DIY rustic coffee table from an old window and pallet wood.
My wife and I are always up for a challenge repurposing something old and making it functional again. We decided to pick up a couple of cheap, six pane windows from a guy off Craigslist for $30 a piece. We are a bit impulsive, and didn’t spend days looking for the cheapest old windows online. You can find them cheaper, but on the day we decided to find some, that was the cheapest we could find.
The windows were covered in bugs and dirt from years and years of use. My wife powered through and did an amazing job cleaning up the windows to get the nastiness cleaned off. She used one of the windows to make an awesome rustic picture frame for our living room. Watch for a post on that project at some point. It turned out really nice and was really simple! Unfortunately, not knowing I was going to write this up, I didn’t take a ton of pictures to show the details of each step. I will try to explain each step the best I can.
Note: I cannot stress enough the importance of being safe when using pallets for your DIY project. Pallets can contain pollutants that can cause harm to you or the recipient of whatever you build. For more information, see the Pallet Safety and More section of our page for a link to some great info on choosing your pallets wisely and my own personal story of how I learned the hard way to be safe when working with pallets.
The tools I used for this project were:
18 Gauge Brad Nailer
Orbital Palm Sander
2” brad nails
I started by pulling a couple of pallets apart using the classic hammer and pry bar method. Its a little time consuming, but it gets the job done.
Pallet wood varies so much from pallet to pallet, and I wanted all of the braces to be the same width. I ran them over the table saw to make them all 3 inches wide. These things are riddled with nails, so make sure there are no nails in the way before you cut them.
After I had all the braces the same width, I built 2 separate frames. I wanted the window to be the top of the table so I measured the windows length and width. It measured 41.5” x 22”, so I cut 4 braces down to 41.5” with my miter saw. I matched them up in pairs of two and put them side by side to measure the depth of the two combined. I subtracted the depth of the two braces together from the width of the window (22”), and that gave me the length I needed to cut for the other two sides of the frames. For the top frame, I chose one of the braces that had cutouts to really give it that “pallet” feel.
I set the frames together on the ground and measured to make sure everything was cut properly. I used a generous amount of wood glue on each butt joint and used 2” brad nails to hold the frame together. I pre-drilled holes and hammered in a 3” nail into each joint to help hold it together, and I thought it looked kind of cool.
I took the top frame and flipped it over to attach the planks to make the bottom of the storage area. I took the planks I had pulled from the pallets and cut them to the width of the frame. I didn’t do any measuring of the widths of the planks, but I just laid them out as I cut them. I ended up with about a 2.5” gap. That was too small for a single plank without cutting it, so using the table saw again, I made two 1.5” planks and put them on either side of the center plank. This was just an “artistic” decision that I thought may give it a little character. I attached all of the planks with 2” brad nails. I could have used shorter brad nails, but I had a pile of 2” nails on hand already. Also, I didn’t use any wood glue on this step because the planks would be sandwiched between the two frames. Here is a picture after I did this and flipped it right side up.
The next step was to attach the bottom frame. I flipped the top frame upside down again, so the planks were on top. I applied a generous amount of wood glue around the perimeter where the frames would attach. Then, I set the second frame where the glue was. I sunk a couple 2” brad nails into the inside of the second frame, at an angle, down into the first frame to hold it in place while I screwed the frames together. If you have a pocket hole jig you could put pocket holes into the second frame to attach it to the top frame. Since I don’t have a pocket hole jig, and no one frequently looks under the coffee table, I skipped doing pocket holes. First, I pre-drilled holes into the second frame at an angle down into the first frame. I did a lot of these around the perimeter, leaving enough space from the corner so the legs can sit flush against the frame. I used 2.5” screws into the pre-drilled holes to hold the frames together. The combination of the glue and screws allowed it to hold really well.
I noticed earlier that the pallet planks were a bit thin, and they could bow a bit if you put too much pressure on them. To add some additional support , I cut and added another brace right in the center underneath the table. I attached it by angling a few screws through the brace and into the frame. Everything was pretty solid at this point.
Now, it was time to add the legs. I wanted the top of the table to sit at about 18” off the ground, and the window was about 2” thick. The highest point of the legs would be at the bottom of pallet planks, so I set the window on top of the frames and measured from the bottom of the pallet planks to the top of the window. It was about 5.5”. With some quick math, I knew the legs needed to be 12.5” each. After cutting them all to length, I spread wood glue on the inside corners of the bottom frame and put the legs in place. I made sure each leg was plum before using 2” brad nails to nail it to the frame. Once they were all in place, I sunk about four or five 2.5” screws in a zig-zag pattern on the inside.
This is the point where I could really visualize what the end result was going to look like, and I was very pleased!
The outside of the table were really rough, so I used an orbital palm sander and 80 grit sandpaper to sand down everything on the outside really well. I also ran the sander on the inside to take off the splinters, but I liked how rough it was so I didn’t make everything really smooth in there.
After sanding, I grabbed some interior white paint we had left over from a previous project. I wanted to maintain the rustic weathered look, so I dipped my brush in the paint and wiped most of it off before I painted. I think I have heard of this as dry painting. This allowed me to see the wood through the paint in a lot of places which I liked. You can also white wash it by adding a little water to your paint before you spread it on. I did the same thing on the edges and a little bit to the top of the window, to make it all look like it belonged together.
Because the paint was so light, it dried really fast, and I went right onto staining. I used a can of Varathane Light Walnut Wood Stain to do the inside. I applied the stain and didn’t wait long to wipe of the excess because the pallet boards absorbed the stain quickly. I let the stain dry for a few hours before I put a top coat on. I used Minwax Polycryclic Clear Satin to seal it all up. I ended up putting two coats on with a light sand with a high grit sandpaper in between. I put a little bit extra poly on the window corners where the wood was more exposed.
After it all dried, it was time to put the hardware on. I went to Home Depot and got:
1 drawer pull
1 window sash lock
2 1ft lengths of a medium duty chain
It ended up being about $12 for the hardware. I spray painted the lock and chains black, to match the rest of the hardware. When they were dry, I took all of the hardware and tossed them on the driveway a couple of times to beat them up a little bit. I didn’t go too crazy, but I think they turned out nice. Its kind of hard to tell that they look worn in the pictures. I screwed everything into place where I wanted them, and that was that. In hind sight, I wish I would have done something to the under side of the window. It was in such good shape that I just left it alone. I think it turned out really cool!