; the cat didn’t like being kept out of His Living Room for that long, but anything’s preferable to coating him in varnish too.
  6. Once it’s fully varnished, flip it upside-down and position your table legs.
  7. Screw them in. Because my legs are slightly too big for the thicker parts of the pallet where I was able to screw them in, they stick out in a ‘charmingly handmade’ way from the surface a little. I tell people this is part of the delight of DIY furniture. I think hairpin legs possibly also come in standard sizes so there wasn’t much I could do here.
Et Voila

How much did it cost?

  • £3 – bus fare to pick up the pallets
  • £0 – Tools; I borrowed or already had everything I needed.
  • £0 – Pallets; these were free.
  • £0.50 – varnish and wood-stain (based on the amount I used…)
  • £19.99 – hairpin legs (eBay).

£23.49 – total

OK, so you can get a similar-sized coffee table from IKEA for £16, but personally I don’t think it’s as pretty as the one I made. Plus, you have to pay for travel to and from your IKEA, or home delivery. So I still think I win this one, a bit. Either way, the smug feeling of having made my own is a definite bonus!

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