It’s been a while since I posted a DIY tutorial, but I am so happy to be sharing this DIY plywood coffee table with you! It has patterned plywood panels that are attached with magnets and reveal hidden storage (similar to these panels on Jonah’s plywood desk). I’ll be honest, navigating this new normal with quarantine and an already challenging work life balance situation, home schooling, etc., unfortunately pushed new projects to the back burner for a bit, but I’m happy to be back! There was a lot of trial and error with this project with creating the patterned plywood, but I’ll walk you through the process and show you what I learned, and you can see more about that in my YouTube video. (You’re also getting a sneak peek at my living room/office/mom cave that I’m in the process of making over.)
Project Supplies and Materials:
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- 3/4″ Maple Plywood (2 pieces cut to 35″ x 18″; 4 pieces cut to 18″ x 3-3/4″; and then the patterned plywood panels require several 1″ wide strips of plywood (I used scraps) and the final dimensions are 2 panels at 8 1/2″ x 3-3/4″ each
- Circular Saw or Table Saw (I used this one.)
- Miter Saw
- Pocket Hole Jig
- 1-1/4″ Pocket Hole Screws
- 1-1/4″ Construction Screws
- Measuring Tape
- Bar Clamps
- Wood Glue
- Silicone Glue Brush (Optional)
- Speed Square
- Countersinking Drill Bit
- Magnetic Touch Latches (I used 2 since it’s all I had on hand, but I recommend using 2 on each side if possible)
- Hairpin Legs (I used these from DIY Hairpin Legs in 3/8″ diameter, metallic gold finish, 12 inches long. Shout-out to DIY Hairpin Legs for providing these for this project!)
- Polycrylic in Satin Finish
How to Build a DIY Plywood Coffee Table
First, I cut my plywood to size using my circular saw. I cut 2 pieces at 35″ x 18″ for the top and bottom, and 4 pieces at 18″ x 3-3/4″ for the sides and cubby partitions.
I used my pocket hole jig to drill 4 holes along one side of each of the side and partition pieces. I wanted to be able to attach these to the top of the table from underneath without seeing the screws from the top. (I will attach the bottom from underneath using construction screws later which is why I only drilled pocket holes along one side.)
I attached the side pieces using 1-1/4″ pocket hole screws. I wanted to wait and attach the partition pieces after I knew for sure what size the patterned panels would be since those were going to be centered and I would need to butt the partitions up against those.
Time to create the patterned plywood panels! Not going to lie, this is where A LOT of trial and error occurred. (If you want a legitimate resource on creating patterned plywood, check out Michael Alm.) You can see all of my mistakes in my YouTube video, but just as a quick summary, I initially cut the plywood strips way too thin and when I glued them up the panel was just too flimsy and it didn’t work well. So I went back to the drawing board and ended up cutting as many 1 inch wide strips as I could with the scraps I had available. I also had the dilemma of not owning enough large bar clamps for the glue-up, so the second time around I opted to do two smaller glue-ups instead of one larger one since I was going to end up with two small panels anyway. Also, if you have a table saw then this will be a lot easier and more precise.
After I cut my 1 inch strips (I ended up with 24 total), I glued them together with the end grain facing up, and staggered them since I was going to be cutting them at a 45 degree angle. I used my speed square as a guide to make sure they were staggered at roughly 45 degrees. I glued two panels with 12 strips each since my clamps are somewhat small.
I allowed the glue to dry and then set my miter saw to 45 degrees so that I would be cutting strips at 45 degrees parallel to each other. I cut both of my panels into as many 2 inch wide strips as I could.
I laid out my strips and flipped every other one over so the angles were alternating, creating a chevron pattern. Then, I glued them up again, this time into one panel, and let it dry overnight.
If you want a chevron pattern, then you can stop here and cut your panel into two equally sized rectangular panels. I wanted a diamond pattern though, so I cut my panel into 2 inch strips again, this time setting my miter saw back to zero and not cutting at an angle. But first, I botched it with my hand planer when trying to smooth it out (you can see more in my video), so don’t do that! Ha.
I later whipped up a quick DIY router sled so that I could use my router to plane it smooth and even across the entire surface, but I need a bit extender so my panels still aren’t level. I can fix them later and you can’t tell when the table is assembled, but learn from my mistake! (Also here’s a helpful video on making your own router sled.)
Then, I flipped every other strip over again to create the diamond pattern, and glued up the panel one more time. Since I accidentally created a slope while planing, when I flipped every other strip around, it ended up being totally uneven on top but I decided I would address that later and just go ahead and glue it up.
I chipped one of the corners when sanding and planing, so I needed to cut that part off, and then cut the remaining panel into two rectangles. They also weren’t square so I trimmed the sides making sure the diamond pattern would be centered.
I ended up with two pieces at 8 1/2″ x 3-3/4″. I marked the center points on each panel and also on each side of my table and lined them up.
Then, I placed the partition pieces next to the panels and attached them with 1-1/4″ pocket hole screws.
I wanted to use the same kind of magnets I used for this desk, but I didn’t have any on hand so I used magnetic touch latches instead. I only had two, so I used one for each panel, but I would recommend using 2 for each panel (one on either side as opposed to one at the top). Since I only had two, I centered the little metal plate at the top of my panel and screwed it on, and then centered the touch latch underneath the top of my table (it will be the top when we flip everything over, we are currently working upside down), and screwed it on, making sure my panel is flush with the edge when the touch latch is pushed in.
I attached the table bottom (remember, we are working upside down so it will be the bottom when it’s flipped over), by using a countersinking drill bit to pre-drill holes along each side and along where the partitions are, and then attached it with 1-1/4″ construction screws.
I flipped it over and applied two coats of Polycrylic in a Satin finish.
After my topcoat had dried, I flipped it back over and attached my hairpin legs (Thank you to DIY Hairpin Legs for providing them!), and ended up using shorter screws than the ones they came with since I was working with thinner material. I lined them up 1″ from each edge and screwed them on.
Then I flipped the table back over and attached my panels to the magnets. You can find the full video tutorial on YouTube here.
Despite the mistakes and trial and error, I am so excited about how it turned out. I have a lot of patterned plywood scraps left over so I’ll try to figure out a way to use them so they don’t go to waste. Here’s the final project!
You can check out my YouTube video for this project here: