The skill of welding, as any welder worth his or her own weight in welding wire knows, is valuable in a wide range of tasks, from repairs around the home or auto to more simple projects that can beautify and enhance your workshop or home. In this installment of Lincoln Electric's "How To..." series, we will take you through the process of building your own metal coffee table.
All of the items you will need to complete this coffee table can be found readily available at your local home improvement store. Estimate this project to take about 10 hours, including cutting the pieces of steel to length. You should be able to purchase the materials needed for this project for roughly $30.00 (not including tabletop).
Metal grinder, approximately 5"
Reciprocating saw or chop saw
2 squares - one large standard square and one small carpenter's square
C-clamps, approximately three to be used to clamp project pieces to the welding table
Lincoln Electric compact MIG welder
Welding helmet with appropriate lens shade and safety glasses. See "Safety First" below for additional safety equipment and guidelines
Lincoln® SuperArc® L-56™ .025" solid wire
Gas regulator and hose
Shielding gas with a 75% argon, 25% carbon dioxide mixture
1-1/4" x 1/8" thick square tubing cut to three different lengths:
4 pieces - 16" in length to be used as legs
3 pieces - 44" in length to serve as the top
2 pieces - 17" in length for end pieces
5/16" solid steel rod - for trim pieces. Length of pieces can vary depending on your taste (see sidebar for instructions on making your own trim pieces). Pre-made decorative trim pieces may be purchased from the following web sites, and in some cases, may be made to order:
1. Check your materials
Lay out the materials in your work area and check to be sure you have everything required to complete the project. Don't forget your safety equipment and fire extinguisher. If you haven't already, cut the tubing to the proper lengths. Check the reference chart for your welder (mounted inside the wire compartment on most Lincoln compact wire feed / welders) to ensure you are using the right settings for the thickness of steel you are about to weld. Test your settings by welding on a piece of scrap before you start.
2. Weld the legs to the end pieces
Using one of the 17"-long end pieces and one of the 16"-long legs, align these two components in a 90-degree angle. Check your alignment work with your big square on the outside edge to ensure an accurate 90-degree angle. Then, clamp the two pieces to your welding table using C-clamps. Line up the leg flush with what will be the top of the end piece. The open end of the leg should be showing. Tack weld on the inside of the angle only. Repeat on the other side of the end piece for the other leg. Repeat the whole process to create the other end piece assembly.
3. Welding the center sections to the end pieces
Place one of your end piece assemblies on the ground with the feet pointing up. Attach a piece of scrap angle iron or similar piece to it with a C-clamp to hold it upright, in a manner similar to using a bicycle kickstand (see photo). Place the large square on the ground and line up along the outside of one of the long tabletop sides and the end piece to ensure a 90-degree angle. Use the carpenter's square to ensure a 90-degree angle between the leg and the long table top side piece. Readjust the C-clamp to set the end piece in place. Tack weld the inside of the angle only. Repeat on the other side of the end piece with a second long tabletop side member. For now, tack weld only the inside angle. Next, lay your third long tabletop member in between the two you have already welded, measure to center it, and tack weld only the bottom which is facing up.
Repeat these steps to attach the opposite end piece assembly.
4. Finish weld the top of the table
Flip the table over so it is standing upright and finish weld the top of the table where the long tabletop side pieces meet the end pieces.
5. Finish weld the bottom seams
Flip the table over again so the legs are sticking straight up in the air and finish weld the seams on the bottom of the table you tack welded in Step 3.
6. Finish weld remaining seams
At this point, the seams on the inside of the joints have not yet been welded. This is the step to finish weld all of those seams. You will want to manipulate the table in different positions to accomplish the welds. You can use C-clamps to secure the table. Also, make sure the welding machine's work clamp is attached after each time you move the table and before you begin welding.
7. Grinding the welds
Before any trim pieces are added, it is important to smooth the welds with your grinder. The welds will be inaccessible after the trim pieces are attached. Safety glasses with side shields should be worn when grinding. Also, be alert for sparks from the grinding process. They can possibly ignite flammable materials. Read the Safety section for additional tips on equipment and guidelines.
8. Attaching trim pieces
Tack weld the inside of the brackets only, so the welds do not show from the exterior of the table. You may tack weld just once at each end, or one at the top and two on the leg end (as shown).
9. Clean and paint frame
You now have a sturdy frame to support the tabletop of your choice. Before securing the tabletop, however, clean the entire table with a cleaning solvent to remove machining oils. You may now paint the table with a quality semi-flat paint of your color choice.
10. Secure your tabletop
The tabletop can be of whatever material you desire - wood, slate, glass, tile, etc. It is a good idea to secure the tabletop with adhesive, flanges, or even bolts drilled through the frame and into the tabletop. You will have to determine the best way to secure your tabletop based on what material you choose.
Once you have your coffee table situated in front of your favorite couch, kick your feet up and relax.