I was commissioned to design and build a coffee table using a large beveled edge tempered glass table top which would serve as a cover to a Jeep grill made of wood.  The table was to be a Christmas gift for her sweetie.  Both are off-road Jeepers that do all that rock climbing and go slow stuff.

She gave me a free hand as to what species of wood, what color, and what leg style.  Cool!

Choosing the wood was easy… sort of.  It had to be hardwood otherwise it might split or warp and not be strong enough to support the glass top that weighed over 50 pounds.  I decided on reclaimed red oak.

Using Photoshop the grill dimensions were manipulated to fit the glass top while staying in correct proportion.

The oak pieces were glued together using waterproof glue over a pattern.  The rough top was then hand planed… and planed… and planed some more… then sanded.

Then lots and lots of routing using custom shop-made templates.  Did I mention a lot of routing?

The end result was a 2″ thick laminated grill.  The problem was it flexed slightly in the middle and there was concern about the weight of the glass top on four legs.  Six legs would be unsightly.  Now what?

An arch!  It would provide four legs and multiple points of support in the middle.  Steam bending was out of the question plus it tends to swell the wood.

Crap… never did a dry laminated arch in red oak before…. Now I need a form. (I opted for a wagon wheel form which I will not do again.  Next time I’ll make it from MDF and a router.)

So how thick of laminations can I get away with?  Oak is very rigid.  I check with colleagues who tell me red oak is a real pain to bend but no clear advice… yet they offer lots of encouragement.

The target size was 2″ thick by 3″ wide legs with a top arch of over 74″ long.  Grain pattern was critical to be able to bend without breaking.  Managing to find some beautiful knot-free red oak which was then cut into thin strips then passed through the planer for uniform thickness.

11 pieces provided the correct thickness… plus a boatload of glue.  Then through the planer.  Tada… it worked!


OK, now what colors?  The grain pattern on the grill was irregular and the legs were pristine.  A dark top with light legs was the target in my mind.

I decided to use an old world recipe, Iron Acetate, as a dye for the top.  The oak tannins reacted to the Iron Acetate ebonizing the grill while highlighting the grain patterns.  Legs would stay natural for contrast.

Here are some pics of the finished table:

Finish – 6 coats of Danish oil, with 2 coats of wax polished to a satin luster.


Thanks for looking.  Feel free to leave a comment.

~ Peter

Update:  the lady accidentally tripped and fell onto the table.  Fortunately, she survived with only bruises, and the table never budged.   🙂