How to Turn a Large Book Into a DIY Coffee Table
Some years ago, a popular TV show birthed a remarkably durable meme: a coffee-table book about coffee tables. Deep in the discount section of a big-box bookstore, I found a book big enough to be a table and envisioned a coffee table made out of a coffee-table book.
That book table evolved into an end table, ready to receive the most literary of cocktails. Bolted only through the back cover, the book still functions, allowing guests to flip through a collection of skyscrapers. You can even build a pair and bookend the couch, providing some intellectual counterbalance to the TV. This article will show you how to make your own.
- (1) coffee table book, approximately 18" × 24" (see Step 1)
- (4) pieces 3/4" plywood, 3" × 22"
- (2) yellow pine rails, 1 1/2" × 1 1/2" × 22"
- (4) 3/4" plywood crosspieces (see Cut List diagram below)
- (4) 1/4" × 2 1/2" machine bolts
- (4) 1/4" nuts and washers
- (2) 1/2" × 18" threaded rods
- (8) 1/2" nuts and washers
- (6) 1 1/2" coarse-thread drywall screws
- (6) #8 washers
- Wood glue
- Finishing of your choice
- Tape measure
- Circular saw or table saw
- Miter saw
- Drill/driver and 1/4" and 1/2" bits
- Orbital sander or sandpaper (100- and 120-grit)
How to Make Your DIY Coffee Table Out of a Book
- Dimensions shown are based on an 18" × 24" book. Yours can be larger than that or as small as 12" × 16"; adjust accordingly to fit your own book. Rip the plywood to width, as shown on facing page, using a table saw or circular saw, then cut the legs to 20" on the mitre saw.
- Mitre each end of the legs, in parallel, at 15°, removing as little material as possible. Hold the legs together in a stack to make sure they are the same exact length—this will ensure the table doesn’t rock.
- Use a straightedge and pencil to measure and mark the tapers on the legs, then cut with a circular saw.
- Mark the notches onto the four plywood cross-pieces, measuring from the center out to ensure asymmetrical structure. Clamp all four pieces together so that the notch markings line up.
- Set the circular saw blade depth to 1 1/2", then cut through the notches over and over, right next to one another, as shown below. Clean out chips with a chisel.
- Mark and cut the tapers on the crosspieces. Sand all pieces.
- Sandwich each set of legs between two crosspieces with a thin, even coat of wood glue, making sure the tops of the legs are flush with the tops of the crosspieces. Clamp together and stand them up, and confirm the leg assembly sits evenly on the ground.
- Drill through the center of each leg–crosspiece intersection and bolt together, using 1/4" bolts and washers on both sides. If desired, countersink the washers and nuts on the outsides of the crosspieces.
- Lay the rails into the notches of the crosspieces, spacing the leg assemblies 12 1/2" apart, inside-to-inside.
- Glue the rails down into the crosspieces, then predrill and fasten with drywall screws. Add two coats of finish, if desired.
- Drill a 1/2" hole in each leg, 2" up from the bottom end.
- Cut the threaded rods to length at 16", and insert through the holes in the legs. Use nuts and washers to adjust the legs until the structure is square and straight.
- Center the book on the structure, then predrill and screw through the back cover, using #8 washers to prevent tear-through.
- Unscrew the book from the leg assembly and donate to a thrift store or recycle.
- Remove the threaded rods and recycle.
- Unbolt and break down the structure—the plywood must be trashed, due to toxic glue, but the rails could be composted or mulched if they have a natural finish.
If you are unsure of the types of finishing to be used, you can have a quick read on my article on How to Choose and Apply Wood Stains and Finishes.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.