Readers Showcase: Johns Benchwright Coffee Table

11.26.13 By //
DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

I was in need of a coffee table and loved these plans! Once again, many thanks for the hard work put into creating the plans and a great resource to view them!

Overall the build was very straightforward and the piece turned out extremely solid (I don't think it looks too shabby either!)

There were a few bumps along the way with finishing and one modification I had to make to the plans to accomodate the drawer slides but I'll talk about those in a minute. Thanks for reading!

Here is the back view of the piece. I read in the comments section prior to building about interest in a pull-through drawer design. I thought about doing this and don't think it would have been difficult, but I will say that the 1×6's add a ton of sturdiness to the frame so I'm happy with the direction I went. (P.S. interested in what all you design-y people think I should do for accent pillows in the background…I struggle in that department!)

Top view; I really think the bread boards give it the necessary rustic look. Great design!

Here is the assembled unit prior to finishing. I really liked the character in the pine pieces for the top even without any finish!

Here is the assembled base without the top or drawer slide supports. Notice the vertical pocket holes in the 1×6's pointing towards the top. I drilled these prior to assembly and they were a BIG help with attaching the top during final assembly.

Estimated Cost 

Lumber was right at $100, finishing materials another $75-100. Drawer guides, hardware, and some 2 1/2″ pocket screws added another ~ $50. All in all roughly $225-250 is still almost a 70% cost savings.

Length of Time 

I became slightly obsessed and had a marathon assembly night, which resulted in assembling most of the thing in one evening. Prior to that however, there was quite a bit of time spent cutting lumber, sanding each piece, and drilling the endless number of pocket holes. All in all the build probably took 15 hours from raw lumber to an assembled piece. The finish took a lot longer from start to …err 'finish' because of drying times and the research we had to do to overcome some issues (see below). I'd say another 10 hours of labor was put into the finish. That estimate is an attempt to include the prep time and cleanup of the spray equipment which makes up the bulk of that time.


As I mentioned before, I had to modify the plans to accommodate the drawer slides. The original plans call for 2×2's to be mounted on the inside of the outer 4×4's and on either side of the middle 4×4's. This didn't leave enough width on my piece to mount the drawer slides so I sliced off 1/2″ from each drawer slide support to make the pieces right at 1″ (2×2's are actually 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″). After this modification, the dimensions were perfect! 

Lumber Used 

I used pine for everything besides the drawer slide supports which were cedar. The only reason for this was that the big box stores had some really nice 2×2's in cedar and I opted for straight lumber. The frame pieces and bottom shelf are all made of FSC certified Premium Pine. I used this for the outdoor Chesapeake Sectional Unit and really liked the results so I went with it again. You can get this from either big box store (blue or orange). The top and legs are made of Number 2 Pine. My dad and I spent a significant amount of time digging through the pallets at the store to find clean pieces and I think it paid off.

Finishing Technique 

Ah the finish…as I mentioned up top, this is where we ran into some bumps. Before I start though, huge shout out to my dad who put in a TON of work with the spray equipment and troubleshooting the issues we ran into. Thanks a ton!

The stain is Mohawk Special Walnut and is lacquer based. I brushed this on after assembly with a china bristle brush. I did keep the base and top separate at this step, but if I were to do it again I think I'd pre-stain as many pieces as possible prior to assembly. All the corners and joints made it hard to achieve an even finish. As a matter of fact, I had to sand down the top after putting on the stain for the first time because it dried unevenly…extremely disheartening but worth the extra work to do it over.

Next we utilized a trick we learned from our local paint shop. Because the project used Number 2 Pine and Premium Pine pieces, the wood took the stain very differently. To combat this, we mixed sanding sealer with a bit of stain and lacquer thinner then sprayed the entire piece in varying amounts. This served two purposes; the first was to shade the different wood to even out the finish and the second was to seal in the stain before the next step.

After the first coat of sanding sealer came a coat of Van Dyke Brown Glaze over the entire piece. This was wiped on with old t-shirt rags. We wiped off the excess, let it dry then sprayed the entire piece again with sanding sealer only this time.

After each coat of sanding sealer dried we very lightly sanded with 220 or 320 grit sandpaper and wiped with a clean rag.

Finally, the entire piece was sprayed with lacquer. I think the base received 2 coats and the top 3. After the first coat went on everything looked beautiful. We let it dry overnight and came back the next morning to find a milky white haze had developed over everything. After consulting with our paint shop again, they said high humidity had caused water vapor to be trapped under the lacquer.

Luckily for us they had a solution which revolved around adding a retarding agent to the lacquer and re-coating the piece. The retarding agent causes the lacquer to dry slower and the water vapor to escape. Also, the lacquer was chemically hot enough to melt through the first layer. This plus some light sanding between each coat fixed everything right up! Huge learning experience which is always good!

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table
DIY Benchwright Coffee Table
DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

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