12 Easy Steps How-to Make a Metal Table Top

12 Easy Steps How-to Make a Metal Table Top

As if having the tools and know-how to build beautiful log furniture wasn’t enough, in this tutorial you learn how-to make a metal table top.

Hello, my name is Scott Schaefer from San Juan Carpentry. When making log furniture, I like to seek out new trades that are easily incorporated into my craft. Glazing, metal working, CAAD, and painting are all examples of skill sets that can help you round out your wood products.

In this tutorial, I show you how to use reclaimed steel to make a nice little table top for you log side table. Apply what you learn here to make a number of other items such as rustic dining tables, door panels and even picture frames! Now be sure you watch the video portion of this tutorial posted at the end of this written section.

Step 1: Drawing Your Shape

In this video I am crafting a metal table top that is 20″ wide and 20″ deep but it’s also going to be 1″ thick on the sides and have a .25″ seamed lip. When drawing out the table top on your sheet of metal, add up all of the above dimensions- 20 + (1)2 + (.25)2 = 22.5″. Then multiply the side edge and seamed lip by 2 because they exist on both sides of the table. Since my table is square, I can use that same dimension for both directions.


Scott draws the table top

Next, using a framing square and tape measure, simply draw 22.5″ x 22.5″ square on the soon to be metal table top. You will see in the video posted below, the original metal edges are a little roughed up. For this reason I am going to set it in an inch from that edge so that I can create my own new edges. Use a pencil to draw thick, solid lines that are easy to see.

Step 2: Making the Cut

Using a 4 1/2″ angle grinder, and cut-off disk, carve out your square. Start by lightly skimming over the pencil line to create a groove in the steel. Do this very slowly and carefully. Once you have a good groove started, apply more pressure to your grinder and cut all the way through. Allow the groove to guide your cut.

Cutting out the table top

SAFETY TIP: Always use hearing protection and a face shield while cutting! Gloves, long sleeves, and additional eye protection are also recommended.

Step 3: Measure Your Side

The table top is going to go together very similarly to a cardboard box except that no layers will overlap. To achieve this shape, we must cut out the corners so that the sides can be folded down, forming a new corner edge.

Since our side is 1″ thick and our lip is .25″, we want to draw our lines 1.25″ in from the edge. Draw the line parallel to the edge the full length of the metal on all 4 sides. In each corner you should have a 1.25″ x 1.25″ square. SPOILER ALERT! This is the piece that we’ll be removing in the next step.

Step 4: Cutting Corners

I wasn’t lying when I said the corners were coming out in this step. Using your grinder and appropriate safety gear, cut only the corners along your line.

Step 5: Folding the Lip

What is this lip I keep talking about? It’s going to be the bottom edge of the table. This is where your fingers are going to grab when you lift the table to move it so we don’t want any sharp edge here. To eliminate the sharp edge, we’re going to fold the edge over.

Start by drawing a line that is .25″ away from and parallel to your cut edge. Using a steel straight edge (I’ve used my square) and a sledge hammer, forge or bend the lip over. Once you have a 90 degree bend, flip the entire piece over and continue to fold it the rest of the way over and pound it flat. Repeat this process on all four sides.

Step 6: Folding the Sides

This is basically a repeat of Step 5 except you’re going to draw your line 1″ away from and parallel to the now folded edge. Align that line on your metal straight edge and commence forging it with the hammer. This time you only need to bend it 90 degrees. You can use the hammer to perfect the corner and flatten the steel where necessary at your discretion. Repeat this step on all four sides.

Forging the edge of the table top

It will get tricky to fold the third and fourth side over because it won’t sit flat to the bench anymore. I had the steel laying upside down and I folded the steel upwards. Again, it’s a bit trickier to get your straight edge to work for you but it is possible, I promise.

Step 7: Welding the Corners

You know that thing I said about learning new trades? Well, I don’t know how to weld just yet so I handed my table over to my good friend, Mitchell Dillman of Colorado Rock*n Logs, to do the welding for me. Mitchell makes great steel framed log furniture so he’s the perfect man for the job. I’m going to let him write this portion of the tutorial…

Mitchell Dillman of Colorado Rock*N Logs welds the corners together

Step 8: Hey there, Mitchell Dillman here:

When it comes time to weld your sheet metal table top you have several options. And the facts are welding sheet metal is easy.

In this video I am using small ‘handyman’ Lincoln Electric Mig Welder complete with 25/75 welding mix shielding gas and .025 welding wire. You will see I spot weld the inside of each corner prior to flipping the metal table top upright and welding a solid bead on each corner.

Notice how I complete each weld using a downward motion allowing gravity to do its thing. For me, this makes for a cleaner weld that is easy to grind smooth.

Step 9: Grinding the Weld

A beautiful weld is perfected with delicate grinding. Using a grinding wheel on your grinder, lightly smooth the weld bead. Be careful not to grind too much off because you could open up some holes.

Grinding the corner beads smooth

Step 10: Cleaning the Steel

This step is really only necessary if you’re using reclaimed/used steel. The steel I’m using has years of rust on the surface that I want to smooth out a bit.

Using a wire brush, Scott cleans the steel

Using a steel brush on a drill (or you could use a grinder brush wheel), I’m going to scrub the entire surface of the table top. I’m also going to use a liquid deruster and scrub the surface with a cloth. This will help clean the steel and also help prevent rust in the future.

Step 11: Painting Your Metal Table Top

The final step in creating the table top is to paint it. This process is pretty self explanatory. Be sure to choose paint that is designed for metal and exterior use (if applicable). For heavy exterior use, I recommend also using a primer.

Scott paints the top “Rusty Red”

Step 12: Putting It All Together

Painting wasn’t quite the last step in completing your project – but this is! Using an adhesive caulk that is designed for multi-surface applications is a must because you’re attaching a steel table top to a wooden frame.

Apply a generous helping of caulk to the bottom of the table top. Apply the caulk in the form of “balls” in a checker board arrangement. This is a common way glaziers hang mirrors on walls. When you apply pressure to the two objects (the table top and the legs), the caulk will spread out and take grip on both surfaces.

Scott applies the multi-surface adhesive caulk.

Once you have the two parts pressed together, place heavy objects on top of them and allow the table to dry over night.


The Completed Table Top

Congratulations! You’ve just completed a beautiful steel table top for your log table! No machines stamped that thing, it was forged by your very own hands. Be proud of that when you show off to guests or customers!

Watch the San Juan Carpentry How-To video about this project now! It follows the written instruction word-for-word!

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