Main Project Design Review Part 1: Folding Coffee Table

From the beginning I wanted to make something useful and aesthetically appealing. I am taking this opportunity to make a coffee table for myself that will stand at different heights and can be compressed to be put away.

Originally, I wanted the coffee table to have four individual legs that bent inward. The table would be sleek and the body of the main piece of wood was to resemble the shape of a snowboard. The four individual legs were to be made of copper and the table would only be used as a standard, low coffee table.


Since this concept did not feel sufficiently interesting, other than the fun-shaped surface and the copper legs, I wanted to develop my idea into a height varying coffee table. The concept of ironing boards is the best way to explain it because their height is adjustable and they can be flattened completely for storage.

[2]     [3]

Also, given that the pairs of legs will now have to cross each other, I chose to change the shape of the top from the snowboard body back to an oval. It will keep the table from looking too busy with an oddly shaped top and it will still have a steam punk classic look with the copper legs.

There are two ways for me to implement a folding mechanism. The first way is to place one T-shaped leg on one side that goes in between two legs on the opposite side like in figure [2]. The main difference in my design is my use of pipes rather than wood, allowing me to put a pin that locks at the intersection of the three tubes, allowing me to set the table to differing heights. The second way, like in figure [3], I can create four legs that go along the edge of the table and locks with its pair. I can loosen the legs to adjust them and lock the legs at the desired height. Both mechanisms are good but I would have to see which one works best for me given the amount of copper pipes.

To purchase the copper pipes, hinges, and pieces of wood, I plan to visit hardware stores, lumber yards, and saw mills. For now, depending on the types and sizes of wood available, I would like to purchase either a darker piece of wood like redwood or among the lighter soft woods, a piece of birch, pine, or fir. Hardwoods tend to be more expensive so my chances are higher purchasing pine. My main goal in my search is to avoid pieces with too many knots, spirals, and interlocked or irregular grains as they can make it difficult to work. [4}

types of wood[4]

With luck, I will be able to execute my dimensions of 48” x 24” with a low height of 19”. Meaning that the legs will each have to be about 48” to 46” long. Since I don’t want the legs to be flushed with the end of the oval table top, I may scoot them about 2” inward at the top. Depending on my ambition, I would like to bend the legs so that they are rounded at the bottom as opposed to straight pieces of metal. The video below by Bart Kerswell shows how this can be done [5].


[1 ]–Campanelli-Coffee-Table-X113593090-L441-K~A000761254.html?refid=GX84888609196-A000761254_1229375843&device=c&ptid=902708941367&targetid=pla-902708941367&network=g&ireid=77876951&mktdc=GXPLA&mktcm=442727836&mktst=25967906956&mktcr=8488860
[5] VIDEO:

Previous Post
Design Review 2020 Part 1: Water Clock
Next Post
Design Review Part 1: Dopamine Interactive Apparel

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Abdulrahman Nashawi
    March 16, 2020 11:54 am

    Hello Nicole! I think you have a really cool idea! I like your design and how you chose the aesthetic to be minimalist to give it the sleek look you are aiming for. Are you planning on painting the legs? You might need to sandblast it before painting depending on the material you select. Good luck with making the table!

    • Nicole Leon-Molina
      March 16, 2020 12:15 pm

      Hi Abdul thank you for the sandblasting tip. I’ll have to look into it further. I don’t plan on painting the legs. I want to use copper tubing and ideally the color will preserve.

  • Hi Nicole,
    I like the practicality of the project – the idea of having something both aesthetically pleasing while also being having daily practical usage in day to day usage is fantastic. In terms of acquiring materials, I would try to reach out to the local community in Boulder (or wherever you are currently) for wood or metal, considering that stores are difficult to shop at.
    I think the asymmetric design of the table you show in the post is definitely one of the better looking designs – I know it will be harder to execute, but I think it meets your design/aesthetic specifications the best.

    • Nicole Leon-Molina
      March 16, 2020 12:19 pm

      Hi Kevin. I’ll look into sources in the community for materials. Hopefully people will be cooperative. I certainly had not considered asymmetry for the design but depending on the piece of wood that I obtain I will look into altering the shape.

  • Daniel Straub
    March 16, 2020 11:25 am

    Nicole, I love the idea of building a table out of wood. I would consider looking into MDF. It is extremely manufacturable and you could cut whatever curvy shape you like, especially using a CNC router. It has a cleaner surface finish than plywood, although it may be more brittle than plywood. I do like Dr. Hertzberg’s suggestion of asymmetric shapes (I understand you want symmetry, just thought I’d throw that out there).

    • Nicole Leon-Molina
      March 16, 2020 12:25 pm

      Thanks for the MDF suggestion. I have a feeling that I’ll most likely pursue that option since it’s easy to obtain. If I can’t make it work with wood, I can always use tubing and create the top out of cardboard.

  • Thomas Buckholtz
    March 13, 2020 1:58 pm

    Hey Nicole,
    This is such a cool idea, I would’ve never thought of mimicking an ironing board style leg for a coffee table. It’s really nice to be able to stow it away as well, as you’d have a ton more room in you’re living room if you decided to.
    Do you think you’ll be able to achieve a stable, level base by using the copper tubing, if you end up not bending it? Maybe you can try finding attachments for the legs in stores, I’m thinking of the moving pads like you attach to chairs to prevent scratching of floors.
    I personally prefer the look of figure 3, but it seems figure 2 might be a bit easier to achieve. Have you seen the benches at our rec center? They have a tube hinged to the underside of the flat part, and you can lift the bench to whatever angle you like and insert the tube to a row of holes to fix it into place. Maybe that can be a different height-altering method you could look into, although it might not be quite as sleek as these ideas.

    • Nicole Leon-Molina
      March 16, 2020 12:31 pm

      Hi Thomas! I hadn’t thought of that. I like that I would need less tubing for your suggestion though it would require a bit more precision when balancing both sides. I do think that it will be stable if I pursue my original plan without bending the bottom. I will most likely bend the tubes if I have time/equipment to do so.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.