Industrially Influenced Drink Coaster

As a personal fan of the contemporary industrial aesthetic I wanted to capture it within my upcycling process. I appreciate the simplicity of this aesthetic, but also how it doesn’t sacrifice strength or quality. I wanted something that would be useful in my life, but also add a subtle intricacy that was not immediately evident. I chose to make a common household item, the drink coaster.

Not immediately certain of my final design intent, I scavenged through the Manufacturing Center and machine shop in the ITLL. I couldn’t find any pieces of metal in good enough condition or large enough, but I was able to stumble upon some engineered wood. This wood had a slightly rough surface, but a soft grain. Next I found scrap acrylic that was in great shape. I decided to use this to give the wood a finished appearance and also level it better. With materials in hand, I planned to laminate them together to complete the process, but as I was leaving I found the perfect material to bring the design together: matching black bolts.

Supplies in hand I began to process of manufacturing. I created a 3D model in SolidWorks in order to create a pattern for the laser cutter to follow. I also used this to engrave to circular geometry into the wood so that it could be cut with a band saw and mill. The overall process was fairly simple and the pieces fit together with little trouble. With it assembled I realized that I had plenty of room in the base to add some intricacies and keep them hidden to maintain the overall simplistic look.

I chose to inset a ring of LED’s that I found in the ITLL. The only color options were red or yellow. Hoping to add some warmth, I chose red. I wired the LED’s together, soldering the joints, and connected them to a 9V battery that I found a handy case with a switch for. I had to put a resistor in the circuit to drop to voltage to an acceptable level for the LED’s.

LED's soldered together in a ring.
LED’s soldered together in a ring.

Once I had it all wired I placed electrical tape around the connections as I knew the space would be cramped and I didn’t want any wires to short.

LED's with electrical tape to prevent shorts.
LED’s with electrical tape to prevent shorts.

With the LED assembly complete, I had to use a hole saw to remove the core from the large center laminate of wood. I also cut 10 holes in the top laminate layer to allow just the top of the lights to shine through, preserving the sleek aesthetic. Each light has a small amount of superglue holding it in.


Assembled electrics in coaster.
Assembled electrics in coaster.

With this complete, I had to cut another piece of acrylic to hold the electrics in. I found I had to make a spacer to give enough clearance, but this all resulted in a very tight fit. So tight, in fact, I did not even need to use the slots to zip-tie the battery pack down as it was held in purely through compression. With the bottom on, I bolted it all together and tested the fit. It all fit!

To hide the wires a bit better and remain true to the aesthetic, I chose to engrave the bottom with an edgy design.

Bottom engraving using laser cutter.
Bottom engraving using laser cutter.

However, once it was assembled, I found that the top surface didn’t appear sturdy. Therefore, to hide some of the imperfections, I chose to engrave the top with a personal effect as a graduating senior at CU. The top has a low quality image that, at first, appears to be random lines, but upon closer inspection is actually a map of Boulder.

Top view
Top view

While I recognize that this detracts from the goal of simplicity, the desired look couldn’t be achieved with the materials available to me.

To finish, I sanded the entire assembly together, making everything align properly as circular cuts are hard to make accurately with wood.


If I were to do the project again, I would probably use more lights and put them facing down onto the table. This lights up the table and gives a really cool aesthetic by expanding the size of the product without making it physically larger. I would also use glass instead of acrylic and much higher quality woods, possibly even metals.

Example of aesthetic when the lights project onto the table.
Example of aesthetic when the lights project onto the table.

Ultimately I was able to make the coaster completely free of cost, from all recycled materials. I learned a lot about stylistic choices throughout the process and it helped refine my personal style. Plus, I now have a great place to put my drink!


brendan, coaster, industrial, modern, upcylce, warren, wood
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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Daniel Rankin
    January 31, 2016 7:04 pm

    Dude, this looks awesome. The map idea seems like a fast way to add a layer of coolness to your work without having to draw something from scratch. Very nice.

  • Good works! I like how your project is aesthetically appealing and practical at the same time.

  • Nice project! I like the look with the map even if it detracts from your original intended aesthetic. I think you’ve just translated it to a map art aesthetic which I am personally a fan of!


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