Today I’m going to show you how I built my DIY Modern Farmhouse Coffee Table out of some amazing rough walnut. Plus, I’ll show you how you can make a more DIY version of this coffee table that uses pocket holes. I have plans available that outline using dimensioned lumber to get the same look with readily available materials.
I share tons of tips during this project that can help you whether you’re brand new or a seasoned pro. And thanks to JET for sponsoring this build. You can see their new 13″ planer in action in the YouTube video linked below.
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How to Build a DIY Farmhouse Coffee Table
- Glue the Top and Shelf
- Cut the Table Legs
- Make Sides
- Add Stretchers to Table Legs
- Prep Table Top
- Dry Fit the Coffee Table
- Finish and Assemble the Table
I used rough lumber for this coffee table that I milled down, but I’m not going to go over that process here. If you want to see how I milled the wood, check out the DIY Modern Farmhouse Coffee Table video.
Remember, you can use dimensioned wood to make your own coffee table without having to mill anything, and get a great result.
1. Glue the Top and Shelf
I kicked off the project by gluing up the top and shelf so they could be drying while I’m cutting joinery for the base. The top is your showpiece and you can really change the look based on the board layout. When you’re working with boards with knots and crazy grain, it’s a good idea to switch the boards around, to see what looks best.
I applied a good layer of glue to the edges and then used my JET parallel clamps to clamp them tight. If you want to use any alignment aids like biscuits or dowels you can do that as well to help keep the top flat.
2. Cut the Table Legs
2a) Cut Table Legs to Length
The legs are from 2×2 stock I and cut them to final length on the miter saw. I used a stop block for repeatability when making those cuts.
The legs have a subtle taper starting 3” from the bottom on the two inside faces. I used my combination square to layout where each taper would end and then also made marks where they would begin up on the leg.
2b) Make Tapering Jig
I’m using my super basic tapering jig again, I also used it when I built my Modern Outdoor Chair. It’s literally just a piece of plywood with some hold downs on it. But adding registration blocks makes it even easier to use in this project. With the registration blocks in place I’m able to make repeatable tapers and cuts on all four of the legs with one setup.
To set up the registration blocks I placed one of the legs on the layout lines and then I stuck a piece of tape to the jig and to the blocks. Then I put CA glue on one side and activator on the other.
This sets the blocks in place firmly but won’t rip up the wood when you remove it later. Shoutout to my buddy Marc Spagnuolo (The Wood Whisperer) for sharing this tip.
With the blocks in place I made the taper cut on the first side then unclamped and rotated the leg for the second taper.
Once you’re setup it’s a really quick process to knock out all four legs. I like having the tapers on the inside of the legs. It keeps the heft of the 2×2 leg but adds a little subtle clean detail that whispers “I’m not from IKEA.”
And when you’re done with that setup you can just knock the setup blocks off with a mallet and peel up the tape.
Before moving on I pulled out my router table and put a small roundover on all the edges of the legs. This combined with the tapers really gives them a refined look.
3. Make Sides for the DIY Coffee Table
3a) Drill Holes with Self Centering Jig
Next I made the sides for the DIY coffee table. This could have been done in a matter of minutes with pocket holes, but I decided to use dowel joinery instead. The dowels are centered on the leg for the upper connectors but flush to the inside of the leg for the lower parts. I made layout lines for the location of the dowels.
Then I drilled mating holes on the legs using the layout lines across the joints. My self centering dowel jig does a great job, all you have to do is line it up on the marks and drill.
Then I moved to the lower rail and this is where it got a bit trickier. Since the rail is flush on the inside of the leg I couldn’t use the centering dowel jig.
3b) Drill Holes with Drill Press
So after drilling holes in the lower rail I dry fit the side assembly together to make sure everything looked good.
Then I clamped a straight scrap to the bench to register the feet against and a 1×4 I used as a spacer. This let me put metal dowel points in the holes I drilled.
Next I used the metal dowels to transfer the position to the legs. I repeated the same thing on the other leg and I had little indentations where I needed to drill the holes in the legs.
You really need to use a drill press for straight holes when doing dowel joinery, freehanding it just isn’t accurate enough. So I set a fence on the drill press and lined up the marks with the brad point bit and drilled out each hole.
I’m only showing one side, but I made the joinery for both sides at the same time so I drilled all four legs. After that I did a dry fit on the side and everything looked spot on so I moved on to the joinery for the long stretchers that will connect the sides.
4. Add Stretchers to Table Legs
Next I made sure to label all my parts so I could easily match them up later. Be sure to get the detailed plans for this build which includes labeled parts, cutting diagrams and easy to follow, step by step instructions.
Then I took apart the assemblies so I could start working on the long stretchers.
The long stretchers on the bottom get the same treatment as the side rails. First I drilled the dowel holes in the stretcher then transferred the marks to the legs.
The key here was just to make sure the legs were 90 degrees to the reference board. Then I used another 1×4 spacer to position the long piece to make the marks.
And this is where I messed up and would change things next time. I laid out the dowel holes for the short rails and the long stretchers in exactly the same spot about ⅜” in from the edge. After I drilled the second set of holes for the dowels on the leg I saw that the holes overlapped perfectly.
This means I’ll have to drill completely through the first dowels when joining the second ones. I should have offset one set up a bit and the other set down a bit to at least keep some of the dowel intact when I redrill the second set.
But I kept going with the build. Before assembling the sides I wrapped the ends of the rails with blue tape to protect them from glue squeeze out.
Then I applied a liberal amount of glue to the dowels and started assembling, hammering and clamping everything together. Doing a glue up like this always feels like a race against the clock hoping you can get it all clamped tight before the timer runs out.
5. Prep Table Top
After getting the side assemblies in the clamps I switched back over to working on the top and shelf. I used my JET 18-36 drum sander to flatten the panels. If you don’t have a drum sander you can always use a belt sander to flatten your table top. But I highly recommend you put biscuits in the top during glue up to keep it as flat as possible.
With the panels flat I needed to cut them to final length and do some edge treatments. So I decided to use my Kreg ACS Table and Kreg Track Saw. This setup is perfect for cutting large panels square. Of course this could easily be done with a circular saw and a straight edge.
Next I used my router table to put a nice profile on the underside of the top with a 45 degree chamfer bit. I love the look of a chamfered top and it goes well with the leg tapers.
I lowered the router bit a little and put a smaller chamfer on the lower shelf. The chamfer couldn’t be too big on this because of the fit with the lower supports which you’ll see during assembly.
6. Dry Fit the Coffee Table
You can now see that the lower dowels completely block the dowel holes for the long stretcher.
Using the same bit as before I drilled out each hole.
There is a tiny bit of dowel left around the edge of the hole, but if they were shifted it would be a lot more.
Finally I fit the lower shelf to the table. I wanted the shelf to be notched around the legs, recessed from the edge of the legs but also overhang it’s support. This is why the lower supports hug the inside of the leg.
I centered the lower shelf on one of the sides then used my combination square to transfer where the legs fit.
Then I flipped the panel over and cut to the line until the notch out released.
The fit was great because I’d cut test pieces ahead of time. Next I dry assembled the base to make sure it all fit.
It was great between the ends but the notch was about 1/16” off on the long side of the table. And that’s why you dry fit.
To fix it, I took the lower stretchers to my miter saw and moved the stop block in a little less than 1/16” from where it was set last to cut the stretchers. Then I cut down the lower stretchers as well as the thicker top ones.
I connected the sides with the long stretchers the same way as I did on the sides. I used a couple 1×4’s to prop up the supports and I clamped everything in place to dry.
7. Finish and Assemble the DIY Coffee Table
I used pocket holes on the top stretchers and they’ll be attached after the shelf is in place. This will save me an immense amount of headache in assembly and finishing.
I went ahead and finished the top and base separately before attaching them all together. I used a 2-part oil finish that really brought out the grain in the walnut.
After the finish was dry I used a biscuit joiner to cut slots for some table top fastener clips.
I’ll be attaching the shelf and the top with this hardware.
And here’s why those top stretchers stayed off until the end. I could easily slide the shelf into place, clamp it down and flip the base over to attach the clips to secure the shelf. If the top stretchers were already there that shelf couldn’t fit in.
Then I flipped the base back over and finally attached the top stretchers with pocket screws.
I used the biscuit joiner to make a few more slots for the top. Then I laid the top upside down on my bench and put the base on top of it.
After a few adjustments to get everything centered I secured the top in place to finish off this epicly long build for such a simple looking coffee table.
And that’s how I made my DIY Modern Farmhouse Coffee Table. The finished product was so worth the extra effort. The walnut wood and all the little details really came together nicely and this will have a nice spot in our house for a long time. Make sure to check out my other furniture projects for more great builds.
JET provided me with product and/or monetary compensation as a sponsor of this build. All opinions are my own and are not filtered by the sponsor.