Create Your Own Contemporary Coffee Table

By Bruce Johnson

I helped my oldest son Eric move from his apartment in Utah to another in Georgia, where he has accepted a university teaching position. Unfortunately, his coffee table was no longer worth moving, for it had been made of painted particle board that crumbled under the slightest stress. In its place I offered to make him a simple table from real wood, and began by gluing together three boards: clear pine on the outside and a contrasting strip of cherry down the center.

After a light sanding and vacuuming off the dust, I brushed on the first of three coats of  Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish, selecting a gloss sheen for a more contemporary look.

To continue in the contemporary vein, I decide to stain the pine base black. Minwax® offers a black stain in five different formulas, and for Eric’s table I selected Onyx in the  Minwax® Express Color™ Wiping Stain & Finish line. You apply it with a soft cloth and, unlike paint, the stain still lets the beauty of the wood grain show.

After staining the two ends, two side supports, and the lower shelf, I let them dry, then glued and screwed them together to form the base for his coffee table. Afterwards, I applied two coats of the same  Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish I used on the top.

After everything had dried, I attached the underside of the top to the inside of the base with small L-brackets that no one will ever notice. As you can see, the strip of cherry helps relieve the large expanse of natural wood on the top.

But in our house no project is complete until Daisy gives it her wag of approval. “Just the right height for dog snacks” is what she’s thinking! In case you are wondering, this table measures 40” l., 22” w., and 16” h. And, yes, I softened the corners on Eric’s table after bumping my shins on my own coffee table corners too many times!

Until next time,

Thanks for stopping by!


About Bruce Johnson

Author-craftsman Bruce Johnson has introduced millions of do-it-yourselfers, craftspeople and antique collectors to the world of wood finishing and antique restoration. As the official spokesperson for Minwax®, the leading manufacturer of wood finishing and wood care products, Bruce motivates people to take the initiative to beautify their surroundings. Through his many books, magazine articles and columns, as well as frequent appearances on national television talk shows, Johnson is recognized as an authority in the do-it-yourself community. Appearing on PBS, HGTV, The Discovery Channel, and currently hosting “DIY Woodworking” and “Build A Log Cabin”, on the DIY cable network, Johnson has brought the illustrious craft of wood finishing to the forefront of the American home. An expert in wood refinishing, antique restoration, and home improvement, Bruce has published more than a dozen books on these topics, including Fifty Simple Ways To Save Your House, The Wood Finisher, The Weekend Refinisher, and The Official Identification and Price Guide to the Arts and Crafts Movement. For more than 20-years, he penned an antique refinishing advice column, "Knock on Wood," which ran in dozens of antique/collectibles publications. Currently, he writes a column on Arts & Crafts for Style 1900 magazine. A rare combination of craftsman and journalist, Johnson began his career as a high school English teacher, but left teaching to set up his "Knock on Wood Antique Repair & Restoration" shop. He spent the next 10 years as a full-time professional refinisher, but eventually returned to writing. Yet, Johnson says, he won't ever be without a workbench and a couple of refinishing projects down in the basement. Johnson is also the founder and director of the Arts and Crafts Conference and Antique Show held every February in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Grove Park Inn. The conference, which includes the largest Arts and Crafts antiques show, attracts more than 1500 Arts and Crafts collectors each year to its many seminars, tours, demonstrations and exhibits. Johnson is proud to have played a role in reviving interest in designers like Gustav Stickley, who founded the Arts and Crafts movement. His latest book, “Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Furniture,” was awarded the 2009 Thomas Wolfe Literary Award. These furnishings are treasured by such collectors as Steven Spielberg and Bruce Willis, among many others.

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