Lift Coffee Table #5: Final Assembly

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Blog entry by Greg Wurst posted 06-23-2008 04:48 PM 6954 reads 5 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Looking for finish suggestion Part 5 of Lift Coffee Table series no next part

Lots of pictures for this final update, so here goes!

I went ahead and finished the side panel frame and partially assembled them. I left one side off so I could slide the finished panels in and glue them together.

For the cherry side panels I finished them with about 9 coats of Formby’s Tung Oil Finish which is essentially just a wiping varnish. In hindsight I was probably wiping them on too thin to begin with, since they dried very quickly between coats. I applied the first several coats using paper towels and small pieces of t-shirt material. I would use 0000 steel wool between coats, and at about 7 coats (the stage I was at when I took this picture) I wasn’t getting the sheen I wanted so I tried something I read online. I wet-sanded the panels with 600 grit automotive sandpaper. This smoothed them out very well, but obviously dulled the finish. I then buffed the panels with rubbing compound and a buffer, which eliminated the scratches but still left them with a dull sheen.

Not satisfied with the appearance, I followed another suggestion and took a large piece of cotton material and formed a fairly substantial 3×3 square. After saturating it with finish, I wiped a much thicker (but not too thick) coat across the panels. After drying this provided a much glossier (and smoother) finish than I was achieving earlier with the thinner coats, but I still had a couple dull spots. One more coat and I was pleased with the look. So, if you decide to use Formby’s Tung Oil Finish I’d ignore the advice on the back to apply very thin coats like an automotive wax (except maybe for the first few coats to soak the wood) and apply a thicker coat with the grain. I could have probably got the same finish in 5 coats or possibly less.

After the panels dried I went ahead and glued and clamped the panels and frames together.

I then started attaching the frames to the table. The shorter sides were attached at the top with three pocket hole screws I had drilled into the top before attaching it to the table. I then drilled a hole through the apron on each side and attached an 1 1/4” screw to hold the sides of the panel in place.

The larger panels were slightly more problematic. Due to the large hole cutout, I couldn’t use pocket holes in the middle to attach the panels since the cutouts for the holes would have been visible. I had a pocket hole on either side of the cutout, but that left the center without being firmly attached to the table.

I had thought about drilling through the edge banding of the cutout and attaching a deep screw and then plugging the hole. Fortunately, I thought some more and realized there was enough depth on the frame for me to drill a hole through the apron very close to (and partially through) the top and use an 1 1/4” screw to attach the center of the panel to the skirting.

With the side panels in place I could finish assembly on the table. I started by attaching a side for bottom box that holds the lift mechanism. Here you can also see the 1/4” oak plywood panels I used to cover the pocket hole screws in the skirting I used to attach the top. I added a coat of shellac to the exposed underside of the top in front of the plywood panels that is still unfinished in this picture.

I then coated both the 1/4” plywood panels with glue and clamped them to the skirting.

After attaching the other side I added the bottom. I attached it at the top and bottom using pocket holes into the skirting and on the side using regular 1 1/2” wood screws.

A coat of shellac on the exposed surfaces is applied for the sake of appearance. Incidentally, I love shellac. The Bullseye de-waxed shellac tints very easily, and while too thick for wiping out of the can if you thin the mixture with denatured alcohol you can just wipe the finish on and get great results.

Finished base ready for the lift mechanism to be installed.

I attached the lift to the bottom first. While there were no instructions to speak of, installation was pretty-obvious. The frame is 3/4” thick with beveled screw holes on the sides for attaching wood screws. I aligned the lift in the hole and marked the screw locations with a transfer punch. Remove the lift, pre-drill the holes, and then attach the lift with 1 1/4” wood screws.

After that, I placed the table top on the lift, aligned the top, and repeated the punch and drill operation. Probably the easiest part of the whole operation

A fun project and I tried several new things I hadn’t had any experience with before:

1. Using shellac and tinting and thinning the finish.
2. Using a wiping varnish.
3. Resawing, jointing, and planing rough wood to size.
4. Working with and finishing figured wood.
5. Building a traditional table using table legs and skirting (everything else I’ve built has been essentially a box).

While there are things I would go back and change and do differently if I could, I am overall pleased with the results and can take my lessons learned to my next project.

If you’re interested you can get my Sketchup files for this table here:

-- You're a unique and special person, just like everyone else.

4 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4066 days

#1 posted 06-23-2008 07:59 PM

Looks like you pulled off a nice one here. I really enjoy seeing the progress photos and list of “firsts.”
Great work on this project!

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View TedM's profile


2002 posts in 3699 days

#2 posted 06-23-2008 09:19 PM

And pleased you should be! Great job! Thanks for the SketchUp files!

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit and sign up for my project updates!

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3735 days

#3 posted 06-24-2008 12:21 AM

wow that came out great! thanks for the post!

View Keyser_Soze's profile


68 posts in 1538 days

#4 posted 02-05-2014 11:25 PM

Love your posts, you’re adding quite handily to my to-do list. First the tablesaw cabinet, then this for sure.

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