My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.
When an Object Cries Out to be Upcycled
I was given the old oak valet stand by a friend specifically to recycle the wood in some future DIY project as it was surplus to his needs when he did a major clear-out before moving home.
With the valet stand being bulky, and since I was in the middle of renovating our living room, I didn’t have any spare space in my workshop to store it. So I left the stand outside in our back garden, where it soon weathered, e.g., the shiny waxed surface was soon stripped off, exposing the bare wood to the elements. With oak being a hardwood, which weathers well and is more resilient to rot, I didn’t see this as a major problem.
Prior to renovating our living room, my wife and son used pine folding tables as sofa tables. Although these were functional, they didn’t fit the new décor of our renovated living room. Therefore, I was intending to replace them by either buying or making a pair a pair of sofa tables that met with my family’s approval and fitted our new decor.
It was at this point I saw the potential of the old valet stand, which was crying-out to be upcycled. I instantly visualised the bottom half of the stand as being a readymade base with legs and feet. It was the right size and dimension for a sofa table. All it needed was a table top.
Then in rummaging through the salvaged wood stored at the back of my workshop, I found the perfect piece of mahogany board; even down to the length and width being just ideal for the table top.
Repurposing Valet Stand to Sofa Table
The first stage of the conversion was simple in that all I did was cut the valet stand in half, so that the middle cross bar of the old stand became the support bar for the table top; which would be made using the mahogany board I found in my workshop.
Little preparation of the surfaces for the stand and top were needed as both were down to the bare wood, and in reasonably good condition. Therefore, all I did was to give them a light sanding with fine grade sandpaper to make the surfaces smooth, and then clean the wood with white spirit to get rid of the sawdust.
Preparing the Cross Bar for the Table Top
For fixing the table top to the stand I opted to use dowel joints, e.g., using lots of dowel and glue at regular intervals, similar to biscuit joints. My choice being a practical one in that I don’t have a biscuit joiner, but I do have a rather handy jig for making dowel joints.
Preparation of Table Top for Fixing to the Stand
Likewise, I used the Wolfcraft dowel joint jig to drill holes at regular intervals on the underside of the table top. To ensure the holes were drilled to the correct depth, and not too deeply with the risk of drilling through to the other side, I fixed a drill stop ring (drill depth collar) to the drill bit at the appropriate height.
To fit the table top and stand together, once all holes are drilled:
- Apply a dab of wood glue in each hole on the cross bar.
- Apply plenty of wood glue along the full length of the cross bar.
- Gently tap the dowels to just over half their length into each hole on the cross bar.
- Apply a dab of wood glue into each hole on the underside of the table.
- Place the table top over the cross bar, aligning all the dowels so they engage in the holes.
- Press down firmly but gently on top.
- Place a piece of scrap (sacrificial) wood in the middle of the table top and gently tap down with a hammer or wooden mallet until all the dowels are fully engaged into the holes.
- Then leave overnight for the glue to set.
How to Use the Wolfcraft Dowelling Jig
A Need for Two Sofa Tables
I needed two sofa tables, one each for my son and wife. I didn’t need one myself as prefer to use a tray on my lap when having our evening meal while watching TV.
However, I only had enough oak to make one of the tables, but on ferreting around my workshop, amongst all the reclaimed wood I found the door frames to our old solid wood teak French doors; which would be ideal for the legs and feet. I also found a couple of wooden spindles which I liked because they are rather decorative, and happened to be the right size for the struts between the feet.
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Then on further searching amongst the salvaged wood in my workshop I found the old interior teak door step, previously used with the French doors, that was just ideal for making the table top for the second table.
Recycling Recycled Wood
When we bought our house one of the first things we did was to replace the living room window, which looked out onto our back garden, with solid teak wooden French doors. The interior sill to the window being replaced happened to also be teak, so we repurposed that as the interior door step for the new French doors.
However, a couple of years ago when I built a new conservatory on the back of our house we replaced the old French doors with a modern uPVC door; which also made the old interior teak door step redundant, so both ended up being stored in my workshop for future use.
It’s this teak door step which I decided to use for the table top of the second sofa table; with the legs and feet for table being made from the door frame of the old French doors themselves.
Making the Teak Sofa Table
Once the oak sofa table was made the first thing I did was to get my son and wife to try it out for size and comfort. From their feedback I quickly learned that the table was perfect except for the feet butting against the sofa being too long e.g. the sofa’s feet aren’t high enough for the legs to slip underneath, so they couldn’t pull the table close enough to be able to sit comfortably while eating.
Therefore, with a bit of simple carpentry, I modified the table so they wouldn’t have to stretch over to use it; achieved by just shorting the length of the legs on one side of the table just far enough to achieve the desired sitting position. In shortening the feet, being mindful of where the centre of gravity was, I didn’t want to shorten them too much so that the table would become top heavy; but just far enough to be comfortable. This was made possible by keeping the feet on the other side of the table at their original length so as to act as a counterweight.
One retesting by my family, this straightforward modification to the table worked well. So with the oak table acting as the prototype I then used it as the template to make the second table; albeit the first one would be oak and the other teak, but otherwise they would be a near match.
Making the Teak Table Top
As it happened (as is often so with my DIY projects) the old teak door step was twice the length and half the width of the size of the table top I needed to make.
Therefore, it was a simple case of cutting the door step in half and joining the two halves together along their length.
As with the oak table I used the dowel jig to join the two halves, except this time I was able to clamp them together and leave overnight, for the glue to set.
The following day I sanded the surface smooth, and cleaned it with white spirit, before going on to make the legs and feet.
Making the Legs and Feet From Recycled Teak
Having drawn up a sketch plan with measurements I got all the wood I needed together:
- A couple of pieces of teak from the old French doors for the legs and feet.
- A piece of salvaged wood from an old pine bed, as the cross bar support for the table top.
- A couple of decorative wooden spindles I found in my wood store that just happened to be the correct length as struts between the feet. I could have used teak, but as these were a perfect fit I rather fancied using them.
Then in preparation for assembly:
- Sanded all the wood (except for the two spindles) with a belt sander to take them back to the bare wood.
- Cut them all to the correct lengths, cutting the four corners off the ends of the feet to give them a more rounded profile.
- Smoothed all the surfaces and rounded the edges with an ordinary electric sander.
- Cleaned all the pieces ready for assembly with white spirt.
Using pilot holes so as not to split the wood, I screwed and glued the two feet together with the spindles. Optionally, I could have rebated the spindles in the feet or used dowel joints, but on this occasion a few discreet screws did the job just as well.
After gluing and screwing them together, to ensure the feet would be level, straight and square, I laid them flat on a bench, checked for squareness, and then clamped them up and left it overnight for the glue to set.
From the Bottom Up
The following day, when the feet were ready, I fixed them to legs with half joints and then glued and screwed the top cross bar across the two legs.
Then using the dowel jig in the same way as I did for the other table, I joined the table top to the legs with dowel and glue joints; and left overnight for the glue to set.
Once the tables were made I rubbed teak oil into the surfaces and once dried, rubbed bees wax in and buffed it up to a shine; using a bee’s wax furniture polish that doesn’t contain any silicone.
I avoid using furniture polish containing silicone (which is usually the spray polishes) because it’s a false economy. The silicone only shines while it’s wet, so after a few days the shine goes from the surface, and as silicone is an oil it attracts dust anyway. So if you use polishes containing silicone you’re forever polishing. Whereas, although it’s a lot harder to buff up a shine with bees was, it’s worth the effort and once polished doesn’t need doing again so regularly, e.g., just a few times a year rather than weekly.
I could have used wood stain, paint, or even varnish, but with quality wood like oak and teak, the last thing I want is hide it; I want to bring out the natural beauty of the wood and the wood grain.