Note: if you read nothing else, scroll to the bottom for the final photos. This one turned out good, you guys…ifidontsaysomyself.
Happy Monday! I’m still riding high from this weekend — Saturday was a nice lazy day where we actually slept in before doing some work around the house. Then Sunday was our half marathon on the Cape, and even though the weather has been cold and rainy thanks to Hurricane Joaquin, the weather during the race was great — high 50s and mostly cloudy, which is cold for normal activities but awesome for running fast. And run fast we did! Actually all four of us hit personal bests (my friend Shelby, Sam, Maddie, and me). And it was Maddie’s first half marathon — she kicked butt!
So anyway, enough about how awesome running is. Let’s talk about something else that gives me a total adrenaline rush: when a DIY project turns out right. And just like racing, the longer it takes to get there, the sweeter the victory when it’s finally done right. Remember that coffee table I posted about two weeks ago? The awesome one I made with a steel frame and a sleek wood top (made of plywood!)? Let me refresh your memory:
Or maybe you remember it looking more like this, with my claim to “trust me, I know how to fix this thing!”
Well you guys, good news: I did know how to fix this thing! It was actually pretty simple: I made Naomi come over and inspect it and tell me what to do.
You see, I knew that what was going on is called “racking,” and it happens when a piece of furniture twists out of square alignment because it doesn’t have sufficient bracing. The solution needed to involve adding diagonal supports along each side but I loved the simple modern look and couldn’t figure out how I could add the supports without ruining that. Fortunately, my blogging partner is a creative genius so I just tapped her wisdom.
She took one look at it and proposed a pretty cool solution. Here’s a mockup of the frame as I originally designed it:
And here’s what Naomi proposed doing: adding four new diagonal supports emanating from two opposite corners to create a cool pattern rather than detract from the simple frame.
As usual, Naomi’s creative genius left me with some implementation to figure out (c.f. the salvaged library cart project). First of all, I’d need to buy some additional straight steel pieces, and I’d need to drill into my lovely yellow frame. The thought made me nervous, but I figured I had to go for it — it wasn’t working in its current state.
First I had to figure out the length I needed for each of the new cross pieces. This required whipping out a little something known as the pythagorean theorem, ie middle school math. I knew that I wanted the pieces to hit the bottom of the frame at the midpoint of each piece, which essentially meant I was creating a triangle that was 18″ high (the corner angle pieces) and 18″ long (half of the bottom steel pieces), with the new piece constituting the hypotenuse. To figure out its length, I just needed to solve for “x” where x2 = 182 + 182. My calculations revealed that “x” needed to be about 25.5 inches.
Since I needed 4 of these, I knew I needed to buy 2 more lengths of straight steel, since those come in 72″ lengths. So I picked those up at Home Depot, along with an additional can of yellow spray paint and some additional #6 machine screws 1/2″ in length (in retrospect, I should have bought some 3/4″ screws too, but I made do).
First I had to cut the new pieces (4 of them each 25.5″ long), so I broke out my jigsaw with metal cutting blade and made quick work of it following the same approach I used in constructing the original metal frame. As a refresher, here’s what that looks like:
Next I had to drill the holes in my new pieces and in the existing frame where the new pieces would attach. Along the top corners I used the holes that already attached the horizontal and vertical pieces of the frame, so I just had to drill a hole in one end of each new piece of steel that lined up with each of these holes.
I marked the correct location on the new steel lengths with a sharpie. I also marked a hole at the bottom of each length where it would attach to the bottom section of the frame. (Forgot to take a helpful photo to explain this, so here’s my Sketchup diagram to show a mockup of what I’m talking about.)
Then I drilled all the holes I’d marked (again using the technique I’d perfected when building the original frame).
Once I had the holes in each steel piece drilled, I attached the top of each piece to the corners of the frame. I needed to swap out the original screws for the longer screws I’d bought, since there were now more thicknesses of metal to be held together. Here’s the first one in place:
The other hitch was that due to the angle at which the cross pieces needed to sit, on some of the pieces the corners stuck up above the surface of the frame and would have prevented the tabletop from sitting flush with the frame:
I fixed this by using the grinding attachment on my dremel to patiently grind down the corners to the right level. It took awhile, but it worked. I feel like I’m using my dremel constantly these days….
With the top corners in place, I then turned the frame on each side to drill the holes in the bottom edges of the frame that matched up with the bottom holes in each cross piece.
With those drilled, I then put screws through each hole and tightened the hex nuts. The difference was stark — goodbye wobble!
The final step was to get everything back to the same paint color, so I hit the new pieces with a coat of clean metal primer, followed by two thin coats of the same Rustoleum glossy yellow spray paint I’d used on the rest of the frame and a final coat of a high gloss clear lacquer. I let the whole thing sit for a few days so the paint was fully cured.
Finally I carried the frame and tabletop upstairs (separately, as it would have been way too heavy with them screwed together already), where I set it them place upside down and screwed the tabletop to the brackets.
Then I flipped it over and stepped back to admire my handiwork!
Oh right, also I just got a new living room rug. Surprise! More on that to come soon (edit: details on the new rug here!), but in the meantime let’s focus on my wobble-free coffee table (if you can focus, because damn the rug is awesome right?!?). I’m trying to be modest, but I’m just so proud of myself for constructing this thing — it’s by far the biggest furniture project I’ve ever taken on, and involved learning a lot of new techniques. Hurray for new challenges and the satisfaction that comes from conquering them!
Okay, that’s probably enough by way of self-satisfied photography. This thing is now rock solid, we’ve been pulling it around a little already, and there’s no wobble or sense that the whole thing isn’t one solid piece of furniture. Major sigh of relief.
I love how the living room is coming together –I keep declaring it “done” every few months and then making more changes, but I really think we’re getting there. Next step is sewing some new colorful throw pillows to fit with the rug and the yellow of the coffee table and side chair.
Oh, and here’s a final budget breakdown — fixing the wobble added another $27 to my original costs in the form of two extra lengths of straight steel, another can of spraypaint, and some more screws:
- 6x flat steel pieces: $58.32
- 1x angle steel piece: $12.97
- Pack of metal cutting jigsaw blades: $8.97 (I didn’t include the cost of the jigsaw, as that’s an investment for other projects too — the one I bought was $60)
- 2x black oxide drill bit set: $9.94
- Screws and hex nuts: $9
- Corner brackets: $1.97
- 3x yellow spraypaint: $11.61
- Clean metal primer: $3.76
- Clear gloss lacquer: $3.76
- Plywood (50% off the original price since I was able to buy just half the sheet): $24.99
- Veneer edging: $6.50
- Minwax stain and water-based poly: already owned
Compare this to many hundreds and even thousands of dollars from my inspiration images, and I feel pretty great about this cost! And if you assume my time is worth about $50/hour, that only adds another ~$1,500 to the price! Kidding. Sort of. Not really.
So what do you think, has this given you hope that I can make a sturdy table, and that with enough patience you can too? If you do give it a try be sure to read Part I and Part II of this project, and just skip the step where you paint the whole thing and lug it upstairs before realizing you need to add new supports.
(Sharing at Idea Box, Remodelaholic, Think and Make Thursday, Pin Worthy Wednesday, Create It Thursday, Brag Worthy Thursday, Weekend Retreat Link Party, Two Uses Tuesday, Tip Me Tuesday, Whimsy Wednesday, Remodelaholic, and Thrifty Decor Chick’s October Before and After.)